Public Policy and Abortion
Public policy and abortion term papers report that current public policy withholds federal funding for abortions, except in cases of rape, incest or when a pregnant woman’s life is endangered by a physical disorder, illness or injury. The underlying issue addressed by this policy is the balance between the pro-life segment of the population, which opposes abortion under any circumstances, and the pro-choice factions, which favor unrestricted access to abortion. Ostensibly, government policy is to neutrally uphold the constitutional right to abortion in the limited circumstances outlined by the Supreme Court by neither fostering nor discouraging it. There is, however, a general tendency among legislators to appease their more militant pro-life constituencies by creating disincentives to the procedure. Nonetheless, a sufficient number of moderates also support this policy as a practical compromise between competing social forces, thereby allowing the policy to operate without widespread protest.
The policy also creates a secondary issue regarding the willingness of the government to undermine a right that the Supreme Court has determined exists under the “penumbra” of the Constitution. The policy appears to have the hallmarks of an attempt by the legislative branch to thwart the interpretations of the judicial branch in response to the wishes of a minority constituency. As such, rather than striking a balance between two opposing social forces, it tends to favor the pro-life position. This creates an appearance of ambivalence in the government’s overall policy toward abortion.
The ban on federal funding for abortion was first passed in 1976 as the Hyde Amendment to annual budget. Each year, Congress has consistently renewed the funding ban through amendments to annual appropriation bills. Like most government policies, the funding ban operates incrementally, with additional funding restrictions and criteria added periodically.