In the United States, the right to abortion more than ever threatened

UNITED STATES – Access to abortion continues to be hampered in the United States. On Thursday April 14, Florida enacted a law prohibiting abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. It is due to come into effect this summer. This is the latest episode in a Conservative offensive against this right granted in 1973 in the historic Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade.

Before Florida, Kentucky had already adopted on Wednesday one of the most restrictive laws in the country effective immediately, closing the last two clinics in the state where abortion was still practiced and prohibiting abortion after 15 weeks. The day before, the governor of Oklahoma had signed a text prohibiting abortion except in cases of danger to the life of the mother. Otherwise, anyone practicing an abortion is liable to 10 years in prison and a fine of 100,000 euros. The law is due to come into force at the end of August. Another example, at the end of March, Idaho authorized civil lawsuits against health professionals performing abortions.

Being exhaustive is impossible: between January 1 and March 31, 2022, 529 texts intending to restrict access to abortion in 41 states were introduced, according to the pro-choice Guttmacher institute. Medical abortion, which represents more than half of pregnancy terminations, is also in the sights of the conservatives. Since the beginning of the year, 104 texts have been introduced in 22 states to limit abortion in this way.

Roe v. Wade challenged

Only a handful of the texts passed have so far entered into force and many have been blocked in court, but the trend is real. In 2021, 108 anti-abortion texts have become laws. This is the highest figure in a year since Roe v. Wade, notice the institute. Why such an offensive? Conservative states are “swamping local legislatures with restrictive bills in the hope that federal abortion protection will soon be removed,” analyzes the Guttmacher Institute.

Currently, abortion is protected by the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade as well as Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992. The latter authorizes abortion until about 23 weeks, when the fetus is not viable. Under these two precedents, more restrictive laws are therefore unconstitutional.

But during his presidency from 2016 to 2020, Republican Donald Trump had the opportunity to appoint three judges to America’s highest court, including Amy Coney Barrett, who replaced the iconic Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Donald Trump has endeavored to choose very conservative figures, in particular on the right to abortion, in order to challenge it. Today at the Court there are nine judges, six of whom are conservatives. The arrival of the progressive Ketanji Brown Jackson will in no way change the balance in force since she replaces a pro-abortion judge.

The future of abortion rights in the hands of the Supreme Court

The Court quickly showed its intentions in the area of ​​abortion. Last summer, she refused to block the country’s strictest anti-abortion law passed in Texas. As a result, since September 1, abortion is prohibited in cases of rape or incest as soon as the heartbeat of the fetus is perceptible, approximately after six weeks of pregnancy. A period when many women are unaware that they are pregnant.

This Texas law also makes it possible to prosecute anyone, from Uber drivers to medical personnel, who may have helped perform an abortion. But the text is written in such a way that it is not up to the authorities to enforce the measure, but that it is the citizens who are encouraged to file a complaint. This system makes it more difficult for the federal courts to intervene, which have so far refused to take action against the law. Thus, many states are copying Texas to ban abortion without risking a legal blockage.

The other hope of anti-abortion lies in the strategy adopted by Mississippi, which has banned abortion after 15 weeks even in cases of rape or incest. Unconstitutional, the law was nevertheless promulgated so that justice seizes the file, that it arrives on the office of the judges of the Supreme Court and that the right to abortion is reviewed. This file, called Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, was argued in the Supreme Court in December 2021 and the decision is due in June or July.

“It is clear that the Court will come back to Roe, slice Anne Deysine, author of The United States and Democracy (The Harmattan). Abortion will still be legal but under specific conditions, not including rape or incest.” She recalls that ultimately, “abortion will only be possible up to 15 weeks, which is the time limit in Europe. The Supreme Court made a huge mistake in 1973. It was too early for such a decision, the population was not ready and the delay was far too long”.

California and Vermont strike back

In anticipation of a decision that would prove them right, 13 conservative states have prepared “trigger-laws”, laws already ready banning abortion completely or almost completely, which they can draw as soon as the Supreme Court gives the green light, details Guttmacher. This is the case of Missouri, Oklahoma or Tennessee.

However in 2022, “the population is ready to accept abortion, both progressives and right-wingers. Not that it’s unlimited, but if you’ve been raped, you should be able to have an abortion because it’s a terrible attack on a woman’s body,” adds Anne Deysine. This is why 16 states and the District of Columbia (federal capital) are fighting back to protect this constitutional right. For example, Vermont is trying to add an amendment to its constitution to protect the right to abortion. A referendum is to be held in the fall.

The governor of California, a state that already protects abortion in its constitution, has also promised to be a “sanctuary” for all women who wish to have an abortion and cannot do so in their state. “We are trying to find ways to prepare for this inevitable scenario. We are looking at how to expand our protections,” Gavin Newsom said in December, AP reports.

The Democratic administration is on their side. “Protecting the right recognized in Roe v. Wade continues to be a priority for the Biden-Harris administration,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said after the Oklahoma law was signed into law. “The Biden administration will continue to support women in Oklahoma and across the country in the fight to defend their freedom and their right to make their own choices for their future.” However, points out Anne Deysine, “the judiciary is independent and powerful. Joe Biden will not be able to do anything”.

See also also on the Huffpost: To defend abortion in the Assembly, this pregnant MP found the right words

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