The constitutional right to an abortion is currently being debated in the US Supreme Court, with activist groups warning that abortion bans could affect over 30 million women.
Activists and political figures are continuing to speak out against a proposed Mississippi law to ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy that is currently being heard by the Supreme Court. Despite the right to abortion being a constitutional right in the US, the final ruling of the law, due in June next year, could cut off abortion services for tens of millions of women.
Protestors calling for #BansOffOurBodies have gathered outside the Supreme Court building in Washington DC in support of upholding the 1973 Roe v Wade ruling that established the right to abortion.
However, in Wednesday’s hearing into the case, conservative justices hinted that a majority backed upholding the proposed Mississippi law.
In 2018, a Mississippi state law was passed that would make most abortions illegal after the first 15 weeks of pregnancy, including those caused by rape or incest; however, it has not yet been enforced. Now, Mississippi is asking for Roe v Wade to be overturned, and should it be successful, there are growing fears that other states will follow suit.
During the Trump presidency, the Supreme Court was significantly reshaped by three appointments, and has been called the most conservative-leaning in modern US history.
“Out of 9 justices, three were appointed by a man who tried to overthrow the US government (and elected via minority),” wrote Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in a tweet, referring to Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was investigated for sexual misconduct allegations in 2018.
“Those three will decide whether the US will legalise forcing people to give birth against their will. Legitimacy requires consent of the governed. They are dismantling it.”
Senator Bernie Sanders also spoke out against the bill, writing: “As the Supreme Court today hears a case on Roe v. Wade, let me be very clear. It is a woman who has the right to control her own body, not the government. If men were the ones giving birth, I doubt that this would be in question.”
What would happen if Roe v Wade was overturned?
If successful, states in the US would be able to set their own standards for abortion, including outright bans before foetal viability, which is generally considered at 24 weeks.
Nearly two dozen states are expected to introduce their own bans, some probably more severe than Mississippi’s. In all, nearly half of US women of reproductive age – some 36 million – could lose abortion access, according to research from Planned Parenthood.
The ban would also most intensely affect low income, Black and Latina people, as 61% of abortion patients are minorities.
Despite Roe v Wade enshrining abortion as a constitutional right, in 2021 alone, nearly 600 abortion restrictions have been introduced across the US, with 90 enacted into law.
This includes the Hyde Amendment, which blocks the use of federal funding for the procedure, forcing women to pay for abortion themselves, which can cost hundreds of dollars.
“I don’t just want a world where abortion care is legal. I want a world where I’m not harassed when I got my abortion. Where I’m not shamed. Where I’m not considered lucky to be able to get one,” wrote Congresswoman Cori Bush on Twitter.
In England, Scotland and Wales, you can legally have an abortion at up to 23 weeks and 6 days of pregnancy, in line with the Abortion Act 1967. MSI Choices offers abortion services and confidential advice about terminations and reproductive rights.