September 30, 2014

The Supreme Court’s abortion jurisprudence has recognized a compelling state interest in preserving the lives of viablefetuses. When acting to protect a “viable” fetus—one “potentially able to live outside the mother’s womb, albeit with artificial aid”—the state “may go so far as to proscribe abortion . . . except when it is necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.” Allowing relatively unrestricted abortion until fetal viability represents an extremely broad recognition of abortion rights by international standards. Only a handful of countries join the United States in permitting abortion for any reason until fetal viability or beyond. As Justice Blackmun recognized in a memorandum to Justice Powell, “[b]y that time [viability], the state’s interest [in protecting fetal life] has grown large indeed.”