In a move that effectively relegated American women to second-class citizenship, the United States Supreme Court overturned its 1973 ruling in Roe vs Wade, which provided for the right to have abortions. The 6–3 conservative majority delved into the historical context of the Constitution to justify the decision to overturn 50 years of law that the dissenting liberal justices said essentially boiled down to the majority simply being able to do so. This, despite a majority of Americans being in favour of the right to abortion.
Conservatives have worked towards this moment from the day Roe was decided; the three judges added to the Bench during Donald Trump’s presidency were pivotal in ensuring the verdict. The court does not outright ban abortion, saying instead that it is handing over the rights to decide on the matter to the states and elected representatives. Several states, Republican-led, have been waiting for this moment, with abortion banned or likely to be banned or severely restricted in close to 25. Some state bans do not even provide for exceptions in the cases of rape or incest.
While the court’s ruling is a victory for Conservatives, especially those on the religious right, its credibility has undoubtedly eroded. The decision cannot be seen as anything but political and ideological rather than rooted in law. With the argument against Roe relying heavily on 19th century mores, other rights woven in the same tapestry, related to contraception and same-sex relationships, may also be at risk. While pro-abortion groups now rally to ensure services are accessible to persons in need, all eyes are on the Biden administration and the Democratic party for a roadmap for restoring the right to abortion.
The decision is a body blow to American women, trans persons and non-binary individuals—anyone with the ability to conceive. It will cost them physically, economically, socially and emotionally, concerns with which the majority barely engaged. Globally there is a fear that others on the religious right may take inspiration from the US example and seek to impose their values on others through lobbying, advocacy and litigation. Women have battled patriarchy for centuries, chipping away at it patiently. They are nothing if not resilient and will not turn away from another fight, especially one they’ve won before.