On that day in 1973, the Supreme Court delivered its landmark decision on the right to abortion, Roe vs. Wade. It was the first time in the world that a court ruled that its constitution recognized the right to abortion, citing the freedoms guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. In subsequent cases, the Court will clarify that the ability to make this most intimate and personal decision is essential to a woman’s dignity and to her equal participation in the social, economic and political life of the nation.
Historical decisions are never isolated matters. Roe deerThe roots of s were rooted in Supreme Court rulings dating back decades that protected an area of personal decisions around the family. In the years that followed, the court extended its liberty rights to encompass LGBTQ + rights, including the right to equality and privacy in marriage. Most Americans enjoy these rights without even realizing their connection to Roe deer.
And yet, not all Roe deerThe offspring of is a reason for celebration. In subsequent cases, the Supreme Court has allowed states to increase burdens on abortion care, leaving many people behind, including those dependent on federal health care programs like Medicaid.
Even like Roe deer is standing, the burden of abortion restrictions weighs most heavily on people who already face multiple barriers to healthcare and other forms of discrimination, including BIPOC people, youth, immigrants, people LGBTQ +, people living in rural areas, and those working to make ends meet. Constitutional courts in other nations have denounced the cruelty and discrimination of recognizing rights only to those who can afford them. The Supreme Court of Nepal, for example, ruled over a decade ago that the government should establish a fund to cover the cost of abortion for poor and rural women, and invest sufficient resources to meet the demand for abortion and education services.
However, Roe deer has been a vital bulwark against the hundreds of state abortion bans and restrictions enacted over the past decade. Four years ago, the Court struck down a Texas law designed to close abortion clinics statewide. Last summer, in June Medical Services v. Russo, the Supreme Court rejected a restriction on abortion in Louisiana. In the close 5-4 decision, Chief Justice Roberts voted to maintain the precedent. And the lower courts, time and again, have relied on the precedent of Roe deer to repeal the relentless restrictions that continue to come, including bans on when, how and for what reason a person can decide to terminate a pregnancy.
But the Supreme Court has changed its composition since June Medical decision, following the death of Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the Confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett in its place. It capped a seismic shift in federal courts during the Trump administration, with incredibly troubling implications for abortion. Judge Barrett’s academic writings, court rulings, and public advocacy reveal a legal view that the United States Constitution does not protect an individual’s personal freedom to make decisions about their reproductive health. The other two Trump appointees to the court, Judge Brett Kavanaugh and Judge Neil Gorsuch, have already voted to maintain restrictions on abortion and contraception.
We are now faced with a new tribunal – one with six of the nine judges who have already ruled against the right to abortion – which could alter years of progress.
Earlier this month, in the first abortion decision since Judge Barrett’s confirmation, the impact of this recalculation became evident. Even though the court itself hears arguments in its cases from a distance from home, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these six judges who have opposed the right to abortion reinstated an insensitive and outdated FDA policy unnecessarily forcing people seeking drug abortions to go to a health facility to pick up the pills in person (rather than receiving them by mail). There are more abortion cases in the court pipeline that could prove devastating for access to abortion.
The new Supreme Court is not the only outstanding threat. A ten-year effort by state anti-abortion lawmakers has led to the passage of nearly 500 laws and restrictions to ban abortion. It works. More than 90 percent of US counties now have no abortion provider; six states are at their last abortion clinic. In much of the South and Midwest, access to abortion is only a right in theory. And last year, elected officials from at least 10 states tried to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic deny access essential and urgent abortion care.
The Center for Reproductive Rights ” online tool state by state, “What if Roe fell?” “ puts into context what would happen if Roe deer were to be overthrown or weakened: 24 states and three US territories could move quickly to ban abortion outright. This means that in almost half of the country, abortion care would no longer be available.
Roe deer is in danger, and frankly, with his lack of protections, that was never enough. But there is a way forward: a federal legislative solution.
There is no doubt that Congress has many important issues to address – the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis, ongoing systemic racism, the future of the Affordable Care Act, and attacks on our democracy. But if we have learned anything from almost half a century of Roe deeris that equal access to abortion is at the heart of a just and equitable society.
That’s why the Center for Reproductive Rights is calling on the 117th Congress to pass bold federal legislation, starting with The Women’s Health Protection Act (WLP), which would ensure that abortion care is free from medically unnecessary burdens and prohibitions that impede access and shut down clinics. WHPA will protect access to abortion across the country for everyone. We must also pass the EVERY woman acts and repeal discrimination Hyde Amendment, ensuring that a person’s economic situation will never be an obstacle to accessing abortion.
Together, these actions will transform rights and access to abortion. They will bring us closer to a world where each person can make their own decisions about their own pregnancy, free from political interference and discrimination, so that we can move forward and not backward.
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