Battle over abortion shifts to states - GulfToday

Battle over abortion shifts to states


Abortion rights demonstrators gather near the State Capitol in Austin, Texas, on Saturday. AFP

The United States Supreme Court has reversed the 1973 Roe v. Wade, which recognized the right to abortion as a fundamental right based on its interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution on Thursday. The expected majority opinion penned by Justice Samuel Alito said the Constitution nowhere guarantees the right to abortion, and it is for the elected representatives in the states to regulate abortion laws in varying degrees. The battle now shifts to the state legislatures and it quite likely that majority of state legislatures could pass laws restricting abortion. But the reaction from the liberals and conservatives in America showed a deep divide. American President Joe Biden said, “This is a sad day for the country in my view. But it doesn’t mean the fight’s over. Let me be very clear and unambiguous: the only way we can secure a woman’s right to choose a balance that exists is for Congress to restore the protections of Roe v. Wade as federal law.” And he emphasized the need for the country to send more Congressmen and Congresswomen who would support abortion laws in the November biennial election to the House of Representatives and to the Senate. He said, “Voters need to make their voices heard. This fall (they) must elect more senators and representatives who will codify a woman’s right to choose into federal law once again.” Expectedly, former president Donald Trump who nominated three Supreme Court judges – Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett – turning the conservatives in the court into a majority that gave this verdict, expressed his support for the Supreme Court’s decision. He said, “This is following the Constitution. And giving rights back when they should have been given long ago…This brings everything back to the states where it has always belonged.”

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.

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