• Sanskriti IAS - अखिल मूर्ति के निर्देशन में

On removing right to abortion

  • 27th June, 2022

(Mains GS 2 : Effect of Policies and Politics of Developed and Developing Countries on India’s interests, Indian Diaspora.)

Context:

  • Millions of women in the US will lose the constitutional right to abortion inthe U.S. as the Supreme Court overturned its 50-year-old Roe v Wade decision.

Rolling back a constitutional right:

  • The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 6-3 majority, overturned the 1973 ruling in Roe vs Wade, and took away the constitutional right to abortion
  • With Roe, as well as the 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood vs Casey that upheld Roe, gone, the court returned “the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives”. 
  • States can now decide whether to ban abortion, and at what stage in a pregnancy and under what circumstances. 

Landmark case:

  • The landmark 1973 Roe v Wade case saw the Supreme Court rule by a vote of seven to two that a woman's right to terminate her pregnancy was protected by the US constitution.
  • The ruling gave American women an absolute right to an abortion in the first three months (trimester) of pregnancy, but allowed for restrictions in the second trimester and for prohibitions in the third.
  • In its current session, the Supreme Court had been considering a case, Dobbs v Jackson Women's Health Organization, that challenged Mississippi's ban on abortion after 15 weeks.
  • By ruling in favour of the state, the conservative-majority court effectively ended the constitutional right to an abortion.

Ideological battle:

  • After the Supreme Court ruling, abortion access is expected to be cut off for about 36 million women of reproductive age, according to research from Planned Parenthood, a healthcare organisation that provides abortions.
  • The fight over abortion has been the U.S.’s most passionately waged ideological battle. 
  • With a focus that denies any space for compassion or respect for liberty, conservatives have prioritised the task of having Roe overturned for decades. 
  • With the court now having attained a conservative supermajority, the decision had been imminent — some Republican-ruled States have started banning abortion, with trigger laws in place in anticipation of such a judgment. 

Territorially divided:

  • This Supreme Court decision, Dobbs vs Jackson Women’s Health Organization, has in effect divided the U.S. territorially as states where women have the right to abortion, and those where they do not. 
  • Where they do not, women with unplanned or unwanted pregnancies, including possibly in some jurisdictions those that endanger the mother’s life or are a result of rape or incest, may have no option but to seek medical assistance in other States. 
  • This needs resources and support structures, and many women will be left with no option other than clandestine, unsafe abortions nearer home. 
  • further, there is fear that miscarriages could be subject to criminal investigations. 

Opened the process:

  • On a positive side, major U.S. companies and some States (New York) have started offering financial support to employees and help for out-of-state abortion seekers who seek medical interventions in abortion-supporting States.
  • However, it must also alarm Americans that the logic of Dobbs (that abortion is not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution and is not covered by the landmark 14th Amendment of 1868 that safeguards liberty) has opened the process for other rights to be taken away. 

Conclusion:

  • This ruling amounts to a wholesale reversal of the Supreme Court's own legal precedent - an extremely rare move - and is likely to set up political battles that divide the nation.
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