Just days after the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade, eliminating Americans’ constitutional right to abortion, a ten-year-old rape victim was denied an abortion in her home state of Ohio. She was then forced to travel to the neighbouring state of Indiana to terminate the pregnancy.
A total ban on abortion in certain states
Hours after the Supreme Court decision, Ohio legislators banned abortion after six weeks, therefore forcing the young Ohioan, at six weeks and three days pregnant, to travel to the neighbouring state where abortion is legal up to 22 weeks of pregnancy, for now. The Indiana General Assembly is poised to reconvene over its current abortion laws on 25 July while the state’s clinics are seeing a massive influx of patients traveling from Ohio, Kentucky, and Michigan. However, Indiana legislators are set on a total abortion ban, even in cases of rape, and this safe haven could disappear by the end of the month.
Thirteen states with ‘trigger bans’ including Texas, Idaho, and Kentucky, will prohibit abortions 30 days after the 24 June decision while five states began to enforce their total abortion bans on the day of the ruling. Abortion remains legal and will likely be protected in twenty states and the District of Columbia. The remaining states’ laws could come down to the November mid-term elections as reproductive rights access now shift to Congress’s decision.
Women’s rights and the political constitution of the Supreme Court
The Democrats’ greatest hope in refining some states’ Orwellian laws is to create a greater liberal majority in the November midterm elections. The Republican-led Supreme Court hold a 6-3 majority while many sources call for Biden and Congress to add seats to the US’s highest court. The Constitution provides that there need be a Supreme Court but does not stipulate how many judges should preside over the court. Since the formation of the Supreme Court in 1790, the number of justices has changed six times, ranging between five and ten, before settling on the current nine seats in 1869. With the Democrats currently losing on the Judiciary front, their short-term hope is to swing moderate voters away from Republicans in November with the potential long-term goal to pack the court.
A political battlefield
While GOP leaders have called pregnancy from rape “an opportunity for that woman, no matter how young or old she is”, Democrats are calling out the Gilead-esque control over women’s bodies and many are utilising their liberal stance to win mid-term campaigns. John Fetterman, a Pennsylvania democratic candidate for Senate, took to twitter; “It is unjust. It is wrong. And I’m going to fight it with everything I’ve got. Send me to the U.S. Senate, and I’d proudly vote to codify Roe v. Wade into law.”
The UK position
Across the Atlantic, the UK saw similar actions last week with 61 Conservative MPs voting against extending abortion access in North Ireland. Boris Johnson has called the US’s recent actions as a “backwards step” but has yet to formalise any laws that ensure women’s protection of reproductive rights. And while US Republicans and British Conservatives may be ideological cousins, a recent Pew Research public poll in the US show 61% of Americans are in favour of abortion legalisation however a greater majority of 85% in the UK support a woman’s right to choose.
The real impact on women and the children they are forced to bear
The US’s overturning of Roe v Wade will have extreme impacts on women’s education, employment, earning prospects, and the health of the children they are forced to bare. The World Health Organization stated “Babies born to mothers under 20 years of age face higher risks of low birth weight, preterm delivery and severe neonatal conditions.” While, “adolescent mothers aged 10–19 years face higher risks of eclampsia, puerperal endometritis and systemic infections than women aged 20–24 years.”
In addition to the mid-term elections and stacking the Supreme Court, the United States Congress may want to focus on how their health care system can adapt to the influx of birth defects and ill mothers if they are to force women, and even ten-year-old rape victims, to carry out unwanted pregnancies.
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