Protests erupt in US after suppression of abortion rights

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Protests erupted in the major cities of the United States last June 20 after the Supreme Court overturned the law that ensured women their right to opt for abortion. In addition to the large crowd outside the Supreme Court in Washington DC, protests were held in major cities across the country. Overseas, rallies were held in Australia, Germany and the United Kingdom.

According to the protesters, the Supreme Court denied the women’s sector, especially US minority women, their right to abortion, considered a crucial health service. They raised calls like “Our Bodies, Our Choice” and “We won’t go back,” referring to the 50 years that women had struggled for the right.

In a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court overturned the historic Roe v Wade judgement which covers the right to abortion, claiming that the Constitution does not directly refer to it and therefore, is not a guaranteed right. As a result of the ruling, abortion will be illegal in about half of US states.

What is Roe v Wade?

Roe v Wade is a 1973 US Supreme Court decision which stated that the 14th Amendment of the American Constitution or the fundamental right to privacy covers the woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy. The decision stems from the case of Norma McCorvey, legally known as Jane Roe, against Texas state attorney Henry Wade.

In the past 50 years, millions of women have upheld this decision. This right stems from considering an embryo a part of a woman’s body, and that she, and she alone, has the right to decide on it. The state cannot force her to continue a pregnancy.

Since the decision was issued, and despite the continuous attacks against it, the Roe V Wade was never codified, and thus remained a target for reversal.

Health care

Abortion is a simple and common medical procedure that the World Health Organization considers an essential medical service. It is safe when carried out in a method appropriate to a pregnancy’s term and by someone with the necessary skills.

There are many reasons why a woman opts for abortion. These include failure and/or lack of access to contraception, rape, incest, partner violence, embryo anomalies or malformation, sickness during pregnancy and others. It is also performed when a woman’s life is at risk due to pregnancy and childbirth complications.

Every year, 13% of maternal deaths are due to unsafe abortions, according to the WHO. Women in underdeveloped countries are the most affected, with 220 out of every 100,000 undergo unsafe operations.

In the Philippines, abortion is not only strictly prohibited in all cases (including rape cases, incest, pregnancy of children or emergency situations where the mother’s life is at risk). A woman or girl who opted for it, those who performed the operation or provided abortives and those who helped with the process also face possible criminal charges.

According to a 2013 research by the Guttmacher Institute, up to 1,000 women in the Philippines die annually due to unsafe abortions. Due to limited, if any, access to contraception, almost half of the pregnancies in the Philippines is “unintentional.” Mothers give birth to children beyond the number that they want. Those from poor families are the most affected, with women giving birth to an average of five children, as opposed to the general average of three children.

According to the research, between 22 and 31 unsafe abortions per 1,000 women were performed in 2000. Therefore, there could have been 610,000 abortions in the Philippines in 2012.

The main reason for these abortions is the inability or absence of funds to raise a child or an additional child. One third said their partner did not support the pregnancy or they were too young to become a mother. Around 13% said they opted for abortion as their pregnancy is due to forced intercourse. Two-thirds (2/3) of women who opted for abortions come from poor families.

Protests erupt in US after suppression of abortion rights