US Supreme Court strikes down 50 years of abortion rights

By: Deepshikha Soni
27 Jun 2022 8:19:47 PM CSMC, Chitkara University, Punjab

The US Supreme Court on Friday reversed the 1973 landmark case Roe v Wade abrogating the federal constitutional right to abortion. The court gave the verdict while ruling in favour of strict Mississippi abortion law in the case Dobbs v Jackson Women’s health clinic, changing the health and reproductive rights dynamics for the women population of the country.


Court’s six conservative justices voted (including five men) to take down the right to abortion immediately, and three liberal justices (including two women) dissented in a 6-3 decision.


The majority, led by Justice Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, drafted that “ Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences. And far from bringing about a national settlement for the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have inflamed debate and deepened division.” 


The judgement further said that the right to terminate pregnancies up to the point of foetal viability – “must be overruled.” 


While the three liberal justices, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan, said, “With sorrow – for this court but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection – we dissent.”


Abortion rights in different US states after Roe


Without a federal law protecting the right to abortion, the states are free to determine the status of abortion rights. However, after the Supreme Court's ruling, trigger laws were set into motion in many states banning abortions. While some states were quick to enforce protection and guarantee the right to abortion. 


After the Supreme Court's decision, Mississippi was the first state to ban abortion rights. The state activated the ‘trigger law’ in place, banning nearly all abortions, and in addition to its 15-week abortion ban, a 6-week abortion ban is in place. 


The Heartbeat bill was implemented in Ohio, allowing the previously blocked 6-week ban on abortion to go into effect.


Currently, out of 50 US states, 21 states have trigger laws in place. Ban in 9 states has been imposed, effective immediately, while the rest will place restrictions within a few days. In some of these states, abortions are banned, except for pregnancy posing a severe threat to the mother's health and for cases of rape or incest. However, in five states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Missouri, abortion is prohibited with no exception for rape or incest, reported The New York Times.


Few states remain uncertain about abortion rights, while in 21 states, including New York, California, and Washington, the right to abortion is protected by state laws or constitutional amendments. 


Companies to aid


Multiple companies, amid several states banning abortion rights, are offering benefits to their employees to access abortion services. 


Reuters reported that companies like JPMorgan Chase & Co, Amazon, Tesla, Microsoft, Netflix, and Walt Disney are offering healthcare benefits, including covering travel expenses for out-of-state abortion.


Conde Nast was the first company to announce policy changes. Chief executive Roger Lynch within an hour of the decision, sent a memo to its staff promulgating the travel reimbursement policy.


However, the companies adopting abortion support policies may come under the radar of anti-abortion groups and Republican-led states.


Two companies – Citigroup Inc. and Lyft, were threatened by the Texas State lawmakers last month after they announced the travel reimbursement. In the letter sent to the Lyft chief executive Logan Green, the legislators threatened the company with the bill barring the company from doing business in Texas.


Companies in various states are now facing potential lawsuits.


What are people saying?


Many people came forth condemning the decision. US President Joe Biden's remarks on the Supreme Court's decision said, “it’s a sad day for the Court and for the country.” “The Court has done what it has never done before: expressly take away a constitutional right that is so fundamental to so many Americans that had already been recognized,” he added. 


Former US President Barack Obama tweeted, “Today, the Supreme Court not only reversed nearly 50 years of precedent, it relegated the most intensely personal decision someone can make to the whims of politicians and ideologues—attacking the essential freedoms of millions of Americans.”


Meanwhile, House of Representative Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it a slap on women’s faces, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the decision was “horrific.” 


Many celebrities criticised the ruling. For example, American singers Olivia Rodrigo and Lily Allens took a moment to criticise the overturning of Roe v Wade during their concert.


On the other side of the coin, former US President Donald Trump, former Vice-President, Governor of Mississippi Tate Reeves, and Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt celebrated the ruling.


Protests across the country


Massive protests broke out across the country, and demonstrators against the ruling gathered outside the US Supreme Court on Friday. Abortion Rights Protestors carried signs that read “Rise up for abortion rights”.


One protestor who was there with her 17-year-old daughter said, "The idea that there we were, and now my daughter, who is on the cusp of womanhood, has fewer rights and that there's less access for people her age than there was back then, it just makes me despair."


While in Phoenix on Friday night, the police used tear gas to move the protestors outside the State Capitol Complex. A peaceful protest involving 7000 to 8000 people outside the Arizona Department of Public Safety took a violent turn when a group of demonstrators attempted to enter the state Senate building, reported Wall Street Journal.


Protests continued on Saturday in several cities, including New York, Los Angeles, and Atlanta. Meanwhile, netizens are carrying out demonstrations on different social media platforms.


Abortion Clinics in many states have stopped rendering their services. The ruling is widely seen as an infringement of women's rights to their bodies.

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