- Biden Vows Abortion Fight, Assails ‘Extreme’ Court Ruling
- US Abortion Ruling Sparks Global Debate, Polarizes Activists
Washington- The US Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years in a decision by its conservative majority to overturn Roe v. Wade. Friday’s outcome is expected to lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states.
The decision, unthinkable just a few years ago, was the culmination of decades of efforts by abortion opponents, made possible by an emboldened right side of the court that has been fortified by three appointees of former President Donald Trump.
The ruling came more than a month after the stunning leak of a draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito indicating the court was prepared to take this momentous step.
It puts the court at odds with a majority of Americans who favored preserving Roe, according to opinion polls.
Alito, in the final opinion issued Friday, wrote that Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 decision that reaffirmed the right to abortion, were wrong the day they were decided and must be overturned.
We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled. The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision, Alito wrote.
Authority to regulate abortion rests with the political branches, not the courts, Alito wrote.
Joining Alito were Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. The latter three justices are Trump appointees. Thomas first voted to overrule Roe 30 years ago.
Chief Justice John Roberts would have stopped short of ending the abortion right, noting that he would have upheld the Mississippi law at the heart of the case, a ban on abortion after 15 weeks, and said no more.
Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan the diminished liberal wing of the court were in dissent.
With sorrow for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection we dissent, they wrote.
The ruling is expected to disproportionately affect minority women who already face limited access to health care, according to statistics analysed by The Associated Press.
Thirteen states, mainly in the South and Midwest, already have laws on the books that ban abortion in the event Roe is overturned. Another half-dozen states have near-total bans or prohibitions after 6 weeks of pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant.
In roughly a half-dozen other states, the fight will be over dormant abortion bans that were enacted before Roe was decided in 1973 or new proposals to sharply limit when abortions can be performed, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.
More than 90% of abortions take place in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy, and more than half are now done with pills, not surgery, according to data compiled by Guttmacher.
The decision came against a backdrop of public opinion surveys that find a majority of Americans oppose overturning Roe and handing the question of whether to permit abortion entirely to the states. Polls conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and others also have consistently shown about 1 in 10 Americans want abortion to be illegal in all cases. A majority are in favour of abortion being legal in all or most circumstances, but polls indicate many also support restrictions especially later in pregnancy.
The Biden administration and other defenders of abortion rights have warned that a decision overturning Roe also would threaten other high court decisions in favor of gay rights and even potentially, contraception.
The liberal justices made the same point in their joint dissent: The majority eliminates a 50-year-old constitutional right that safeguards women’s freedom and equal station. It breaches a core rule-of-law principle, designed to promote constancy in the law. In doing all of that, it places in jeopardy other rights, from contraception to same-sex intimacy and marriage. And finally, it undermines the Court’s legitimacy.
But Alito contended that his analysis addresses abortion only. Nothing in this opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion, he wrote.
Whatever the intentions of the person who leaked Alito’s draft opinion, the conservatives held firm in overturning Roe and Casey.
In his draft, Alito dismissed the arguments in favor of retaining the two decisions, including that multiple generations of American women have partly relied on the right to abortion to gain economic and political power.
Changing the composition of the court has been central to the anti-abortion side’s strategy. Mississippi and its allies made increasingly aggressive arguments as the case developed, and two high-court defenders of abortion rights retired or died. The state initially argued that its law could be upheld without overruling the court’s abortion precedents.
Then-Gov. Phil Bryant signed the 15-week measure into law in March 2018, when Justices Anthony Kennedy and Ruth Bader Ginsburg were still members of a five-justice majority that was mainly protective of abortion rights.
By early summer, Kennedy had retired and was replaced by Justice Brett Kavanaugh a few months later. The Mississippi law was blocked in lower federal courts.
But the state always was headed to the nation’s highest court. It did not even ask for a hearing before a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ultimately held the law invalid in December 2019.
By early September 2020, the Supreme Court was ready to consider the state’s appeal.
The court scheduled the case for consideration at the justices’ private conference on Sept. 29. But in the intervening weeks, Ginsburg died and Barrett was quickly nominated and confirmed without a single Democratic vote.
The stage now was set, although it took the court another half year to agree to hear the case.
By the time Mississippi filed its main written argument with the court in the summer, the thrust of its argument had changed and it was now calling for the wholesale overruling of Roe and Casey.
The first sign that the court might be receptive to wiping away the constitutional right to abortion came in late summer, when the justices divided 5-4 in allowing Texas to enforce a ban on the procedure at roughly six weeks, before some women even know they are pregnant. That dispute turned on the unique structure of the law, including its enforcement by private citizens rather than by state officials, and how it can be challenged in court.
But Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted in a searing dissent for the three liberal justices that their conservative colleagues refused to block a flagrantly unconstitutional law that flouts nearly 50 years of federal precedents. Roberts was also among the dissenters.
