Overturn Of Roe v. Wade Ignites War On Women

On June 24th, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade case which guaranteed millions of people the fundamental federal right to an abortion. It is now in the states’ hands to decide on an individual basis whether abortion services will be legal. 13 states’ trigger laws were already put into immediate action upon the overturn, prohibiting abortion in the first and second trimesters of pregnancy. About half of the United States have indicated that they will soon ban the procedure.

The Supreme Court justices ruled 5-4 to overturn the case. Four of the majority’s justices are conservative men.

The ruling came in a dispute from an abortion law passed in Mississippi in 2018, banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy with exceptions for extreme medical emergencies. (No exceptions were made for victims of rape or incest.) The law was immediately put on hold and was challenged as both unconstitutional and a direct attack on the court’s landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade, as well as the follow-on ruling in 1992, Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

However, with the two pro-life justices sworn into court under Donald Trump, the Roe v. Wade case has been officially overturned, setting off trigger laws in Mississippi and 12 other states and leaving a pathway for same-sex marriage and the use of contraceptives to be made illegal in the future.

In a furious dissent, liberal justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor said the court “reverses course today for one reason and one reason only: because the composition of this Court has changed. Whatever the exact scope of the coming laws, one result of today’s decision is certain: the curtailment of women’s rights, and of their status as free and equal citizens.”

The court’s liberal justices also raged at the lack of exceptions allowed under the new abortion ban. “[The states] have passed laws without any exceptions for when the woman is the victim of rape or incest. Under those laws, a woman will have to bear her rapist’s child or a young girl her father’s – no matter if doing so will destroy her life. So too, after today’s ruling, some States may compel women to carry to term a fetus with severe physical anomalies – for example, one afflicted with Tay-Sachs disease, sure to die within a few years of birth.”

The criminal penalties that will be tied to the ban on abortion are extreme and horrifying. “A State can of course impose criminal penalties on abortion providers, including lengthy prison sentences,” the dissenting justices wrote. “But some States will not stop there. Perhaps, in the wake of today’s decision, state law will criminalize the woman’s conduct too, incarcerating or fining her for daring to seek or obtain an abortion.” Some legislatures are already trying to ban women from traveling to another state to receive pre-emptive care.

Diana Greene Foster, a professor of reproductive science at the University of California in San Francisco, found that one of the top reasons why people seek abortions is financial concerns. Additionally, Foster’s research shows that children born to women who were denied an abortion are much more likely to live in a financially unstable household. But many Republican leaders who have supported the pro-life movement are also against small-government principles and Medicaid expansion.

“The pro-life movement has made its political bones by relying on the G.O.P.,” legal historian Mary Ziegler at Florida State University’s law school explained. “The G.O.P. has not been in favor of expanding the social safety net for young children and pregnant people, and the pro-life movement, which may have otherwise wanted to do that, is not willing to expend political capital on that because its priority is abortion, basically, and nothing beyond it.”

“Those without money or childcare or the ability to take time off from work – will not be so fortunate,” the liberal justices continued in their dissent. “Maybe they will try an unsafe method of abortion, and come to physical harm, or even die. … At the least, they will incur the cost of losing control of their lives. The Constitution will, today’s majority holds, provide no shield, despite its guarantees of liberty and equality for all.”

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Mississippi, the state at the center of the fight against abortion, had the nation’s largest percentage of children living in poverty and babies with low birth weights in 2018. Texas has the highest rate of women receiving no pre-natal care during their first trimester and has the second-highest percentage of children in poverty who are not medically insured. Alabama, Louisiana, Wyoming, and Utah are another handful of anti-abortion states, all of which have some of the highest percentages of poor children with no health insurance in the U.S.

The reality of the situation is that the Supreme Court is directly attacking low-income women of color. More than half of the African-American population and a substantial percentage of the American Hispanic and Indigenous communities live in the conservative South, where the majority of these anti-abortion trigger laws have been enacted. The new anti-abortion legislation will therefore disproportionately affect Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous communities.

Despite the shadows the decision casts over gender equality and reproductive rights, there is still hope. “It’s a sad day for our country but it doesn’t mean the fight is over,” President Joe Biden declared in his speech in front of the White House on the day of the decision. “We need to restore the protections of Roe as law of the land. We need to elect officials who will do that… Roe v. Wade will be on the ballot this fall.”

In the meantime, the Biden administration has pledged to expand the supply of F.D.A.-approved abortion pills and to fight all attempts to revoke women’s rights to travel to another state for medical care.

If the U.S. Congress can garner 60 votes in favor of reinstating Roe v. Wade, it can legalize abortions nationwide again. However, this places a lot of pressure on the upcoming midterm elections, making voting more essential than ever before.

It has never been more crucial to vote than now. The rights and lives of generations to come depend on it.


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