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by Mark DaCosta
The Supreme Court of the United States of America has, on June 24, made a ruling overturning Roe versus Wade. The 5-4 decision means that there is no longer a federal constitutional right to an abortion in the US. The ruling overturns 50 years of precedent. The ruling means that going forward, abortion rights will be determined by individual states. Analyst Jessica Schneider explained the effects. ”This will have immediate effects here. By all estimates, about half of the states are expected to eliminate the right to abortion. We’ve got about a half-dozen states that have so-called ‘trigger laws’ that their abortion bans will go into effect immediately or within the next 30 days or next few months.” The analyst said, “we have about a dozen states with so-called ‘zombie laws’ — those are actually abortion laws that were on the books before Roe v. Wade in 1973 that will go back into effect. On the flip side, there are about 16 states and Washington, DC that have sort of amped-up their abortion protections. They are expecting potentially to see an influx of patients coming into their states to actually get abortions for people who are living in states that will soon not be able to get abortions. So this is in fact a landmark ruling here. This is overturning nearly 50 years of precedent.”
President Joe Biden — who supports a woman’s right to choose — has limited options to stymie the republican-dominated Supreme Court’s decision. The options have been under examination by lawyers, policy aides and political advisers since a draft opinion leaked in May.
But aides have been clear that nothing the President can do would restore the nationwide right to abortion.
Among the options the President is considering:
- Using executive actions and FDA regulatory steps to expand access to medication abortion (pills), a widely used method that could provide access to women in states where abortions become illegal. The FDA has already approved a regulation making it easier to distribute pills by mail.
- Declaring a public health emergency through the Department of Health and Human Services. This could shield doctors from legal liability if they treat patients in states where they are not licensed (so, for example, a doctor in Texas could travel to New Mexico to work at a clinic there).
- Ordering the Justice Department to challenge state laws that would criminalise crossing state lines to obtain an abortion.
- Working through the FCC to warn users of period tracking apps about their privacy and the potential their data could be used to identify early-stage pregnancy.
Democrats and republicans are sharply divided on the issue. The two sides have been engaged in protests and other activities since last May when a draft opinion was leaked to the media. The draft indicated that the Court was likely to make this ruling. Analysts believe that the ruling is almost certain to spark significant unrest in the US.