Then in December, after hearing additional arguments over whether to block the Texas law known as S.B. 8, the court again declined to do so, also by a 5-4 vote. The clear purpose and actual effect of S. B. 8 has been to nullify this Court’s rulings, Roberts wrote, in a partial dissent.
In their Senate hearings, Trump’s three high-court picks carefully skirted questions about how they would vote in any cases, including about abortion.
But even as Democrats and abortion rights supporters predicted Kavanaugh and Gorsuch would vote to upend abortion rights if confirmed, the two left at least one Republican senator with a different impression. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine predicted Gorsuch and Kavanaugh wouldn’t support overturning the abortion cases, based on private conversations she had with them when they were nominees to the Supreme Court.
Barrett was perhaps the most vocal opponent of abortion in her time as a law professor, before becoming a federal judge in 2017. She was a member of anti-abortion groups at Notre Dame University, where she taught law, and she signed a newspaper ad opposing abortion on demand and defending the right to life from fertilisation to natural death. She promised to set aside her personal views when judging cases.
Trump, meanwhile, had predicted as a candidate that whoever he named to the court would automatically vote to overrule Roe.
Biden vows abortion fight, assails ”extreme” court ruling
Washington, Jun 24 (AP) US President Joe Biden said Friday he would try to preserve access to abortion after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, and he called on Americans to elect more Democrats who would safeguard rights upended by the court’s decision. This is not over, he declared.
Let’s be very clear, the health and life of women across this nation are now at risk, he said from the White House on what he called a sad day for the court and the country .
Biden added that the court has done what it’s never done before expressly taking away a constitutional right that is so fundamental to so many Americans.
Republicans and conservative leaders celebrated the culmination of a decades-long campaign to undo the nationwide legalisation of abortion that began with Roe v. Wade in 1973.
Millions of Americans have spent half a century praying, marching, and working toward today’s historic victories for the rule of law and for innocent life, said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., an architect of efforts to tilt the Supreme Court to the right.
Although Biden has previously expressed conflicted feelings about abortion, he delivered a forceful defence on Friday.
Noting that Republican-controlled states now had a clear path to ban abortion even in cases of incest or rape, he said it just stuns me .
And he warned that other legal precedents ensuring same sex marriage and access to birth control could also be at risk.
This is an extreme and dangerous path this court is taking us on, he said.
The overturning of Roe v. Wade was not unexpected a draft of the decision leaked nearly two months ago but it still reverberated throughout Washington in what has suddenly become a new era in the country’s battle over abortion.
The White House and the Justice Department said they would look for ways to blunt the impact of the ruling, and Biden said his administration would try to ensure that abortion medication is available as widely as possible and women aren’t prevented from travelling across state lines to end pregnancies.
However, no executive actions were announced on Friday, and Biden conceded that his options were limited.
Protesters convened on the Supreme Court, where a crowd of abortion-rights supporters quickly swelled to the hundreds.
One chanted into a bullhorn, legal abortion on demand and this decision must not stand . Some shouted the Supreme Court is illegitimate”.
It’s a painful day for those of us who support women’s rights, said Laura Free, an Ithaca, New York, resident and women’s rights historian who came to Washington to do research. When she learned of the decision, she said, I had to come here.
A competing faction demonstrated in favour of the ruling, holding signs saying “the future is anti-abortion? and dismember Roe .
Garrett Bess, with Heritage Action for America, a lobbying arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation, said his organisation would be working in states to continue efforts to limit abortion.
This has been a long time coming,” he said.
Biden and other Democrats hope to use outrage over the court decision to rally voters in November’s midterm elections.
Although nationwide legislation ensuring access to abortion appears out of reach, more Democratic victories at the state level could limit Republican efforts to ban the practice.
Congress must act, and with your vote, you can act, Biden said. You can have the final word.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the court’s ruling is outrageous and heart-wrenching and fulfils the Republican Party’s “dark and extreme goal of ripping away women’s right to make their own reproductive health decisions .
Many Republican-controlled states are poised to severely restrict abortion, or even ban it outright.
In a statement, Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Justice Department will work tirelessly to protect and advance reproductive freedom. He said that in addition to protecting providers and those seeking abortions in states where it remains legal, we stand ready to work with other arms of the federal government that seek to use their lawful authorities to protect and preserve access to reproductive care.
He also noted that the Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of mifepristone, a drug used to end pregnancies.
States may not ban mifepristone based on disagreement with the FDA’s expert judgment about its safety and efficacy, Garland said.
Lawrence Gostin, who runs the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health at Georgetown Law, said before Friday’s ruling that he expected the Biden administration to be to be nibbling around the edges, and is not going to do anything really profound .
Gostin said he’s discussed a variety of options with administration officials but believes they are gun shy given the potential for legal challenges that could lead to more roadblocks from a Supreme Court dominated by conservatives.
Some of Gostin’s suggestions included having Medicaid cover the cost of travelling across state lines to end pregnancies, as well as expanding access to abortion medication that can be delivered by mail.
