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Explained: Women’s Abortion Rights In America Are Under Threat

The threat to Roe vs. Wade is a terrifying development.

Right now, across the United States, thousands of women are rallying together to protest the overturn of Roe v Wade — a historical case which has long protected a woman’s right to seek an abortion in America. 

Below, we break down everything you need to know about the landmark decision, including the potential fallout should it be overturned. 


What is Roe v. Wade?

In 1973, Jane Roe (a 22-year-old unmarried woman) fought and won a case which allowed her to have a first trimester abortion, which had previously been illegal under Texas law. The landmark decision ruled that abortions would be allowed up until the point of foetal viability — the time after which a foetus can survive outside the womb. 

At the time of the Roe decision, the foetal viability time period was 28 weeks, now, due to advances in modern medicine, it has moved forward to around 23/24 weeks. 

The court decision ruled that before the point of viability, the mother’s choice to have an abortion outweighed the state’s interest in prenatal life. After the point of viability, the states interest outweighs the mother’s choice. 

Now, the conservative majority are arguing that the historical decision should be overturned as they believe it was “egregiously wrong from the start”. 


Who wants Roe v. Wade overturned? 

A leaked initial draft majority opinion is suggesting that the US Supreme Court is seeking to overturn the landmark decision, per Politico

Written by Justice Samuel Alito and supported by four other conservative justices, the draft is currently being contested by three democratic-appointed justices. While the opinion of the ninth justice is unclear, even his decision to side with the democratic would still see the conservative take majority 5-4. 

Alito’s draft opinion not only contests the decision of Roe, but also of the 1992 abortion case known as ‘Casey’ which reaffirmed the core decision of Roe, citing that both “must be overruled.” 

According to Politico, who allegedly obtained the leaked document, it stated that: 

“It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives”.

It also accused the Roe case of being “constitutionally irrelevant and plainly incorrect,” while alleging that its reasoning was “exceptionally weak,” and the decision has had “damaging consequences”. 

How is this happening now? 

While abortion has been a globally-divisive topic for decades, the Roe v. Wade decision was unlikely to ever be overturned due to a lack of conservative justices in power. Since Trump’s election, several conservative leaders have been appointed to positions of power, giving them the greatest chance they’ve ever had to see this through. 

Now, with a conservative majority in the Supreme Court, the likelihood of them succeeding in the overturn has increased greatly. 

Should they be successful, the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice organisation, has estimated that more than half of US states would likely or almost certainly ban abortions. 

Depending on how the final judgement is worded, Guttmacher predicts that legal abortion access could “effectively end for those living in much of the American South and Midwest, especially those who are poor”. 

The Biden administration had urged the Supreme Court to uphold Roe v Wade and to invalidate the Mississippi law that bars most abortions after 15 weeks.

In a statement, Biden said that if the court doest move to overturn Roe, that “it will fall on our nation’s elected officials at all levels of government to protect a woman’s right to choose.”

“It will fall on voters to elect pro-choice officials this November,” he continued. “At the federal level, we will need more pro-choice senators and a pro-choice majority in the house to adopt legislation that codifies Roe, which I will work to pass and sign into law.”

What else could Roe v. Wade impact? 

While banning abortion would be the most significant fallout of the Roe v. Wade decision being overturned, it isn’t the only potential consequence.

Many fear that gay marriage and access to contraception could be targeted next, should Roe be thrown out. Given how radical the decision would be, should it be successful, it poses threats to a variety of other liberties, and understandably, people are frightened about the long-term effect of such a move. 

For now, nothing is final, but women all across America are incredibly angry, scared and tired of fighting the same battle over and over. One thing is for certain, this issue isn’t limited to women, nor it is limited to abortion rights. This involves a humans right to choose any and every aspect of their entire lives, and everyone should feel concerned for the outcome. 

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