hi INDiA Copyright 2022
By Ashok Nilakantan
New York, June 26 (IANS) Americans are up in arms again, this time, on the Supreme Court 6-3 verdict on the Roe Vs Wade case that takes away a woman’s legal right to abortion generally borne out of a decision to terminate pregnancy on grounds of rape, incest or deformities of the embryo in the womb.
President Joe Biden on Friday took strong exception to the court’s ruling to rescind federal abortion rights, while appealing to people, especially women, to remain calm as several of them have gone on nationwide protests against the apex court’s ruling.
Biden blamed the three justices appointed by former President Donald Trump. In the US, unlike India where supreme court judges have a fixed tenure, SC judges are appointed for a life term.
Trump took the SC verdict as a personal triumph for appointing the judges who gave the verdict.
President Joe Biden said on Friday that the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade puts American women in danger, calling it a “sad day” for the judicial body and the country. “Now with Roe gone, let’s be very clear. The health and life of women in this nation are now at risk,” Biden said in a Friday afternoon speech at the White House.
Biden said the landmark 1973 abortion rights case had not only protected a woman’s right to make personal decisions in consultation with her doctor, it reaffirmed women’s equality and reinforced privacy rights.
Biden, who served as a former Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, said he had studied the case carefully and believes it was decided correctly by the Supreme Court nearly 50 years ago. Roe was the supreme court judge in 1973 who upheld the woman’s right to abortion as a legal one that found resounding echo in state laws that made abortion rights legal.
For decades, the conservative rights including Catholics, have been fighting Roe on grounds that it was murder but met with strong opposition from women’s abortion rights activists. Biden said that three justices appointed by his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, were responsible for the decision that leaves it to the states to determine their own abortion laws.
“Make no mistake, this decision is a culmination of a deliberate effort over decades to upset the balance of our law,” Biden said. “It’s a realization of an extreme ideology, and a tragic error by the Supreme Court, in my view, ” the newspaper USA today quoted him as saying.
The president spoke in visceral terms about the consequences of the court’s ruling on abortion rights across the country. He said state laws that restrict abortion that will go into effect could jeopardize the health of millions of women and force women who want abortions, but are no longer able to receive them, to bear their rapists’ children.
Biden said that the onus is now on Congress to restore federal abortion rights protections.
“And if Congress, as it appears, lacks the votes to do that now, voters need to make their voices heard,” he said, referencing the midterm elections. He supported democrats who wanted women’s abortion rights put on the agenda for a referendum from the people in the mid-term polls of 2022 necessitated by reapportionment following the 2020 census.
Biden did not take any questions from White House reporters and his press secretary cancelled all briefings as protesters lined up outside the Supreme Court protesting its judgement with placards saying “Hell hath known no fury than a woman pissed”. An analogy from the Shakespearean quote from King Lear: “Hell hath known no greater fury than a woman scorned.”
The President asked protesters to stay calm and keep it peaceful as violence is never acceptable as we must stand against it in any form regardless of the rationale behind it.
What is the Roe vs Wade case all about?
The 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court judgement penned by the judge legalized abortion in the US finding resonance throughout the country with lower courts also endorsing the women’s right to legally abort a child with doctors’ consent if it was borne out of rape, incest or deformities or simply poverty for an upbringing if the fetal age was 28 weeks or seven months. With advances in medical science, it was brought down to 22 weeks or six months. The petitioner then was the 22-year-old plaintiff, Norma McCorvey. And ‘Wade’ was the defendant, Henry Wade, the Dallas County (Texas) district attorney at the time.
‘Roe’ struck down laws that made abortion illegal in several states, and ruled that abortion would be allowed up to the point of fetal viability, that is, the time after which a foetus can survive outside the womb.
Fetal viability was around 28 weeks (7 months) at the time of the ‘Roe’ judgment nearly 50 years ago. Now brought down to 23 or 24 weeks (6 months or a little less), and newer studies show this could be further pegged at 22 weeks. An average pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks, doctors say. The moral Question was Mothers right to have the baby or not vs an embryo or infants right to survive, making it a very complicated issue.
What is the status of abortion in the US now?
As no federal law now exists to protect abortion rights of women, the overturning of ‘Roe’ leaves abortion laws entirely up to the states to interpret and give a ruling. Conservative right-wing states are likely to return to laws that prohibit abortions before the Supreme Court set the fetal viability standard in 1973.
Activists and progressive politicians have said that the availability of clinics, insurance payouts, are crucial issues that form part of the struggle of many women even with the backing of ‘Roe’. With this legal backing gone, access could become even harder.