The Rev. John Dorhauer, the general minister and president of the United Church of Christ, drove from Cleveland to Washington to attend one meeting earlier this month. Another virtual meeting was held this week, featuring Vice President Kamala Harris.
It was rather impressive to see the commitment the White House and the vice president’s office has had to gather advocates from around the country, Dorhauer said.
However, there are also concerns that the administration was not ready.
Dr. Colleen McNicholas, chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, attended a recent virtual meeting with abortion providers and said she expects a true health crisis.
I think that we should have been preparing for far longer than we have been, McNicholas said. Do I think that they recognize that this a problem? Yes. Do I think that they’re prepared in this moment? No.
US abortion ruling sparks global debate, polarizes activists
The end of constitutional protections for abortions in the United States on Friday emboldened abortion opponents around the world, while advocates for abortion rights worried it could threaten recent moves toward legalization in their countries.
The US Supreme Court’s overturning of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision “shows that these types of rights are always at risk of being steamrolled,” said Ruth Zurbriggen, an Argentinian activist and member of the Companion Network of Latin America and the Caribbean, a group favoring abortion rights.
But in El Salvador, anti-abortion campaigner Sara Lar n expressed hope the ruling will bolster campaigns against the procedure around the globe.
“I trust that with this ruling it will be possible to abolish abortion in the United States and throughout the world,” said Lar n, president of Fundaci n Vida SV.
In Kenya, Phonsina Archane watched news of Friday’s ruling and said she froze for a while in a state of panic.
“This is being done in America, which should be an example when it comes to the women’s rights movement,” said Archane, an activist for abortion rights. “If this is happening in America, what about me here in Africa? It’s a very, very sad day.”
She worried the ruling will embolden abortion opponents across Africa who have charged into reproductive health clinics or threatened attacks. “There is no safe place on the continent,” she said.
Abortion in sub-Saharan Africa is already more unsafe than in any other region of the world, and the overwhelming majority of women of child-bearing age live in countries where abortion laws are highly or moderately restricted, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a New York-based research organization that supports abortion rights.
Archane said civil society groups in Africa will have to come together to work out strategies on how to keep themselves and women safe. Just months ago, many saw hope when the World Health Organization released guidelines on quality abortion care, she said. “We had a step ahead, and now we have to go five steps back again.”
The decision, which leaves it up to lawmakers in individual US state to decide whether to allow or ban abortions, lit up social media across Argentina, where a law that legalized elective abortion up to the 14th week of gestation took effect in January 2021 after years of debate.
Anti-abortion activists cheered the ruling, with legislator Amalia Granata tweeting: “There is justice again in the world. We are going to achieve this in Argentina too!!”
In more conservative countries like El Salvador, where abortions are illegal no matter the circumstance and where some 180 women with obstetric emergencies have been criminally prosecuted in the last two decades, Lar n warned that the ruling could inspire yet more efforts to loosen abortion restrictions outside the US
“Campaigns promoting abortion may intensify in our countries because funding and abortion clinics in the United States are going to close as they have been doing in recent years,” she said.
At the Vatican, the head of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, joined US bishops in saying it is a time for reflection, healing wounds and civil dialogue.
“The fact that a large country with a long democratic tradition has changed its position on this issue also challenges the whole world.” the academy said.
In Mexico, lawyer and activist Ver nica Cruz said the ruling could give a boost to anti-abortion groups, but added it likely won’t have any impact in Mexico where 10 of the country’s 32 states have legalized abortion up to 12 weeks gestation in recent years.
She noted the ruling could lead to an increase in calls for help from US women seeking to have abortions in Mexico or to buy pills to interrupt pregnancies at Mexican pharmacies.
So far this year, local activists have accompanied some 1,500 US women who traveled to Mexico for those purposes, Cruz said.
Ricardo Cano, with the anti-abortion group National Front for Life, also doubts the ruling would have any impact in Mexico or elsewhere in Latin America, given the advance of leftist ideologies in the region.
Colombia, which became in February the latest Latin American country to expand access to abortion, also will not be affected by the ruling, said Catalina Mart nez Coral, director for Latin America and the Caribbean for the Center for Reproductive Rights.
Ahead of US President Joe Biden’s trip overseas, the heads of at least two Group of Seven members called the decision “horrific.”
“No government, politician or man should tell a woman what she can and cannot do with her body,” said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, adding that he “can’t imagine the fear and anger” women in the US must be experiencing in the wake of the ruling.
The French Foreign Ministry urged US federal authorities “to do everything possible” to ensure American women have continued access to abortions, calling it a “health and survival issue.” France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, added in a tweet that “abortion is a fundamental right of all women.”
New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said: “Watching the removal of a woman’s fundamental right to make decisions over their own body is incredibly upsetting. Here in New Zealand we recently legislated to decriminalise abortion and treat it as a health rather than criminal issue.”
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization, said on Twitter that he was “concerned and disappointed” by the ruling. saying it reduces both “women’s rights and access to health care.” (AP)
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