‘A sad day for America’: Joe Biden blasts the US Supreme Court for ditching ‘Roe v Wade’ anti-abortion ruling and making terminations illegal for millions of women – as judge on the panel says gay marriage and CONTRACEPTION should be next to go
- The US Supreme Court overruled the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision on Friday morning
- The ruling hands back the power to decide whether or not to permit abortion back to individual states
- The court’s justices held that Roe v Wade decision was wrongly decided because US Constitution makes no specific mention of abortion rights
- The Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice research group, said 26 states are ‘certain or likely’ to ban abortion
Joe Biden has today blasted the Supreme Court’s ‘un-American’ anti-abortion ruling after senior judges scrapped the constitutional right to abortion in the US.
In an address at the White House, the President said today was ‘a sad day for the court and the country’ and called the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade – and making terminations illegal for millions of American women – ‘wrong, extreme and out of touch’.
Accusing the court of ‘expressly taking away a constitution right that is so fundamental to so many Americans’, Biden vowed the fight over abortion rights ‘is not over’ and said his administration will do everything in its power to combat efforts to restrict women from travelling to other states to obtain abortions.
It comes as Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas called on fellow jurists to overturn laws protecting gay marriage and contraception.
The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that have been in place for nearly 50 years by deciding to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade ruling and hand back power to individual states to decide whether or not to permit the procedure.
The vote was 5-4 to scrap Roe, with Chief Justice John Roberts writing separately to say he would have upheld the Mississippi law but not taken the additional step of erasing the precedent altogether. At the same time, the court voted 6-3 to uphold a Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks, with very few medical exceptions.
The justices held that the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that allowed abortions performed before a fetus would be viable outside the womb – between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy – was wrongly decided because the U.S. Constitution makes no specific mention of abortion rights.
Roe v. Wade was centered around ‘Jane Roe’, a pseudonym for Norma McCorvey, a single mother pregnant for the third time, who wanted an abortion. She sued the Dallas attorney general Henry Wade over a Texas law that made it a crime to terminate a pregnancy except in cases of rape or incest, or when the mother’s life was in danger – arguing that the law infringed on her constitutional rights.
‘The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision,’ Conservative Justice Samuel Alito, who was nominated to the court in 2006 by George W Bush, wrote in the ruling on Friday.
The ruling means that individual states now have the power to decide on whether to ban abortion. The Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice research group, has said that 26 states are ‘certain or likely’ to ban abortion now.
A total of 13 states – Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming – have adopted so-called ‘trigger laws’ that will ban abortion virtually immediately.
The decision means that women with unwanted pregnancies in large swathes of America will now face the choice of traveling to another state where the procedure remains legal and available, buying abortion pills online or having a potentially dangerous illegal abortion.
The court’s ruling, unthinkable just a few years ago, was the culmination of decades of efforts by abortion opponents, made possible by an emboldened right side of the court that has been fortified by three appointees of former President Donald Trump.
In a statement following the decision, Trump said it was ‘the biggest WIN for LIFE in a generation’ and that the decision only happened because he ‘delivered’ on ‘everything’ he promised.
Outside the Supreme Court, a crowd of abortion supporters swelled to the hundreds after the ruling was issued. One chanted into a bullhorn, ‘legal abortion on demand’ and ‘this decision must not stand.’ Some shouted ‘the Supreme Court is illegitimate.’
As the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, it emerged today:
The White House has been preparing for this landmark moment since a draft of the decision leaked in May;
Biden’s plans will be tested in terms of politics and policy as the US prepares for a future without Roe v Wade;
Biden said that his administration would defend a woman’s right to cross state lines to seek an abortion;
Democrats will hope to use the outrage over the decision to rally voters in November’s mid-term elections;
Victories at the state level could limit Republican efforts to ban the practice despite nationwide legislation;
Outside the Supreme Court, a crowd of abortion supporters swelled to hundreds after the ruling was issued.The landmark ruling means much of the US is now braced for a weekend of violence. Pro-abortion protesters vowed riots if last month’s leak hinting an abortion ban was on the cards came to pass.
