Recently in Ohio, Governor Mike DeWine signed into law the “heartbeat bill,” a piece of legislation which restricts abortions to before six weeks, except in cases where the mother’s life is at risk. This law follows a New York bill signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo, which contrastingly allows pregnancies to be terminated up until birth under the condition that a medical professional determines the health of the mother, either mentally or physically, is at risk. These laws demonstrate the deep divide which exists in this nation regarding the moral value of a fetus and the bodily autonomy of a mother; according to a recent poll, Americans are equally likely to identify as pro-abortion or anti-abortion. If you’ve paid attention to United States politics, it is clear that abortion is an important and highly contested topic.

Abortion first became legal federally when in 1969, Norma McCorvey discovered she was pregnant with her third child, and after many efforts to obtain an abortion through illegal means, she invoked the aid of local attorneys to sue the North District of Texas for her right to an abortion. This case would eventually reach the highest ranks of our judicial system in the landmark case Roe v. Wade. The court ruled overwhelmingly in favor of a women’s right to an abortion, citing the 14th amendment’s right to privacy under the due process clauses. Since then, over 50 million abortions have occurred in the United States, sparking the pro-abortion and anti-abortion movements, which continue to debate today.

What circumstances affect the morality of having an abortion? What moral value does a fetus have before delivery? How does that value interact with the autonomy of pregnant people and the legacy of women’s oppression? What institutions should society create to help mediate the biological bond between a pregnant person and a fetus as well as the social complexities surrounding that bond?