In May, the Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s leaked draft opinion on Roe v. Wade fuelled assumptions that the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) plans to overrule the landmark decision and triggered anxiety among women across America. On Friday, 24th June, that nightmare for many women across America became a reality: The Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in a 6-to-3 ruling, eliminating the constitutional right to abortion in the United States after nearly 50 years.
According to the decision that overruled Roe v. Wade, “the Constitution makes no mention of abortion, the Court held that it confers a broad right to obtain one”. Hence, according to the New York Times, “Justice Alito’s guiding principle is that a right to an abortion cannot be found in the Constitution.” The decision further argues that the right to abortion is a matter that should be decided by the state and its voters.
The ruling is not only a shame for America, a nation that deems itself a beacon of democracy and human rights. It is also a tragedy for many women across the country who will lose access to reproductive health and the ability to decide whether and when to have children.
The United States is already the most dangerous place among developed nations to give birth, but it will now also be among the most dangerous places for getting abortions, given that legal restrictions automatically have negative health implications for those seeking an abortion. In addition, Roe v. Wade’s overturn will have disproportionately negative effects on poor women and women of colour.
Abortion bans across the United States
As stated above, the overturn of Roe v. Wade means that states can now decide on abortion laws themselves. According to Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organisation “to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights” that tracks state bans on abortion throughout the United States, as of 26th June 2022, out of 50 US states, “44 states prohibit some abortions after a certain point in pregnancy“.
Some states have already enacted trigger laws before Friday’s decision, which means they can come into effect at any time since the Supreme Court’s ruling and prohibit all abortions with few exceptions (such as rape or incest in some cases, or endangerment of the life of the pregnant person in others). These states have also already signalled their readiness to ban abortion by passing these trigger laws and now only “require the attorney general, governor or legislature to certify that the court’s opinion does, indeed, overturn Roe“.
In states without trigger laws, courts have to decide whether pre-Roe bans can be reenacted or if laws restricting access to abortions can be lifted. In general, abortion is illegal or expected to be soon illegal in 16 US states. The Center for Reproductive Rights paints an even bleaker picture: According to them, 20 states are expected to follow suit and ban abortions. Abortions are currently banned in nine states, with no exceptions for rape and incest or to save the life of the women apart from two out of these nine states.
Public opinion and reactions to the end of Roe v. Wade
Reproductive rights and, within those particularly abortions have been a salient issue in the United States for decades and a dividing topic between Democrats, who are mostly Pro-Choice and want to protect those rights, and Republicans, who are predominantly Pro-Life. And while support for abortions is higher than years ago, the partisan divide is growing wider, according to the New York Times.
According to Pew Research Center, the majority of Americans think that abortion should be legal in “all or most cases“; however, many are also open to some restrictions. A large portion of abortion opponents says that it should remain legal under certain circumstances.
Shortly after the decision, protesters took to the streets voicing their anger and disappointment over the Court’s decision. At the same time, also a few Pro-Live celebrations took place.
Conservatives are blind in one eye
Most conservatives fail to notice that this truly misogynistic ruling hurts not only women but also men and families.
Primarily, of course, it takes away a women’s choice over her own body, career and life choices by having to carry out a pregnancy that may have been unwanted. But further than that, it also takes away the rights of partners to family planning and of fathers involved. According to statistics, most women getting an abortion are already mothers of one or multiple children. In most cases, their pregnancy interferes with their career, education or another child born shortly before. And it also hints at the probability that these women decide with their partners, the fathers.
Moreover, forcing women to bear a child in a country where healthcare and childcare are luxuries is a contradiction in itself. If Conservatives ban abortions and want women to keep their pregnancies, the least they could do is ensure social security by introducing basic affordable healthcare, childcare and workplace policies that make it affordable and reasonable to have a child.
What is perhaps most outrageous about this overturning of Roe v. Wade but essential to mention: Abortion bans will not stop abortions. It will only make them unsafe.
Even though there was an expectation that the conservative-packed Supreme Court would take steps to restrict abortions and overturn Roe, it still sent shockwaves through the nations and sparked fears over whether other rights, such as same-sex marriage, will soon be curtailed too. The question thus remains: Who’s next?