The overturning of Roe v. Wade: an end to the constitutional right to abortion?

An overview of the Roe v Wade ruling is given and a future without it is imagined.

Neve Watson
17th May 2022
Sign held at an abortion rally. Image source: flickr.
A dystopian nightmare: as pictures of celebrities arriving at the Met Gala flooded social media, a draft report is leaked revealing the likely overturning of Roe v. Wade.

On 22nd January 1973, the Supreme Court legalised abortion across America, arguing that a woman’s right to abortion was implicit in a clause protected by the 14th Amendment: the right to privacy. Even though abortion is legal according to current statute law, individual states have been able to apply their own laws, the notorious 'heartbeat' bills. Whilst such laws heavily restrict the right to abortion, they technically do not contradict federal law. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, individual states can ban abortion fully, with 26 states already being predicted to do so.

In 1969, Norma McCorvey – known as ‘Roe’ in the court case – was looking to terminate her pregnancy. She was referred to anti-abortion Texas attorneys Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee, and in 1970 they filed a lawsuit against district attorney, Henry Wade. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court, resulting in the nationwide legalisation of abortion.

If Roe v Wade is overturned, 26 states are predicted to ban abortion

One of the issues involved with abortion is when is the exact moment of life for the foetus? Opinions vary. Those believing that life begins at conception would argue abortion is murder. Abortions are rarely performed after the 24th week of pregnancy, as a baby born after this time frame has a chance of survival.

At its core, abortion is a women’s rights issue: the fate of a woman’s body and future is being decided by others who ignore the woman's opinions. Of course, this isn’t anything new, and has been happening for centuries. The very act of disregarding women's rights in this way, by banning abortions, also places a heavy responsibility upon women. It cannot be both ways. You cannot argue that a woman should have no say over her body and force her to carry out her pregnancy and then expect her to be responsible for this child and raise it.

I could only argue that women should be allowed abortions in cases of rape and sexual assault, but I simply think that women should be able to have abortions because they want to. There should not be extenuating circumstances in place or a list of criteria that they must fit. It is their body and their choice to do what they wish.

I can see the future of America if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Pregnant people will have to travel for abortions, and abortions themselves will be even more of a taboo subject. Even though a woman might be making the correct choice for herself, and even for the foetus, she would be treated as a criminal. You can only criminalise safe abortions – “back-alley” ones would be on the rise, placing thousands of women’s lives at risk. A country that places itself so centrally on the map with regards to progress and freedom clearly does not prioritise the rights of its women.

In the words of Rachel Green: No uterus, no opinion.

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