The last abortion clinic

Yesterday I watched Frontline's The Last Abortion Clinic. Unlike some other abortion-related news reports or documentaries that pick a side or person to profile, this program examined the abortion debate from the context of the 1992 Supreme Court decision in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey. Casey changed the standard of review for laws regulating abortion from the Roe v. Wade trimester framework (abortions legal in the first trimester and the ability of states to regulate in subsequent trimesters) to an "undue burden" standard. The majority wrote, "An undue burden exists, and therefore a law is invalid, if its purpose or effect is to place substantial obstacles in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability."

Since Casey, states have enacted more than 200 regulations limiting access to abortion (parental notification, twenty-four hour waiting periods, etc.), testing the limits of "undue burden." This documentary looks at abortion in Mississippi and its neighboring communities, and the effects of the regulations. It was astounding how much has changed since Roe and Casey. There is now only one abortion clinic left in the entire state of Mississippi.

You can watch the entire report online at the website, and I highly recommend it, regardless of what side of the debate you're on. The site also has lots of ancillary information that is excellent, including an examination of the six major Supreme Court decisions on abortion and a map of abortion regulations by state.