Why is the right to abortion at risk in the USA?

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Judit Vela - Suport Tercer Sector
  • This is the most important leak in the history of the United States Supreme Court.
    This is the most important leak in the history of the United States Supreme Court. Source: Unsplash.

After 49 years when voluntary termination of pregnancy has been possible up to week 24 of pregnancy, it looks like there may be some serious setbacks coming.

Recently, and thanks to the feminist movement in Latin America, great progress was achieved in countries like Argentina, Colombia and Mexico. But now, the spotlights are on the USA, where we may see an important setback.

Even if the US Congress has never enshrined the right to voluntary termination of pregnancy, the Supreme Court made access to abortion a constitutional right in 1973 through what is known as the Roe versus Wade decision.

This decision has allowed women in the US to have an abortion up until the foetus is able to survive outside the uterus, i.e. until week 24 of pregnancy. Unfortunately, this situation may soon change.

The source of the conflict

The conflict can be traced to 2018, when Phil Bryant, the Governor of Mississippi signed a bill to prohibit abortion in the State after week 15 of pregnancy. At the time, the only clinic performing abortions in the State, known as the Pink House, sued the Governor.

The judges of the Supreme Court could have ruled the law as unconstitutional and repeal it, but they decided to take on the case. If they repealed the Roe versus Wade decision, they would be upholding Phil Bryant’s case. Not only this: it is expected that 26 of the 50 States in the country under conservative rule would then legislate to totally or partially ban abortion, if this should be the case.

A conservative context

The question is: can the Roe versus Wade decision be overturned? Right now, everything seems to indicate this might be possible. The draft report of the Supreme Court against the bill has just been leaked and the content of this report indicates there is an intention to overturn this landmark decision.

Furthermore, it is said that five of the nine judges, all conservative and appointed by Donald Trump, would support a change in this sense. As expected, this has fuelled a response from citizens with demonstrations and protests in the streets, and a reaction from President Biden, who publicly expressed his concern and guaranteed he would do all he can to avoid this from happening.

Lives at risk

People defending this right have warned that whichever the final decision may be, pregnancy termination will continue to be practiced. They warn that should the Roe v Wade decision be overturned, abortion will no longer be possible in safe conditions and this will put the lives of many at risk.

The ruling on this issue will be known by the end of June or early July. So far, the Supreme Court has admitted to the authenticity of the report, confirming this is the most important leak in the 233 years of history of the Court.

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