Hard-left progressives – many of them linked to Antifa – have already torched multiple pro-life centers across the US and scrawled warnings on buildings warning of further action against them.
Police in the nation’s capital are bringing in additional officers and mobilizing in anticipation of growing protests outside the U.S. Supreme Court.
U.S. Capitol Police says it has been working closely with other law enforcement agencies in order to prepare for demonstrations. A law enforcement official says the department is mobilizing its civil disturbance unit and also bringing on additional officers Friday.
Tensions over the future of abortion rights in the US have been running high since the stunning leak of a draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito in May, which indicated the court was prepared to allow states to make the decision on whether abortion was legal.
The 6-3 conservative majority made good on what the draft said, with liberal justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer dissenting. Chief Justice John Roberts concurred.
Joining Alito were Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. The latter three justices are Trump appointees. Thomas first voted to overrule Roe 30 years ago.
Former President Donald Trump praised the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overruling a woman’s right to an abortion. He said in an interview with Fox News that the decision ‘will work out for everybody.’
‘This is following the Constitution, and giving rights back when they should have been given long ago,’ Trump said, according to the channel. ‘I think, in the end, this is something that will work out for everybody.’
Roe v. Wade recognized that the right to personal privacy under the U.S. Constitution protects a woman’s ability to terminate her pregnancy.
In Friday’s ruling, Alito also wrote that Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 decision that reaffirmed the right to abortion, were wrong the day they were decided and must be overturned.
‘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 of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division,’ Alito added. ‘We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled.’
By erasing abortion as a constitutional right, the ruling restores the ability of states to pass laws prohibiting it. Twenty-six states are seen as either certain or likely now to ban abortion.
Soon after the ruling was announced, protests erupted outside the Supreme Court on Friday.
Pro-abortion protesters howled with outrage as the long-anticipated opinion was published, with hundreds gathered outside the court in Washington DC ahead of the widely-anticipated decision.
Many were visibly dejected at news of the landmark ruling, and embraced one another on learning that their protests at plans to end federal access to abortion had come to naught.
There were also cheers of delight from pro-life advocates, who gathered outside the United States’ highest court ahead of the landmark ruling.
Some anti-abortionists were themselves overcome with news of the ruling, and were seen sobbing outside the United States’ highest court as news of the 6-3 ruling began to filter through the assembled crowd.
Abortion rights have been under threat in recent months as Republican-led states move to tighten rules – with some seeking to ban all abortions after six weeks, before many women even know they are pregnant.
These include Arizona, where the Republican Governor in March signed a bill banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy; and Idaho where the governor signed a six-week abortion ban that allows family members of the foetus to sue providers who perform abortions past that point, similar to a Texas law enacted last year.
As it stands in the US, abortion can take place until about 24 weeks into pregnancy – but the exact period varies between states. For example, Texas bans abortion after about six weeks but Florida has a 15-week abortion ban.
The 26 states where abortion will likely become illegal if SCOTUS overturns Roe vs Wade after leaked draft opinion showed a majority of justices supported the move
More than half of all US states have some kind of abortion ban law likely to take effect now that Roe v Wade has been overturned by the United States Supreme Court.
According to the pro-reproductive rights group The Guttmacher Institute, there are 26 states that will likely make abortions illegal now that the Supreme Court has overturned the landmark 1973 ruling.
18 have existing abortion bans that have previously been ruled unconstitutional, four have time limit bans and four are likely to pass laws once Roe v Wade is overturned, the organization found.
The 18 states that have near-total bans on abortion already on the books are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
In addition, Georgia, Iowa, Ohio, and South Carolina all have laws that ban abortions after the six-week mark.
Florida, Indiana, Montana and Nebraska, are likely to pass bills when Roe v Wade is overturned, the Guttmacher Institute said.
Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin’s bans all have pre-Roe v Wade laws that became unenforceable after the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision – that would kick into effect now the federal legal precedent established in Roe has been overturned.
Arkansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Texas have further bans that will come into effect if the law was overturned. These were passed post-Roe v Wade.
They’re joined by Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and Wyoming, in passing such laws.
The states that will limit abortions based on the length of time a patient has been pregnant are Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, North Dakota and Ohio.
There are four states that have laws that state abortion is not a constitutionally protected right: Alabama, Louisiana, Texas and West Virginia.
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the ruling ‘is outrageous and heart-wrenching’ and fulfills the Republican Party’s ‘dark and extreme goal of ripping away women’s right to make their own reproductive health decisions.’
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters that he applauds the court decision.
‘A lot of lives are going to be saved,’ McCarthy told reporters. ‘But it also goes back to people in the states to have a say in the process.’
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said of the ruling: ‘It’s a big step backwards, I’ve always believed in a woman’s right to choose.’
The court’s three liberal justices – Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan – issued a jointly authored dissent.
‘With sorrow-for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection-we dissent,’ they wrote.
‘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,’ they added.
As a result of Friday’s ruling, ‘from the very moment of fertilization, a woman has no rights to speak of. A state can force her to bring a pregnancy to term, even at the steepest personal and familial costs,’ the liberal justices added.
Mississippi’s law had been blocked by lower courts as a violation of Supreme Court precedent on abortion rights.
The ruling is expected to disproportionately affect minority women who already face limited access to health care, according to statistics analyzed by The Associated Press.
Thirteen states, mainly in the South and Midwest, already have laws on the books that ban abortion in the event Roe is overturned. Another half-dozen states have near-total bans or prohibitions after 6 weeks of pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant.
In roughly a half-dozen other states, the fight will be over dormant abortion bans that were enacted before Roe was decided in 1973 or new proposals to sharply limit when abortions can be performed, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.
More than 90 per cent of abortions take place in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy, and more than half are now done with pills, not surgery, according to data compiled by Guttmacher.
The decision came against a backdrop of public opinion surveys that find a majority of Americans oppose overturning Roe and handing the question of whether to permit abortion entirely to the states.
Polls conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and others also have consistently shown about 1 in 10 Americans want abortion to be illegal in all cases. A majority are in favor of abortion being legal in all or most circumstances, but polls indicate many also support restrictions especially later in pregnancy.
The Biden administration and other defenders of abortion rights have warned that a decision overturning Roe also would threaten other high court decisions in favor of gay rights and even potentially, contraception.
The liberal justices made the same point in their joint dissent: The majority ‘eliminates a 50-year-old constitutional right that safeguards women’s freedom and equal station. It breaches a core rule-of-law principle, designed to promote constancy in the law. In doing all of that, it places in jeopardy other rights, from contraception to same-sex intimacy and marriage. And finally, it undermines the Court’s legitimacy.’
But Alito contended that his analysis addresses abortion only. ‘Nothing in this opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion,’ he wrote.
Whatever the intentions of the person who leaked Alito’s draft opinion, the conservatives held firm in overturning Roe and Casey.
In his draft, Alito dismissed the arguments in favour of retaining the two decisions, including that multiple generations of American women have partly relied on the right to abortion to gain economic and political power.
Changing the composition of the court has been central to the anti-abortion side’s strategy. Mississippi and its allies made increasingly aggressive arguments as the case developed, and two high-court defenders of abortion rights retired or died. The state initially argued that its law could be upheld without overruling the court’s abortion precedents.
Then-Gov. Phil Bryant signed the 15-week measure into law in March 2018, when Justices Anthony Kennedy and Ruth Bader Ginsburg were still members of a five-justice majority that was mainly protective of abortion rights.
By early summer, Kennedy had retired and was replaced by Justice Brett Kavanaugh a few months later. The Mississippi law was blocked in lower federal courts.
But the state always was headed to the nation’s highest court. It did not even ask for a hearing before a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ultimately held the law invalid in December 2019.
By early September 2020, the Supreme Court was ready to consider the state’s appeal.
