The Supreme Court of the United States released a ruling today, June 24, 2022, that overturned the politically contentious and morally important preceding ruling in Roe v. Wade. In the Court’s formal opinion document, over 200 pages long, Justice Alito writes heavily about the historical precedent of the right to choose, of a woman or person with a uterus’ right to privacy and autonomy as centered on abortion.
In those 213 pages, the Court relies heavily on the fact that abortion was criminalized for most of the existence of the United States prior to the Roe ruling. In this pre-Roe era, generally speaking, 75-100% of all US states had laws on the books prohibiting abortion at some or any point of pregnancy. It is this historical context which the Court’s 6-seat majority used to justify stripping the right to autonomy away from millions of people.
In doing so, due to trigger laws, which are laws that banned abortion that are still on the state legal code / books but unenforceable during the Roe v. Wade era, but are now enforceable and automatically in effect, millions of people, primarily women, in nearly half of all states are now subject to criminal penalties for exercising their human right to bodily autonomy. This ruling affects more than just women, trans men, and non-binary persons with the ability to conceive, it affects every American.
“The laws include bans on abortion that were already in place in a number of states before the Supreme Court with its 1973 decision in Roe ruled that there was a constitutional right to abortion.
Other states have so-called trigger laws that would ban abortion in the event that Roe was overturned by the high court.
And a dozen states would ban abortion after six weeks, which abortion-rights advocates argue is effectively a ban on the procedure, as most people are unaware they are pregnant by that time”Dan Mangan for CNBC
The right to privacy has now been severely eroded. The underlying logic of implied rights not expressly enumerated in the text of the Constitution has, effectively, been nullified as far as our current legal structure is concerned. Of course, there are also the economic and social costs of people being unable to get abortions when they need them. The medical, foster and adoption, child and family welfare, career and employment, and likely several other socioeconomic superstructures are about to get a massive influx of burden and cost.
During a time of unprecedented price gouging masquerading as inflation, which creates artificial burdens on social systems and inflated socioeconomic tensions, the lost right to autonomy and privacy combined with the necessary increase in demand for medical and social support to ensure the conditions of forced birthing puts the United States social fabric and legitimacy – what’s left of it, anyway – over a (figuratively speaking) thermonuclear powder keg. Things are only going to get worse unless and until a mass movement of people, in solidarity with one another, rises to the occasion and demands better in an effective and principled manner.
From a public health perspective, laws that restrict abortion are highly problematic, unethical, and burdensome. Scientific inquiry has proven that restricting abortion legally leads to higher maternal morbidity, or death arising from pregnancy and its complications. It also leads to a large increase in the total number of abortions.
“-The World Health Organization deems unsafe abortion one of the easiest preventable causes of maternal mortality.‘Unsafe Abortion: Unnecessary Maternal Mortality’ via The National Institute of Health
-Data suggest that even as the overall abortion rate has declined, the proportion of unsafe abortion is on the rise.
-Methods of unsafe abortion include drinking toxic fluids; inflicting direct injury to the vagina, cervix, or rectum; or inflicting external injury to the abdomen.
-Complications also arise from unskilled providers causing uterine perforation and infections.
-Worldwide, 5 million women are hospitalized each year for treatment of abortion-related complications, and abortion-related deaths leave 220,000 children motherless.
-Data indicate an association between unsafe abortion and restrictive abortion laws.
-Preventing unintended pregnancy, providing better access to health care, and liberalizing abortion laws to allow services to be openly provided can reduce the rate of abortion-related morbidity and mortality.”
In countries with laws that legally restrict abortion, the number of unsafe (and potentially lethal) abortions can be as high as 23 out of 1000 women. In contrast, the countries that freely permit abortion with no legal restriction have an unsafe abortion rate of 2 per 1000 women. Further, at least 89 out of 100,000 childbirths abortions performed in countries that place some restrictions on abortion result in the death of the person undergoing the abortion, as evidenced by a study done on Romani. Countries with less or no legal restriction on abortion see a rate of abortion-related deaths of 1 in 100,000 childbirths.
A study in the National Institutes of Health conclusively found that less restrictive abortion laws do not cause an increase in the number of abortions. The data actually shows the trend is the other way – the more legal restrictions on abortion there are, the higher the rates of abortion for that region or country.
“Less restrictive abortion laws do not appear to entail more abortions overall. The world’s lowest abortion rates are in Europe, where abortion is legal and widely available but contraceptive use is high; in Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands, the rate is below 10 per 1000 women aged 15 to 44 years. In contrast, in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean, where abortion laws are the most restrictive and contraceptive use is lower, the rates range from the mid-20s to 39 per 1000 women.”NIH
Ultimately, real solutions to this crisis will not come from “voting harder”. There were several points at which Democrats could have passed a law guaranteeing, federally, the right to a safe abortion. At these points in history, such as the Democratic Party’s supermajority under the first Obama administration, it would have been relatively easy for those in power to prevent this. Even now, the Democrats have enough votes to overturn the filibuster and pass a law federally protecting the right to an abortion. Only a simple majority is necessary to do that, and the Vice President of the United States, currently Kamala Harris, can be a tie-breaker in the event of a 50/50 tie.
President Biden and the Democrats’ current majority in both houses were elected in an election with record voter turnout. The people of the United States did, in fact, vote harder, and nothing has changed. Nothing, that is, except a rapid acceleration of socioeconomic decay which means the ramping up of fascism, as well as extreme retaliation against the working class by the capitalist ruling class.
You can read the court’s opinion as published with the ruling here:19-1392_6j37
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