When a constitutional right existing since 4-5 decades is rolled back, it is
the democracy which should consider itself in deep jeopardy. With the U.S
Supreme Court overturning the 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade, with 6-3 majority, the
right to reproductive and bodily autonomy preciously, the right to abortion was
snatched away from women in one go on 24 June, 2022. The US's most passionately
debatable issue came into picture once again.
Abortion, meaning there by the termination of pregnancy by the expulsion of the
foetus or embryo prior to the viability has been the U.S's most devotedly
practised ideological battle. The question that do women have the right to
choose abortion has always ignited sparks leading to a legal turmoil in the
country. And now a similar outrage has been observed after the over turning of
Roe v Wade
The case has caught everyone's eyes which had Jane Roe, pseudonym for Norman
McCorvey, an unmarried, unemployed 22 year old. It was the third time she was
pregnant in 1969 when she sought to have an abortion in the state of Texas.
Herry Wade was the then district Attorney of Dallas country, Texas whose duty
was to enforce a state law prohibiting abortion. He was the one who Roe sued
when she sought abortion. Although by the time U.S SC ruled in favour of her,
she had already given birth but as a result of her legal battle, others got the
right to abortion.
Evolution Of Laws Of Abortion In USA
The US has had a long journey from criminalization in the late 1800s to
legalization in the early 1970s and the ongoing battle for the abortion access.
A lot us would ask how did the USA actually arrive here? The answer to this
question lies in the history of laws of abortion.
As per the historians, prior to 1850 abortion was a widespread phenomena that
was stigma free for American women. It was so prevalent that the newspapers
advertised abortion services to cure "obstructed means" with herbal remedies.
The laws back then reflected a British common law and with respect to abortion,
the legal system used "quickening" doctrine to decide the legality of abortion.
Quickening is referred to as the time when the foetus's movement can be detected
which is usually around 20-24 weeks of pregnancy,. Abortion post quickening were
Later in 1847, the American Medical Association was formed by a coalition of
male doctors with the intention of separating themselves from the mid-wives and
female healers. They believed that they must have the power to decide when an
abortion could be legally performed. By the 1880s all the states had laws
restricting abortion with the exception that the mother's life was at risk. Post
this, for several decades abortion was criminalised at any stage but the law
went in vain as abortions continued to take place, just not explicitly. In the
1950s to 1960s about 2 lakhs to 2 million illegal abortions happened according
to Guttmacher Institute.
A very crucial outrage came about in 1969 when National Association for the
Repeal of Abortion Laws (NARAL) was established. It was the first national
grouping created solely to campaign for legalization of abortion, initiating
direct action to repeal the laws which banned abortion. Later in 1973, the
question was raised before the US Supreme Court that does the American
constitution recognise a women's right to terminate her pregnancy? The court
held that the choice of abortion lies with the women during the first 3 months
of her pregnancy. And hence, all the other legal tangles were over ruled with
Today, after almost half century, the court with Roe v Wade as well as the 1992
decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey which upheld the former has returned to
the point that the "issue of abortion" will be passed to people's elected
representatives. This means there will be different laws across US. With this,
at least 13 states have laws the permit them to ban abortion immediately or
within 30 days and many other still coming up with their new ones.
What Indian Law Says About Abortion?
Despite being the world's most powerful nation, USA took away the right over
bodily autonomy from women. Now let's look at the Indian law on this subject. In
India, abortion has been legal for almost 50 years now, it allows abortion if
the pregnancy is fatal for the women or there is some grave medical issues with
Medical, termination of pregnancy act enacted in, 1971 to decrease in the number
of maternal mortality rate, made abortion legal in India with effectively
balancing the rights of the mother and the foetus with safeguarding women's
health. Initially, the act allowed medical termination of pregnancy till 20
weeks under the supervision of a registered medical practitioner but post the
2021 amendment it was extended up to 24 weeks.
It allows abortion in certain cases well defined in the act like if the
pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, failed contraception, medical
diformities with the foetus or the mother and to unmarried women.
Effect On Women's Health After Overturning Roe Vs. Wade
According to the centres of disease control and prevention, U.S has the highest
maternal mortality rate amongst developed nations with almost 700 women dies out
of some or other reasons related to pregnancy and the medical practitioners
suggests that they are preventable if effective majors have been taken. The
biggest and irrevocable damage this judgement is going to make is increase in
the maternal mortality rate which is already high in the country.
According to CDC, data they are doubled from 1987 to 2017. Some data suggests
that the states which has less protective laws low maternal mortality as
compared to the one which has high. Now as the abortions are banned there are
high chances that women will go for unsafe abortion methods and that could be
detrimental for their health. and these forced pregnancies would lead to mental
health problems in many families and especially to women.
Putting a ban on anything or arbitrarily denying women their right over their
body is not the quick fix of any of the concerns related to pregnancies. The US
will certainly have to face certain repercussions regarding the same.
Considering that it is one the few countries that has denied abortion previously
too, for quite long, U.S would again be disbanded from the peer countries. Women
might have to tussle for their reproductive rights, the life expectancy of the
people will likely to go down and consequences will certainly impact globally.
The US, as witnessed by all has been targeting India on several issues of human
rights and its recent affair exposes its hypocrisy. With the racial
discrimination, gun violence, denied rights of pregnancy, the U.S seems to be
standing at a shallow lead. The women of America have a long way to go to
achieve what they struggling for currently.