The court scheduled the case for consideration at the justices’ private conference on Sept. 29. But in the intervening weeks, Ginsburg died and Barrett was quickly nominated and confirmed without a single Democratic vote.
The stage now was set, although it took the court another half year to agree to hear the case.
By the time Mississippi filed its main written argument with the court in the summer, the thrust of its argument had changed and it was now calling for the wholesale overruling of Roe and Casey.
The first sign that the court might be receptive to wiping away the constitutional right to abortion came in late summer, when the justices divided 5-4 in allowing Texas to enforce a ban on the procedure at roughly six weeks, before some women even know they are pregnant. That dispute turned on the unique structure of the law, including its enforcement by private citizens rather than by state officials, and how it can be challenged in court.
But Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted in a searing dissent for the three liberal justices that their conservative colleagues refused to block ‘a flagrantly unconstitutional law’ that ‘flouts nearly 50 years of federal precedents.’ Roberts was also among the dissenters.
Then in December, after hearing additional arguments over whether to block the Texas law known as S.B. 8, the court again declined to do so, also by a 5-4 vote. ‘The clear purpose and actual effect of S. B. 8 has been to nullify this Court’s rulings,’ Roberts wrote, in a partial dissent.
In their Senate hearings, Trump’s three high-court picks carefully skirted questions about how they would vote in any cases, including about abortion.
But even as Democrats and abortion rights supporters predicted Kavanaugh and Gorsuch would vote to upend abortion rights if confirmed, the two left at least one Republican senator with a different impression. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine predicted Gorsuch and Kavanaugh wouldn’t support overturning the abortion cases, based on private conversations she had with them when they were nominees to the Supreme Court.
Barrett was perhaps the most vocal opponent of abortion in her time as a law professor, before becoming a federal judge in 2017. She was a member of anti-abortion groups at Notre Dame University, where she taught law, and she signed a newspaper ad opposing ‘abortion on demand’ and defending ‘the right to life from fertilization to natural death.’ She promised to set aside her personal views when judging cases.
Trump, meanwhile, had predicted as a candidate that whoever he named to the court would ‘automatically’ vote to overrule Roe.
The Supreme Court has struck down the right to abortion in the United States, according to a bombshell decision in that has overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling.
Friday’s 6-3 decision comes over a month after a 98-page draft revealed by Politico in May that calls the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision – which held that access to abortion in the US is a constitutional right – ‘egregiously wrong from the start’.
Abortion rights have been under threat in recent months as Republican-led states move to tighten rules – with some seeking to ban all abortions after six weeks, before many women even know they are pregnant.
These include Arizona, where the Republican Governor in March signed a bill banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy; and Idaho where the governor signed a six-week abortion ban that allows family members of the fetus to sue providers who perform abortions past that point, similar to a Texas law enacted last year.
Before this ruling was overturned, in the US, an abortion can take place until about 24 weeks into pregnancy – but the exact period varies between states. For example, Texas bans abortion after about six weeks but Florida has a 15-week abortion ban.
The draft majority opinion was written by Justice Samuel Alito and has been circulating inside the conservative-dominated court since February. The leak while the case is still pending is seen as an extraordinary breach.
WHAT IS ROE V. WADE?
The Roe v. Wade decision nearly 50 years ago recognized that the right to personal privacy under the US Constitution protects a woman’s ability to terminate her pregnancy.
On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court decided that the constitutional right to privacy applied to abortion.
Roe was ‘Jane Roe,’ a pseudonym for Norma McCorvey, a single mother pregnant for the third time, who wanted an abortion.
She sued the Dallas attorney general Henry Wade over a Texas law that made it a crime to terminate a pregnancy except in cases of rape or incest, or when the mother’s life was in danger.
Roe’s lawyers said she was unable to travel out of the state to obtain an abortion and argued that the law was too vague and infringed on her constitutional rights.
Filing a complaint alongside her was Texas doctor James Hallford, who argued the law’s medical provision was vague, and that he was unable to reliably determine which of his patients fell into the allowed category.
