Abortion rights demonstrators gather near the State Capitol in Austin, Texas, on Saturday. AFP
The issue moves into the political and electoral arena and given the dominance of evangelical Christianity in American society who believe in pro-life and anti-abortion laws, it is quite likely that Republicans might gain both in the House of Representatives and in the Senate. But given that all women, whether liberal or conservative, face real challenge on the issue of abortion because it pertains to their personal freedom to choose, there is a possibility that conservative women will vote with the liberals. That would indeed be a pleasant surprise and American democracy would regain some of its reputation as a liberal democracy.
There is, however, a hard fight ahead. But the facts point to a horrible situation for women’s health and freedom in America. If majority of the states were to legislate against abortion, it would damage the reproductive health of hundreds of thousands of women in America. Not may of them would be able to travel to states where access to abortion is available because of their stringent economic conditions. There is general dismay around the world as well because the United States is considered a model liberal democracy despite its many failures. World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “I am very disappointed, because women’s rights must be protected. And I would have expected America to protect such rights.”It is interesting to note that two of the conservative justices, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Kavanagh took slightly nuanced positions. Chief Justice Roberts said that he would have preferred to uphold the Mississippi state law restricting abortion after 15 weeks. Justice Kavanaugh said, “The Constitution neither outlaws abortion nor legalizes abortion.” And he said that there is no bar on women travelling to states where abortion is allowed. There is no unanimity among the conservative justices in the Supreme Court, but they were convinced that Roe v.Wade must go.
The deeply polarised country grappled with a new level of division: between states that will now or soon deny the right to abortion, enshrined since 1973, and those that still allow it.
The outcome could have huge consequences at a time when several states have passed laws, being challenged in the courts, that would ban abortions after a foetal heartbeat is detected, as early as six weeks.
A federal judge is deciding whether to block the nation’s most restrictive abortion law, which has banned most abortions in Texas since early on September and sent women racing hundreds of miles to get care outside the state.
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