/ 27 June 2022

Tears and cheers for America’s abortion rights teardown

Image source: Getty
Image source: Getty

Thousands of abortion rights supporters and anti-abortion activists took to the streets of Washington DC and major cities across America to have their say about the US Supreme Court’s decision on Friday to overrule the landmark Roe v Wade case, eliminating the constitutional right to abortion. The move will neutralise federal rights and powers and turn the states into the battlegrounds for reproductive rights. Yesterday, President Joe Biden’s spokeswoman said he considers the ruling “extreme”, but he “respects” the Supreme Court and is looking into what action he can take to restore abortion rights, including unilateral executive orders.

In 1973, the Supreme Court said American women had a right to seek an abortion before the point at which the fetus can survive outside the womb – these days, that’s around 23 weeks. The Roe v Wade case came about when a Texan woman known as ‘Jane Roe’ went up against District Attorney Henry Wade. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court (like our High Court…), and it ruled in Roe’s favour, agreeing that the state had violated her constitutional right to privacy when she was prevented from getting an abortion. Since then, there have been many legal challenges, including Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization – a case from Mississippi where its only abortion clinic sued state officials, including Thomas Dobbs, who says he has nothing to do with it… The clinic said a state law banning abortion after 15 weeks was unconstitutional. A draft opinion on the case was leaked a couple of months ago – and on Friday, a decision made abortion laws the responsibility of the states.

The decision means abortion services are now banned in 9 states. In total, it’s expected that about half of America’s states will have bans or other limits on the procedure, while 21 states will allow clinics to remain open. It’s left many women to wonder if they can go interstate for the procedure as some anti-abortion groups push for federal laws to prevent that. They also want to block abortion pills, which account for 54% of all US terminations. Speaking of further legal changes, some worry the overturning of Roe v Wade could trigger the repeal of other protections established on similar legal grounds. They’re talking about racial/ethnic minorities, gay people and others – something that several Supreme Court justices flagged on Friday. The next step for abortion rights supporters – to get laws through Congress, and that ain’t going to be easy

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