The ‘Does’, another couple who were childless, also filed a companion complaint, saying that medical risks made it unsafe but not life-threatening for the wife to carry a pregnancy to term, and arguing they should be able to obtain a safe, legal abortion should she become pregnant.
The trio of complaints – from a woman who wanted an abortion, a doctor who wanted to perform them and a non-pregnant woman who wanted the right if the need arose – ultimately reached the nation’s top court.
The court heard arguments twice, and then waited until after Republican president Richard Nixon’s re-election, in November 1972.
Only the following January did it offer its historic seven-to-two decision – overturning the Texas laws and setting a legal precedent that has had ramifications in all 50 states.
WHAT HAS THE SUPREME COURT DECIDED NOW?
The US Supreme Court has decided to overturn Roe v. Wade.
A document labelled ‘Opinion of the Court’ shows a majority of the court’s justices earlier this year threw support behind overturning the 1973 case that legalized abortion across the country.
According to Politico – who published the ‘leaked document’ – the draft opinion shows the court voted to strike down the landmark case.
The paper was labelled ‘1st Draft’ of the ‘Opinion of the Court’ and was said to be referring to a case challenging Mississippi’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks – a case known as Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
The draft is signed by Justice Samuel Alito, a member of the court’s 6-3 conservative majority, who was appointed by former President George W Bush.
‘Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,’ the draft opinion states.
It in effect states there is no constitutional right to abortion services and would allow individual states to more heavily regulate or outright ban the procedure.
HAVE THERE BEEN OTHER RULINGS SINCE 1973?
On the same day as the Roe v. Wade decision, the justices also ruled in the separate ‘Doe v. Bolton’ case, which authorized each state to add restrictions to abortion rights for later-term pregnancies.
The constitutional right to abortion was later confirmed in a number of decisions, including ‘Webster v. Reproductive Health Services’ in 1989 and ‘Planned Parenthood v. Casey’ in 1992.
In the latter, the court guaranteed a woman’s right to an abortion until the fetus is viable outside the womb, which is typically around 22 to 24 weeks of gestation.
The Planned Parenthood v Casey ruling also affirmed Roe’s finding of a constitutional right to abortion services, but allowed states to place some constraints on the practice.
WHICH STATES COULD MAKE ABORTION ILLEGAL NOW THAT ROE V. WADE IS OVERTURNED?
Now that Roe has been overturned, abortion is still likely to remain legal in liberal states. More than a dozen states currently have laws protecting abortion rights.
Numerous Republican-led states have passed various abortion restrictions in defiance of the Roe precedent in recent years.
Republicans could try to enact a nationwide abortion ban, while Democrats could also seek to protect abortion rights at the national level.
Twenty-six states are certain or likely to ban abortion now that Roe v. Wade is overturned, according to the pro-abortion rights think tank the Guttmacher Institute.
Of those, 22 states already have total or near-total bans on the books that were previously blocked by Roe, aside from Texas.
The state’s law banning it after six weeks has already been allowed to go into effect by the Supreme Court due to its unusual civil enforcement structure. Four more states are considered likely to quickly pass bans if Roe is overturned.
Sixteen states and the District of Columbia, meanwhile, have protected access to abortion in state law.
This year, anticipating a decision overturning or gutting Roe, eight conservative states have already moved to restrict abortion rights.
Oklahoma, for example, passed several bills in recent weeks, including one that goes into effect this summer making it a felony to perform an abortion.
CAN WOMEN GET AN ABORTION IN A DIFFERENT STATE?
Yes – the variation in abortion laws around America already means that some women have to travel to a different state to access a procedure.
For example in Texas – which has passed a law banning almost all abortions in the state – an average of 1,400 women from the state travelling each month between September and December 2021 and sought out procedures at 34 facilities in other states such as Louisiana and Kansas.
Research by the University of Texas established that more than a quarter of Texans seeking an abortion (27 per cent) went to obtain the procedure in New Mexico, a state which has seven facilities.
