Updated: Oct 31, 2022
Image Credits: The Washington Post
“Reproductive rights are women’s ability to control what happens to their bodies through legal and ethical principles which protect and enhance their ability to make and implement decisions about their reproduction”
US Supreme Court overruled Roe vs Wade
Ever since the dawn of the human race; we have been running towards growth and development. Women who make up half of the population have always been kept under foot by men. Although this trend is changing now, there are still issues where they are being deprived of accessing proper facilities. One such issue is the reproductive rights and reproductive autonomy of women. To concise this into a topic, it is more about the Abortion rights and pregnancy rights of women. As per the report given by Guttmacher Institution, around 121 million pregnancies that were unintended pregnancies held between 2015 to 2019, and at the same, there was around 61% of pregnancies ended up in abortion. The US National Library of Medicine has explained that the problem of unintended pregnancy prevails more in third-world countries where girls become mothers before the age of 18.
The major reason behind this is considered to be early age marriages and lower educational status. of women, this was explained by Dixon and Muller in their paper “How Young Is Too Young? Comparative Perspectives on Adolescent Sexual, Marital and Reproductive Transitions.” Another report presented by Singh S, Maddow-Zimet titled Facility-based treatment for medical complications resulting from unsafe pregnancy termination in the developing world, 2012: a review of evidence from 26 countries has explained how there are around 7 million females from low-income economies who perform an unsafe abortion. As per WHO, unsafe abortion is referred to as abortion is taken to terminate unwanted pregnancy with maintaining the minimal medical standard. These acts lead to the death of many women and it also leads to psychological disturbance in the lives of many women. States tries to make laws on such issue but conducting discussions and debates around reproductive issues creates a moral barrier in the legal world. This is because the idea of giving women the autonomy to access their re-productivity is directly linked with women's morality. This is seen in the laws that were made in such a way that are made to control and condition women’s reproductive choices. Reproductive choices of women have a direct impact on their personal being. This article overviews the issue of Abortion with regards to the recent overruling of the landmark judgement Roe vs Wade by the US Supreme Court.
Image Credits: The New York Times
The issue of Abortion has always been a hotly debated topic in the US since the early seventies. The major area of discussion while discussing abortion rights covers two issues one being about the right of a mother to take the reproductive decision that gives her the personal liberty and autonomy, and another being the right of the Foetus. This debate was one of the longest-running debates in the US’s legal and executive system; later it was settled down by the landmark judgement of Roe v Wade. The judgement of Roe vs Wade was a 7-2 judgement where the majority judgement was delivered by Justice Blackmun and dissenting opinion was given by J. Swetart and J. Rehnquist.
The US Supreme Court, after examining the history of abortion laws found out the two major reasons that contributed in making abortions come under the ambit of criminal legislation. It was the duty of the state to protect women from undertaking any harmful or hazardous activity which could harm women’s health and to protect prenatal life. The state intervened in all the matters that involved forms of life. The Court by mentioning the case of Union Pacific R Co. vs Botsford recognised the right of personal privacy that existed under the Constitution of the US, under clause 4 of the 14th Amendment. This Judgment broadened the interpretation of the right to privacy and held that the right to privacy is not an absolute right under the US constitution. In, the final order of the court, the court exclaimed the women only hold independence to decide on abortion up to the first trimester of her pregnancy. After the 1st trimester, the decision that women can take pregnancy would lie upon the laws of the state and the procedure established by the law to take the abortion.
However in the case of Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v Casey the strict rule of the first-trimester framework was rejected by the court and was replaced by the rule of “Undue Burden” which held that the right to abortion could be declared unconstitutional. This move was criticized by the public and was considered a regressive step in the development of the reproductive rights of women in the US. This very same step has been taken once again in the overruling of the judgment of Roe v Wade with Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. In this case, J. Alito made the majority judgement where he expressed that the right to abortion was nowhere mentioned in the American law or the Common law. The court overruled the Roe and Casey judgement by a 6-3 bench held that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution. It was held by the court that the Constitution of the US does not recognise the right to abortion as any right. It also infringes the morality of the natural act.
Image Credits: LA Times
CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF THE JUDGEMENT
The judgment presents no strong argument from the petitioner's side; the claims made by them were not supported by statistics and facts to enact strict anti-abortion laws and overturn the Roe v Wade decision, which allowed for 24 weeks of abortion without much interference from the state. The fact that the majority of the judges were conservatives may have played a significant role in this ruling, and the conservative media was ecstatic after the decision.
It should be a woman's choice to undergo the procedure until 24 weeks, as stated in Roe v Wade. Some states, such as Florida, Kentucky, and Oklahoma, enacted abortion laws that gave women 15 weeks to decide whether or not to have an abortion, prior to the overturning of Roe v Wade. whereas doctors cannot confirm the pregnancy until 12 weeks after conception, leaving only 3 weeks to make such an important decision is insufficient and would put a lot of pressure on the woman putting her physical, and mental health at stake. With this also comes a truckload of social, and financial repercussions of having a baby, which is to be faced by her.
Even though the number of abortions has remained roughly the same since the Roe vs Wade decision, the only difference is the conduct of abortions that were previously done illegally and now are done legally. As a result, the number of abortion-related deaths has decreased.
Dobbs vs Jackson women's health organization has singlehandedly led to a decision that has jeopardized the right to abortion for millions of helpless women in the United States. The reality remains that this judgment will influence many more to come and will impact women globally altogether. The Supreme Court of the USA which took this decision has been accused to be dominated by judges following the conservative view. At last, it seems the voices of millions were left unheard and the tyrannical ideologies of the conservatives would prevail over the choices of these women.
The former president whose administration maintained a pro-life stance took credit for this decision. In 2016, Trump went as far as stating that women must be given some punishment for undergoing abortions. Trump most gloriously said that roe vs wade would eventually be overturned as he will appoint justices who are anti-abortion to the bench and maintain a conservative reign over the decision.
The decision which gives the regulatory power to the states to outlaw abortion has put the future of over 40 million women at stake. Many of these states have a Pre decided stance on the pro-life policy, In Fact, it didn't take much time for Missouri's Attorney General to fill up the paperwork for ending abortion in his state.
Not only does this deprive the woman of her right to choose her own womb, but it also completely undermines her health in the short and long term. Abortions will continue to occur illegally even if they are legally prohibited. This would result in medical malpractice throughout conservative states as women with no other options would be forced to approach unqualified doctors.
The only ray of hope for the women around the USA seems to be coming from the blue states which have already started to protect the abortion rights of their citizens as well as increase the access available. The president of the US has criticized the overruling of the precedent claiming it to be a cruel and dangerous decision for the women. Biden said that "I believe Roe v. Wade was the correct decision as a matter of constitutional law and application of the fundamental right to privacy and liberty and matters of family and personal autonomy,". He also said that "It's a sad day for our country but it doesn't mean the fight is over. We need to restore the protections of Roe as law of the land. We need to elect officials who will do that,"
With the government still on the side of pro-choicers, a ray of hope still remains.
This Judgment will lead to new developments which will change the course of reproductive rights for women in the upcoming time.
BY MIHIR, NIDHI, YUKTA