If you haven't stumbled upon the "Roe IQ: Do you really know Roe?" quiz yet you may want a quick reality check first. Clearly this test was crafted to conveniently omit the facts and nuanced concepts that make up the Supreme Court decision that, as Amanda puts it this week, finally told women we "own it."
To mark the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the historic 1973 decision that legalized abortion federally, overturning any and all state laws that had previously banned or criminalized abortion, a quiz of (at first glance) unknown origin popped up on the internet last month. This "quiz" poses a series of questions about the decision that shed no more light on what Roe v. Wade does and does not allow for than President Bush talking to a room full of reporters about the reasons for invading Iraq.
The first question asks, "Which most accurately describes when a woman may have an abortion under Roe?"
– Anytime during the first three months (first trimester) of her pregnancy
– Anytime during the first six months (second trimester) of her pregnancy
– Anytime during her entire pregnancy
– Anytime during the first three months, but can have an abortion later if the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest
What would your answer be?
According to the writers of the quiz the answer is "3" -anytime during pregnancy. But let's move on to the next question before addressing why that answer is so incomplete as to render it essentially false.
The second question:
"Which best describes the limitations Roe places on why a woman may have an abortion?"
– No limitations
– Only in case of rape, incest, or when the woman's life is in danger
– No limitations during the first three months of pregnancy, but only medically necessary abortions after that
The choices here again raise the red flag that this is a test created by those who neither understand or agree with Roe v. Wade. I would actually go further than that. The answers here reflect an astounding, not to mention hypocritical, sense of the holier-than-thou perspective that some women should be allowed to have an abortion while others should not; an anti-choice position that I have never understood. If you believe that abortion is murder, there should never be a situation under which murder is justifiable ("Only in case of rape, incest or when the woman's life is in danger").
When you complete the quiz you find out that, according to those who crafted the test, "no limitations" is the best answer here. That answer, however, is false.
In fact, none of these answers accurately describes Roe's "limitations." Roe v. Wade provides parameters for when a woman is allowed to have an abortion based on a variety of factors including viability of the fetus (generally acknowledged to be around 27 weeks but sometimes earlier) and threats to the health and/or life of the woman.
Again, the question is utterly pointless in its insistence on throwing out the basic tenets of Roe v. Wade in favor of absurd generalizations. But, then again, anti-choice advocates would not have a leg to stand on if they simply admitted why they so rabidly support overturning Roe v. Wade – to punish women for the original sin of being sexual beings. The quiz practically reveals itself in this question though:
Which of our nation's founding documents contains the phrase "right to an abortion"?
– Declaration of Independence
– U.S. Constitution
– Bill of Rights
– None of the Above
– All of the Above
Of course, none of the documents above mention abortion. The documents don't mention interracial marriage, desegregation, or contraceptive access for unmarried women either – but most of us will agree that the amendments that addressed these issues are necessary to an equitable and healthy society. Our "Founding Fathers" allowed for the reasoning that there would be amendments to the Constitution based on a changing and growing citizenry – something in which many social conservatives, and in particular those who are staunchly anti-choice, do not believe. There is a clear sense from those who identify as strong social conservatives that, while our nation was founded by white males, so shall the Constitution (and most of our governmental programs) cover.
Roe v. Wade, in fact, was partially decided based on the idea of "Due Process" under the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. Due Process "is the principle that the government must respect all of a person's legal rights instead of just some or most of those legal rights when the government deprives a person of life, liberty, or property." The state laws that denied women the right to an abortion were considered in violation of a woman's right to due process under the law.
But Roe v. Wade was also decided based on the right to privacy which, while not explicitly stated in the Constitution, has been deemed a basic human right by the Supreme Court in various decisions including Griswold v. Connecticut and Loving v. Virginia – not to mention the fourth amendment which relates to unreasonable search and seizure and your right to be "safe and secure in your person."
Finally, back to the first question ("Which most accurately describes when a woman may have an abortion under Roe?") which tells more in it what it leaves out than in what it cherry-picks to leave in. Let's be clear here – Roe v. Wade states that a woman has the right to an abortion at anytime before the fetus reaches "viability" – defined generally as "the ability of fetuses to survive in the extrauterine environment." After viability, Roe v. Wade allows for legal abortion only in cases where the woman's health or life may be in danger as determined by a physician. The Well-Timed Period has an excellent post on viability that puts this all in perspective.
And while I'm loathe to mention it one more time, 87% of women who have abortions do so within the first trimester – completely throwing out the utterly false idea that millions of women and their doctors are aborting fetuses at all stages of pregnancy for fun and profit.
Why write about this absurd quiz at all? Its purpose in being is to confuse and deceive by omission about a crucial Supreme Court decision made all the more urgent in this election year. Cara, blogger for The Curvature, a feminist blog, was "taken in" under the guise of truly wanting to know more about Roe v. Wade and its impact on women – until a commenter turned her onto the truth:
"Just curious – did you know the test is co-sponsored by ultra-conservative groups Focus on the Family, Concerned Women for America, and the Alliance Defense Fund? …"
And that is the truth.
If these proudly anti-choice organizations – all of whom lobby strongly for the destruction of Roe v. Wade – didn't want to muddle and diffuse the real intent behind this quiz, why not be upfront about the reasons behind the quiz? Instead, the site gives us 100% false rhetoric about its intention:
"We can expect both sides in the abortion debate to ratchet up arguments in the coming months as we mark this anniversary. It is imperative that we, as citizens, understand the facts about what Roe does and does not do. "
Roe IQ – Do you really know Roe? is nothing more than a wolf in sheep's clothing. If you want to know more about the landmark decision and its impact on womens' lives, and more importantly, how we can mitigate some of the issues that Roe does not address, read our series this week, listen to our exclusive interview with Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America and check out the extensive list of bloggers blogging for choice this Roe v .Wade Day.
- When A Right is Not Enough, Melody Rose
- Nancy Keenan on Roe at 35 on RealityCast, Amanda Marcotte
- Roe Gave Birth to the Politics of Personal Destruction, Scott Swenson