WHAT DOES ROE V. WADE BEING OVERTURNED MEAN FOR WOMEN?
Abortion does not become illegal everywhere in the US now that Roe v. Wade is overturned, with individual states still able to choose whether and when they would be permitted.
As it stood, abortion was legal in every state – but with varying restrictions.
Abortion would likely become illegal in about half of the states in the US now that the ruling is overturned – with 24 states expected to ban abortion if they are able to do so.
These are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
WHO IS LIKELY TO BE MOST AFFECTED BY AN ABORTION BAN?
Younger women, poorer women and African-American women are likely be most disproportionately affected by an abortion ban in the US.
Most women who have abortions in America are aged between 20 and 29, with 57 per cent of reported terminations in 2019 performed on people within this age group.
Rachel Jones, a senior researcher at pro-choice research group the Guttmacher Institute, told BBC News: ‘The typical abortion patient is in their 20s, doesn’t have a lot of money and has one or more children.’
Some 75 per cent of women in the US having an abortion are deemed low income or poor, based on the country’s official poverty definitions.
And while black people make up only 13 per cent of the US population, black women undergo more than a third of the country’s reported abortions.
In 2019, there were about 630,000 abortions reported in the US, which was significantly down on 765,000 in 2010. Two suggested reasons for this are more access to contraceptives and lower sexual activity.
WHAT RESTRICTIONS HAVE INDIVIDUAL STATES PUT IN PLACE ALREADY THIS YEAR?
Now that the US Supreme Court has voted to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision, conservative states will have more confidence that their new limits on abortion will stand while liberal states will feel more urgency to protect and expand abortion rights. Here are some restrictions and protections state legislatures have taken up in 2022:
ARIZONA : Republican Governor Doug Ducey in March signed a bill banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The measure makes exceptions for medical emergencies, but not for rape or incest. It will take effect later this year if not blocked in court.
FLORIDA : Republican Governor Ron DeSantis in April signed a 15-week abortion ban, which allows exceptions for medical emergencies or if the foetus has a fatal abnormality. The exceptions do not allow for abortion past 15 weeks in case of rape, incest or human trafficking. The ban is due to take effect on July 1.
IDAHO : Republican Governor Brad Little signed a six-week abortion ban in March that allows family members of the foetus to sue providers who perform abortions past that point, similar to a Texas law enacted last year. The Idaho law was due to take effect in April, but has been blocked by the state Supreme Court pending legal review.
KENTUCKY : The legislature in April overrode Democratic Governor Andy Beshear’s veto to enact several abortion restrictions, including a 15-week ban, a requirement that fetal remains be cremated or interred, and a requirement that a combination birth-death or stillbirth certificate be issued for each abortion. The law took immediate effect, suspending clinics’ ability to provide abortions for eight days until a U.S. judge temporarily blocked its enforcement.
OKLAHOMA : The Senate in April passed a ban on all abortions except in cases of medical emergency, rape or incest. It relies on private citizens to sue providers and any person who ‘aids or abets’ abortions to be enforced. The House must approve the Senate’s amendments before it heads to Republican Governor Kevin Stitt for signing. With the governor’s approval, it would take effect immediately. Also in April, Oklahoma’s legislature approved a ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, which relies on the same lawsuit enforcement mechanism. It will take immediate effect if signed by Stitt. Mr Stitt signed a bill in April banning abortion except in medical emergencies and penalizing providers who violate the law with up to $100,000 in fines and 10 years in prison. The law is due to take effect in August if not blocked in court.
SOUTH DAKOTA : Republican Governor Kristi Noem signed a bill in March requiring women to make three in-person doctor’s visits to complete a medication abortion. The legislation’s implementation depends on the outcome of a federal court case.
COLORADO : Governor Jared Polis, a Democrat, signed a bill on April 4 codifying the right to have an abortion. The measure immediately took effect.
