The United States Supreme Court is set to overturn Roe vs Wade, the 1973 ruling legalised abortion rights in the US, according to a draft majority opinion leaked by the Politico.
If the leaked document is to be believed, the ruling would severely limit women's access to abortion in the US and could pave the way for a nation-wide ban on abortion.
What Is Roe vs Wade?
Roe vs Wade is a 1973 ruling by the US Supreme Court which stated that the constitution protected a pregnant woman's right to choose to have an abortion.
The landmark ruling struck down many US federal and state laws which banned abortions. It gave the woman a choice to exercise her right to consult a doctor and end a pregnancy before 24 weeks, even in states where anti-abortion sentiments are strong.
Has Roe vs Wade Been Challenged?
Wade vs Roe has seen many indirect threats over the years with states passing laws to restrict abortion rights.
The latest challenge has arisen from Dobbs vs Jackson Women's Health Organization, a case which has challenged a 2018 Mississippi state law that bans abortion after the first 15 weeks of a pregnancy.
It is the draft opinion of this case that has been leaked by Politico.
What Does The Draft Opinion Say?
The draft majority opinion penned by Justice Samuel Alito strikes down Roe vs Wade and a subsequent 1992 ruling for Planned Parenthood vs Casey which upheld women's right to access abortion.
"We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled. It is time to heed the constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people's elected representatives," Alito wrote.
"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," he added.
Politico wrote that along with Alito, the Republican-appointed Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett all voted to strike down the 1973 ruling.
The Democratic-appointed Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan have all disented. However, it is not known whether Chief Justice John Roberts will support the ruling and write an opinion.
Does This Mean Abortion Will Banned In The US?
While many states have laws in place which severely restrict the rights of women to get an abortion, it hasn't been banned in the US.
States in the US can draft their own laws to govern themselves. However, when a state law is in conflict with a federal law, the latter prevails.
Similarly, a state can give its citizens more rights but cannot restrict them from rights that they have been guaranteed by federal law.
The Supreme Court's Roe vs Wade ruling held that the US constitution protected a woman's right to choose to have an abortion. This struck down many state and federal laws which banned abortion.
Should Roe vs Wade be overturned, states can once again pass legislation banning abortion.
According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, 24 states would likely ban abortions if Roe vs Wade is overruled.
The Washington Post reports that many anti-abortion groups have started mobilising Republican lawmakers and work towards imposing a nation-wide ban on abortion.
Can Joe Biden And The US Congress Step In?
During his campaign run, Biden promised to work towards codifying Roe vs Wade into the US Constitution.
The Women's Health Protection Act of 2021 was introduced and passed in the US House of Representatives. If codified, the Act would enshrine women's right to access and perform an abortion and would supersede any and all state laws.
The Democrats were able to approve the bill in the House of Representatives with a 218-211 win but faced a tough task getting it tabled in the Senate.
To pass a bill in the Senate, a majority of 60 votes is required. Getting the bill passed in a 100-seat Senate which is divided 50-50 was always going to be difficult.
The Democrats nonetheless called for the bill to be tabled only to be filibustered by Republicans. The Democrats then lost a vote for cloture 46-48 all but ending any hopes of the bill to be tabled in the Senate.
How Would This Impact The 2022 Mid-Term Polls?
Though abortion rights have been a hotly debated topic in the US, a 2020 AP VoteCast poll found that 69 per cent of voters in the 2020 Presidential elections did not want the Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs Wade with only 29 per cent in favour of it.
A June 2021 AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll showed 57 per cent of Americans saying abortion should be legal in all cases or in most cases, while 43 per cent said it should be illegal in all cases or most cases.
David Axelrod, the chief strategist for Barack Obama believes that the leak would work against the Republicans in the mid-term elections stating that a reversal of Roe vs Wade would galvanize women and young voters to vote rather than sit out.
What About India? Is It Legal To Get An Abortion?
In India, abortion is legal under certain conditions.
However, accessibility to sexual and reproductive health and rights in India is still limited owing to the inadequate number and skewed distribution of obstetricians and gynaecologists, lack of facilities providing abortion care, equipment shortages, and inadequate health care infrastructure, and of course, the shame and stigma associated with it.
The new Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act 2021 amended the upper gestation limit from 20 to 24 weeks for special categories of women, including survivors of rape, victims of incest and other vulnerable women (differently abled women, minors, among others). The opinion of one doctor is needed for the termination of pregnancy up to 20 weeks of gestation. Beyond that, opinions of two doctors are needed.
It has been pointed out that although a law exists, it does not grant women complete control over reproductive choices.
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