The most vulnerable, in the midst of the battle for and against abortion in the US.

The ruling of the Supreme Court of the United States last Friday, June 24, which annulled the constitutional right to abortion, has concrete consequences for thousands of women, forcing girls to become mothers, women to travel thousands of kilometers to be able to abort and other to practice dangerous clandestine procedures. For and against, both sides began a battle, some hoping to ban the right to abortion at the federal level and others working to restore it. A fight that promises to be long-winded.

Since the decision of the Supreme Court to annul the Roe Versus Wade case, which protected the right to abortion in the country at the federal level, it is now the states that have the power to legislate the issue of abortion. And several of them, with a Republican tendency, have already prohibited the Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancy (IVE).

At least seven states, which had previously prepared anti-abortion legislation, decided to apply it following the Supreme Court’s decision. It is the case of South Dakota, Missouri, Kentucky, Arkansas, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin, who decided to ban the IVE. Most of them, without exception in case of rape or incest and allowing it only if the health of the mother is in danger. In other territories, such as Idaho, Tennessee or Texas, the new legislation will take effect within 30 days.

In some states, providing an IVE to a woman can be punished with several years in prison. Among them, Utah, whose law makes performing an abortion a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Though primarily aimed at providers, lawmakers have acknowledged that a woman who self-administers an abortion, even with medication, could face charges.

Map of new US state legislation on abortion.
Map of new US state legislation on abortion. ©AP/France24

Adding to the confusion on the issue, on Monday, June 26, judges blocked the new rules in Utah and Louisiana, where laws prohibiting abortion are temporarily paused.

In Louisiana, a clinic and several medical students have attacked the legislation, arguing that it is too vague and does not clearly specify exceptions and associated penalties. Judge Robin Giarrusso blocked them on Monday until a hearing on July 8. Abortions have been able to resume, but for a short time.

This case marks the beginning of long court battles in several conservative states. However, according to the Guttmacher Institute, in the medium to long term, 26 of the 50 states are expected to ban or heavily restrict abortion.

41% of women of childbearing age, those directly affected

Nearly half of women of reproductive age in the US would be affected by the new laws. The most direct consequence is the closure of clinics that provide abortions. Only in the first year, more than 100,000 people could be negatively affected in their right to have access to IVE services.

According to Catalina Martínez Coral, senior regional director of the Center for Reproductive Rights for Latin America and the Caribbean, “it is estimated that pregnant people who require an abortion will have to drive an average of 279 miles (450 km) so that they can have an abortion. abortion, compared to the average of 35 miles (56km) today”.

Rural women, with low economic resources or part of minorities will be, again, the most affected; suffering, among other things, from economic and physical stress when wanting to resort to an IVE.

“The vast majority will not be able to move to another state. We remember that the majority of women who seek an abortion are younger women, who live below the poverty line, women of color, migrant women,” explains Catalina.

What will happen to them?

“What we are going to see in the United States is what we have seen in Latin America for decades, tragic and painful situations, such as women who are going to have to seek clandestine abortions, often putting their lives or health at risk, or girl victims of rape who are going to have to continue with a pregnancy,” deplores Catherine.

The prohibition of abortion could become a public health problem, with the multiplication of deaths or irreversible sequelae due to clandestine abortions, as well as the rise in maternal mortality rates.

Some states are restricting the possibility of abortion, but access to sex education and contraception are not guaranteed in them either. In the United States, reimbursement for contraceptives is not guaranteed, and the Supreme Court could go further and further restrict access.

“After overturning these proven erroneous decisions, it would remain to be resolved the question of whether there are other constitutional provisions that protect the myriad rights that our fundamental due process cases have generated,” wrote Clarence Thomas, one of the Supreme Court justices. The magistrate mentioned, among other things, the ruling that guarantees access to contraceptives for married couples, known as “Griswold v. Connecticut.”

An abortion rights protester holds a sign during a rally outside the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC on June 25, 2022.
An abortion rights protester holds a sign during a rally outside the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC on June 25, 2022. ROBERTO SCHMIDT AFP

Finally, as Robert Valencia, an analyst and journalist for, explains, the United States “is the country with the highest mortality rate at birth in the developed world.”

According to a study conducted by the Save the Children organization in 2019the United States is in the last position of the 20 most developed countries in the world regarding infant mortality, mainly due to the lack of guarantee of equitable access to health.

According to Robert Valencia, the danger is even greater since abortion could be banned at the national level, a possibility after legislative electionsknown as mid-term elections, which will take place in November.

In the event of victory in these elections, the Republicans could impose a federal law that prohibits abortion throughout the country. “If the Republicans win a majority in the Senate, and in the House of Representatives, something that could happen, then we would already be talking about a national ban in its entirety,” says Valencia.

Laity, also in danger

The United States is a secular country in which there is a separation between Church and State. However, with the nomination of three conservative and anti-abortion judges by former President Donald Trump, and by taking a sentence that is dangerously mixed with religious ideology, Valencia denounces a risk for secularism in the country.

In making this type of decision, “several critics have said that the Supreme Court is walking a very fine line between what is the differentiation of the Church and the State.”

Historically, the Republican Party began using the anti-abortion issue to win evangelical votes. The Conservatives still use it as a political banner, now heading into the midterm elections. But according to Valencia, “other experts point out that it could have a counterproductive effect since many people do not agree with the decisions made by the Supreme Court.”

An abortion rights activist raises her fist during protests outside the US Supreme Court after it struck down abortion rights, in Washington, DC on June 24, 2022.
An abortion rights activist raises her fist during protests outside the US Supreme Court after it struck down abortion rights, in Washington, DC on June 24, 2022. © AFP – Stefani Reynolds

In the country, voices are raised against the court, which they accuse of not representing the general will of Americans. According to surveys, about 60% of the population believes that safe abortion is an important right for women.

The fight continues for the movements that defend the right to abortion

After the historic decision, President Joe Biden was one of the first to react. “It is very clear that the health and lives of women are now in danger in this nation,” he declared, adding, “the fight is not over (…) I will do everything in my power to protect the right of women .” Biden invited voters to mobilize in the legislative elections.

Several options are now presented to defend the right to abortion in the country. Reproductive rights organizations are working more than ever to help women access this right.

At the federal level, bills protecting the right to abortion could be voted on by Congress, such as the Women’s Health Protection Act, which was approved in 2021 by the House of Representatives (lower house of Congress).

However, as Catalina Martínez Coral points out, the Senate needs to be able to pass laws with a simple majority so that the law can continue on its way. Currently, the Senate is divided between Democrats and Republicans with 50 deputies on each side, and a law can only be voted on with the approval of at least 60 deputies.

The midterm elections in November will set the tone for the fight over abortion in the United States, while millions of women, the most vulnerable, wait in the greatest uncertainty.

With AP, EFE and local media

Source link