CONNECTICUT : The legislature passed a bill in April that protects anyone who provides abortions, has an abortion or assists someone having an abortion from other states’ restrictions. Among other provisions, the measure bars state agencies from assisting in interstate investigations seeking to hold someone civilly or criminally liable for getting or aiding an abortion. The bill awaits Democratic Governor Ned Lamont’s signature.
MARYLAND : The legislature passed a bill that expands the definition of who can provide abortions to include any ‘qualified provider,’ establishes a state-funded abortion provider training program and requires most insurance plans to cover the cost of abortions. Republican Governor Larry Hogan vetoed the bill, but the state’s Democratic-controlled legislature overrode his veto on April 9 and the law is due to take effect on July 1.
VERMONT : The Democratic-led legislature in February passed a constitutional amendment that guarantees the right to abortion. It will be on the ballot for voters to approve in November.
WHAT IS THE SITUATION IN OTHER COUNTRIES AROUND THE WORLD?
As new limits on abortion rights are pursued in the United States and other countries, here is a look at global abortion statistics and some of the world’s strictest abortion laws.
Data has been provided by the UN World Health Organization as well as from the Guttmacher Institute research group and the Center for Reproductive Rights legal advocacy group, both of which support abortion rights.
Approximately 73 million abortions occur worldwide annually, with 61 per cent of all unintended pregnancies and 29 per cent of all pregnancies ending in abortion, according to the World Health Organization.
It said about 45 per cent of all abortions are unsafe, of which 97 per cent occur in developing countries. A WHO fact sheet said ‘Unsafe abortion is a leading – but preventable – cause of maternal deaths and morbidities.’
There are 16 countries where abortion is prohibited altogether, a list that includes Egypt, Iraq, the Philippines, Laos, Senegal, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.
About three dozen other countries allow it only to save the life of the mother, a list that includes Nigeria, Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela, Iran, Afghanistan and Myanmar. Around 40 per cent of women of reproductive age live in places where abortion access is illegal or limited.
In England, Scotland and Wales, anyone can legally have an abortion at up to 23 weeks and six days of pregnancy, which is in line with the Abortion Act of 1967. Here is the situation in a number of countries:
Poland in January 2021 put into effect a constitutional court decision prohibiting abortions performed due to fetal defects, banning the most common of the few legal grounds for terminating a pregnancy in the largely Catholic country.
El Salvador has some of the world’s strictest abortion laws, with the procedure banned without exception since 1998. More than 180 women who experienced obstetric emergencies were prosecuted for abortion or aggravated homicide in the past 20 years.
Women in Malta are denied access to abortion, even if their lives are at risk. It is the only EU member state that completely prohibits the procedure. Women face up to three years in jail.
Senegal prohibits abortion but its code of medical ethics allows it if three doctors agree it is needed to save a woman’s life. A 2014 study showed the rules force women to seek clandestine abortions and, as a last resort, kill their own infants.
In the United Arab Emirates, abortion is illegal except if the pregnancy endangers the woman’s life or there is evidence the baby will not survive. Women could face up to one year in prison and a hefty fine. Women who seek hospital treatment for a miscarriage may be accused of attempted abortion.
Anti-abortion laws in the Philippines derive from its time as a colony of Spain. Abortion has been prohibited for more than a century. About 1,000 Filipino women die each year from complications. Spain is among more than 50 countries that have liberalized abortion laws over the past quarter century.
WOULD IT LEAD TO A RISE IN THE NUMBER OF ORPHANGES?
This would seem very unlikely in the modern age, with traditional orphanages now being extinct in the US – but there is an interesting case study going back more than 50 years that provides an insight.
In 1966, a complete ban on abortion and access to contraception was imposed in Romania, with the target of increasing its population.
This worked in the short-term as the average number of children born to Romanian women increased from 1.9 to 3.7 – but it then fell again as people discovered ways of getting round the ban such as bribing doctors.
It also meant that hundreds of thousands of children ended up state orphanages where they were beaten, abused and lived in filthy conditions – with an estimated 170,000 housed in these facilities when communism fell in 1989.
