The United States Supreme Court issued a ruling today that overturned Roe v. Wade, a landmark ruling from 1973 that stated that women had the right to an abortion under the United States constitution. It effectively made it illegal for federal and state governments to have laws restricting abortion.
Since the Supreme Court gave the Roe verdict, conservatives, essentially the Republican Party in the United States, began a process to reverse it. Almost 50 years later, they have succeeded in changing the law.
The Republican Party first packed the Supreme Court of the United States with judges who had spoken out and in the past took a stand against abortion. President Donald J Trump appointed three of the judges who voted in favour of overturning the election. These appointments also resulted from successful political manoeuvring by Mitch McConnell, an 80-year Republican political savant.
McConnell refused to allow a vote on President Barack Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court saying it was the last year of Obama's presidency, and this seat subsequently went to Trump. McConnell then rushed through a nomination in the last year of Trump's presidency without displaying any shame at the apparent hypocrisy of his actions.
It is important to note that all the judges stated that Roe was settled and that they would not revisit the verdict, during their confirmation hearings.
The Republican Party had primarily nominated Catholic judges because of the church's long-held stand against abortion. Most estimates put the number of Catholics in the United States at 21 to 25% of the population. Yet, out of the nine judges on the United States Supreme Court, six or 66% are catholic.
A seventh judge, Neil Gorsuch, identifies himself with both catholic and protestant churches. This overrepresentation is not without purpose and was done meticulously to secure a majority in the United States Supreme Court against abortion. The judges on the court, which is supposed to be a neutral body, vote primarily along party lines.
The undue influence of Catholic values on the United States legal system seems like a clear violation of the separation of church and state. Banning abortion has become their way of punishing the women they feel have transgressed. It is not about the rights of babies, it is more about denying women's rights.
The Republican Party created several legal challenges to Roe by creating laws restricting women's access to reproductive health. One such law in Mississippi led to Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, which went to the Supreme Court and overturned Roe v Wade.
Mississippi is ranked the worst state in the United States when it comes to healthcare. In most social indicators, Mississippi finds itself at the bottom of the barrel. A state with one of the worst quality of life rankings in the United States should not be in favour of forced birth.
Yet, for those seeking to restrict women's access to reproductive healthcare, it is not logical reasoning that drives them, but their own individual political and religious views, which they seek to impose on others.
In states where the Republican party dominated, they created trigger laws that would ban abortion as soon as Roe was overturned. The Republicans and conservative Christians allocated significant resources and time to overturning the law and making abortion difficult to access in the United States.
More states are expected to pass laws restricting abortion. The Democratic Party has been outmanoeuvred on abortion and most issues by the Republican Party for years now. In states that the Democrats control, they are trying to strengthen laws protecting abortion.
While the rich will always find a way to circumnavigate a ban, the financially disadvantaged citizens will not.
Abortion is a part of healthcare, which is something that is proving challenging to grasp for some people.
Savita Halappanavar was a dentist in Ireland who was pregnant with a fetus that had no chance of survival, and miscarriage was inevitable. She died on 28 October 2012 from sepsis after her request for an abortion was turned down due to Ireland's law banning abortion.
A bright young woman died when she did not need to. Savita's death led to protests and a referendum, where 66% of voters in Ireland chose to make it possible for the parliament to allow laws providing access to abortion. Already reports are coming in of women in the United States who find themselves in similar situations as Savita, unable to access necessary medical services.
Even if the mother's life is not at risk, women should have access to reproductive healthcare. Women are human beings deserving of bodily autonomy, they have the right to choose what to do with their body and the government cannot and should not force them to give birth. Is it not better for women who do not want to be mothers to have a choice?
It was Supreme Court verdicts that allowed interracial marriage, provided access to contraceptives, decriminalised homosexuality and legalised same-sex marriages. If access to abortion can be overturned, then the other three can be too.
Justice Clarence Thomas of the United States Supreme Court has indicated in his portion of the verdict that verdicts allowing access to contraception and same-sex marriage can be re-examined. Interestingly, Judge Thomas, who is in an interracial marriage, did not mention the Supreme Court verdict that was based on similar legal arguments and made interacial marriage legal across the United States.
All of us have someone in our lives who had an abortion for whatever reason. Some estimates suggest that one in four has had an abortion in the United States. These women are our family members and friends, people we love and respect, who may not have told you about their experience because they fear how it will change your opinion of them. Abortion is healthcare, and women's rights are human rights.
Mahir Abrar is a senior lecturer at American International University-Bangladesh.