Sunday, Jun 26, 2022 05:30 [IST]
Last Update: Sunday, Jun 26, 2022 23:46 [IST]
With the US Supreme Court overturning the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade decision that established a constitutional right to an abortion, the United States is now among the few dozen countries that have severely restricted access to the procedure. Now, individual states will decide whether to permit or restrict abortions, the court ruled on Friday night. As of now, abortions are illegal or heavily restricted in at least 11 US states. In around 12 others, laws are already in place that will allow state authorities to swiftly ban or restrict access to the procedure, according to reports.
In 1973, in the landmark Roe v Wade judgment, the Supreme Court of the United States made the right to abortion constitutional up to the point of foetal viability, establishing a benchmark for abortion laws across the world. In an apparent nod to the Conservative right wing’s anti-abortion position on the issue – Republicans had packed the highest court with conservatives who expectedly lend their support to measures such as rolling back abortion rights and expanding gun rights. At least eight right-leaning states imposed immediate bans on abortion -- with a similar number to follow suit in coming weeks -- after the Supreme Court eliminated 50-year-old constitutional protections for the procedure, drawing criticism from some of America's closest allies around the world.
Abortion rights defenders fanned out across America since Friday to protest against the Supreme Court's thunderbolt ruling, as state after conservative state moved swiftly to ban the procedure. The deeply polarized country woke up to a new level of division: between states that will now or soon deny the right to abortion, enshrined since 1973, and those that still allow it. Several hundreds of people thronged the streets outside the fenced-off Supreme Court, in hot summer weather, carrying signs that read "War on women, who's next?" and "No uterus, No opinion."
Fueling the mobilization, many now fear that the Supreme Court, with a clear conservative majority made possible by Donald Trump, might next set its sights on rights like same-sex marriage and contraception. President Joe Biden - who has likewise voiced concerns the court might not stop at abortion - spoke out again Saturday against its "shocking decision."
Now, women in states that severely restrict abortion or outlaw it altogether will either have to continue with their pregnancy, undergo a clandestine abortion, obtain abortion pills, or travel to another state where it remains legal. In effect, the United States without Roe would look very different for different people. For women in Democratic states and women elsewhere who have the means to travel to a clinic, abortion would still be accessible. For poor women in many Republican states, travelling to other states for in-clinic abortions could be prohibitively challenging.
Protesters called the ruling “indescribable and disgusting.” The court’s ruling has done what reproductive rights advocates feared for decades: It has taken away the constitutional right to privacy that protected access to abortion. To some critics, the rulings represent an obvious, deeply damaging contradiction. How can the court justify restricting the ability of states to regulate guns while expanding the right of states to regulate abortion? A court that claims to be protecting individual rights, then effectively limited many Americans’ control over their own bodies is a sorry state of affairs for the US.