For children in America nowadays there is an emphasis on the foster and adoption system, rather than orphanages, which aims to match children with families who can appropriately care for them. There are also residential and group homes for children who are unable to properly integrate into a foster home.
In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion in Roe v. Wade. The landmark ruling legalized abortion nationwide but divided public opinion and has been under attack ever since.
The case was filed in 1971 by Norma McCorvey, a 22-year-old living in Texas who was unmarried and seeking a termination of her unwanted pregnancy.
Because of state legislation preventing abortions unless the mother’s life is at risk, she was unable to undergo the procedure in a safe and legal environment.
So McCorvey sued Henry Wade, the Dallas county district attorney, in 1970. The case went on to the Supreme Court, under the filing Roe vs Wade, to protect McCorvey’s privacy.
Supreme Court Decision
The Supreme Court handed down the watershed 7-2 decision that a woman’s right to make her own medical decisions, including the choice to have an abortion, is protected under the 14th Amendment.
In particular, that the Due Process Clause of the the 14th Amendment provides a fundamental ‘right to privacy’ that protects a woman’s liberty to choose whether or not to have an abortion.
The landmark ruling saw abortions decriminalized in 46 states, but under certain specific conditions which individual states could decide on. For example, states could decide whether abortions were allowed only during the first and second trimester but not the third (typically beyond 28 weeks).
Among pro-choice campaigners, the decision was hailed as a victory which would mean fewer women would become seriously – or even fatally – ill from abortions carried out by unqualified or unlicensed practitioners. Moreover, the freedom of choice was considered a significant step in the equality fight for women in the country. Victims of rape or incest would be able to have the pregnancy terminated and not feel coerced into motherhood.
However, pro-lifers contended it was tantamount to murder and that every life, no matter how it was conceived, is precious. Though the decision has never been overturned, anti-abortionists have prompted hundreds of states laws since then narrowing the scope of the ruling.
One such was the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act signed by President George W. Bush in 2003, which banned a procedure used to perform second-trimester abortions.
Norma McCorvey (Jane Roe)
Following the ruling, McCorvey lived a quiet life until the 1980s when she revealed herself to be Jane Roe.
McCorvey became a leading, outspoken pro-abortion voice in American discourse, even working at a women’s clinic where abortions were performed.
However, she performed an unlikely U-turn in 1995, becoming a born again Christian and began traveling the country speaking out against the procedure.
In 2003, a she filed a motion to overturn her original 1973 ruling with the U.S. district court in Dallas.
The motion moved through the courts until it was ultimately denied by the Supreme Court in 2005.
McCorvey died at an assisted living home in Texas in February 2017, aged 69.
Shelley Lynn Thornton (Baby Roe)
Norma McCorvey (Jane Roe) gave birth to Shelley Lynn Thornton in Dallas in 1970 – a year before the Supreme Court Roe v. Wade case was filed. Shelley was the single mother’s third pregnancy. She gave her up for adoption the day after giving birth, then continued fighting for the right to abortion afterwards.
Shelley’s identity became public last year. She waived her right to anonymity, speaking out in multiple interviews about the landmark case.
She says that Norma used her for ‘publicity’, only trying to make contact with her when she was a teenager and for the wrong reasons.
‘It became apparent to me really quickly that the only reason why she wanted to reach out to me and find me was because she wanted to use me for publicity. She didn’t deserve to meet me. She never did anything in her life to get that privilege back.
‘She never expressed genuine feeling for me or genuine remorse for doing the things that she did, saying the things that she did over and over and over again,’ Shelley said last year.
Shelley has refused to say whether or not she agrees with abortion, for fear of weaponized by either side of the debate.
‘A lot of people didn’t know I existed. It doesn’t revolve around me, I wasn’t the one who created this law. I’m not the one who created this movement. I had nothing to do with it. I was just a little itty-bitty thing and, you know, circumstances prevailed.
‘My whole thinking is that, ‘oh God everybody is going to hate me because everyone is going to blame me for abortion being legal.’