The U.S. Supreme Court is preparing to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling recognizing a woman's right to end a pregnancy, according to Politico
May 3 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The U.S. Supreme Court looks set to vote to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide, according to a leaked initial draft majority opinion published by Politico on Monday.
Abortion rights campaigners have said the decision is likely to effectively gut the 1973 ruling, giving states a free hand to limit or ban the procedure.
If Roe v. Wade was overturned, more women from conservative states like Mississippi - whose proposed abortion ban is at the centre of the current Supreme Court case - would have to travel elsewhere for abortions, making it particularly difficult for poor, Black and Hispanic women to access the procedure.
What is Roe v. Wade?
In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court made a landmark ruling known as Roe v. Wade that said a woman's decision to have an abortion was covered under the right to privacy.
The case involved a woman under the pseudonym of Jane Roe and Henry Wade, a state prosecutor in Texas, where abortion was only allowed if a pregnant woman's life was in danger.
The justices voted 7-2 that restrictions on abortion could not be broad and that the constitution protected the right to abortion before the stage at which a fetus could survive outside the womb, between 24 and 28 weeks.
"The detriment that the State would impose upon the pregnant woman by denying this choice altogether is apparent," the ruling said.
What has happened since Roe v. Wade?
Abortion remains a divisive issue in the United States, as in many countries. Christian conservatives are among those most opposed to it.
For decades, conservative activists and politicians have tried to overturn and chip away at Roe v. Wade.
Lawmakers in states from Arkansas to Utah have been trying to pass bills that limit abortion rights, with efforts emboldened under former President Donald Trump.
Trump nominated three of the nine Supreme Court justices during his four-year term, tilting the balance firmly towards conservatives. Six of the justices in total were appointed by Republican presidents.
U.S. abortion rates have steadily declined since the early 1980s, reaching the lowest levels on record in recent years, according to the nonprofit Guttmacher Institute.
Most Americans think abortion should be legal in all or most cases, according to a 2019 survey by Pew Research Center said.
What will happen now?
Abortion rights activists argue that any rollback would have immediate knock on effects across the country.
"The consequences of a Roe reversal would be devastating. Over 20 states would prohibit abortion outright," said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights.
Some states have "trigger laws" that would instantly ban abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned.
What is happening elsewhere?
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected abortion access around the world, with lockdowns preventing some women from undergoing the procedure in some places, while elsewhere at-home abortions pills have become easier to obtain.
Legislative decisions and court rulings have continued to revise abortion laws.
In Mexico, the Supreme Court ruled last September that penalizing abortion is unconstitutional, meaning courts can no longer prosecute abortion cases.
That followed Argentina's landmark decision to legalize abortion last January.
Poland has been implementing a strict ban on terminating pregnancies.
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