Pro-Choice protests by women continue in the US for right to safe abortions
While a Conservative Justice has warned that overturning abortion rights is just the beginning, women are intensifying protests against the US Supreme Court’s ruling
The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), in a ruling last month, rolled back the right to a safe and legal abortion for women. This right had been extended to American women since 1973 through the Roe V Wade ruling. In doing this, the richest country in the world, the United States, has joined three other countries, namely El Salvador, Nicaragua and Poland where abortions are illegal.
All three have substantially smaller economies and population than the US, and this is not a cohort Americans would like to be a part of. Poland recently announced a national pregnancy register, which is as regressive as it sounds, for women.
In traveling from North Carolina to Massachusetts and Illinois via New York over the last three weeks, I witnessed multiple street protests, attended by hundreds of women walking with signs calling to roll back this Supreme Court ruling. Many placards accused former President Donald Trump for nominating three conservative justices to the nine-judge Supreme Court, thereby tilting the conservative bench 6-3 against the liberal justices. This will perhaps be the composition of the US Supreme Court for several decades to come, unless the Democrats expand the number of seats in the Supreme Court.
Going back a century, Soviet Russia, which would become the Soviet Union in 1922, was the first country in the world to legalize abortion in 1920. In a remarkable observation a hundred years ago, the ruling in favour of women’s choice said anti-abortion achieved “no positive results. It drives the operation underground and makes women the victims of greedy and often ignorant abortionists who profit from this secrecy”. In the following years, births per 1000 people fell from 45 to 30 by 1935. Josef Stalin decided the landmark ruling was illegal in 1936, making the act punishable by a jail term up to 3 years. The anti-abortion rhetoric was reversed right after Stalin’s death in 1953.
Ironically, generally deemed progressive for women the US ranks 15th in the list of Economic Intelligence While a Conservative Justice has warned that overturning abortion rights is just the beginning, women are intensifying protests against the Supreme Court’s ruling Unit, and remains the only country where the pro-choice right has been reversed. The US which likes to lecture the world on democracy and rights has fallen prey to its own Supreme Court’s divisive strategies.
The right to choose whether to go through a pregnancy or not is an intimate choice for a woman– and has immediate impact on her career, health, and financial well-being. It must be seen from the lens of a fundamental right as a woman and of her liberty and the progress we make as a society. This is not something on which compromises can be made. For long, the work women do at home was not considered part of a country’s GDP and has only recently been included as an economic factor.
This rollback by US will serve to set a bad precedent and will render it unable to speak against the atrocities against women in countries it has ravaged – places like Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq, in the recent years.
As President Biden shakes hands with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman next month, the progress, or the reversal, of women’s liberation, must cross his mind. Readers would remember Saudi Arabia is a country which allowed its women to travel abroad without their guardian’s permission only in 2019. Also, to obtain a passport and be a guardian for their own children.
Pundits believe states ruled by Democrats will continue to provide abortion services, and will likely be dubbed havens while some states are already out to enact laws of their own wherein travelling for abortion, if proven, will become punishable.
Amazon, the biggest online retail giant in the world, has announced it will offer up to $4,000 to those employees who need to travel for care. Alphabet (parent company of Google) has announced it will relocate its workforce on request. Many other companies have similarly announced grants. However, an internal memo at Meta (Facebook and Instagram) informed us of the company’s policy of not discussing this issue at the workplace. The memo, obtained by The New York Times, said “discussing abortion openly at work has a heightened risk of creating a hostile work environment”. This is ironic coming from an organisation which has abetted the Cambridge Analytica imbroglio and the Rohingya massacre in Myanmar in recent years.
As announced by the conservative Justice Clarence Thomas, the next targets could be same-sex marriages and the choice of contraception. Americans simply cannot go back half a century and disallow half of their population, the women, right to their own bodies and privacy.
In a bid to reduce the impact of overturning the Roe V Wade ruling, President Biden last week signed an executive order which expands the availability of ‘medication abortion’ – pills which women can take to abort the foetus, and to protect their right to travel for abortion. The executive order also urges the health department to extend access to family services and contraception for women.
This is a welcome step, but Biden must play the long game–perhaps make good on what some democrats demand– expanding the number of apex court judges. The upcoming Midterms and his low approval ratings may ultimately force him to. It’s showtime for the old player.
(The author is a former Chief of Communications with UNICEF in New York. Views are personal.)
(This article was first published in National Herald on Sunday.)
Published: 18 Jul 2022, 3:00 PM