Roe vs Wade caseDate: 05 May 2022 Tags: Judiciary & Judgments
The US Supreme Court’s historic 1973 judgment on Roe Vs Wade will be overturned through internal majority.
The historic judgment had made abortion a constitutional right. Some judges were in favour while others showed dissent.
The case is also known as ‘Roe’ based on the listed name of plaintiff, Norma McCorvey. ‘Wade’ was the defendant Henry Wade, the Dallas County (Texas) district attorney at the time.
The judgment struck down the laws that made abortion illegal in several states. It allowed abortion up to the point of foetal viability.
Significance of time-frame
Foetal viability is the time after which a foetus can survive outside the womb. It is the point at which the rights of the woman can be separated from the rights of the unborn foetus.
During judgment, the foetal viability was around 28 weeks (7 months). Now advanced medical science has brought it down to 23 or 24 weeks (6 months or a little less).
Pregnancy can be identified only after 6 months, leaving women with very little time and opportunity to make a decision to abort.
Reasons for overturning
Judges and critics argue that ‘Roe’ judgment was faulty from the start. By overturning, the issue of abortion could be handed over to the people’s elected representatives.
The Mississippi legislature had banned abortions after 15 weeks, which was a direct challenge to the 1973 judgment.
Jackson Women’s Health Organisation, which provided abortion services up to 16 weeks of pregnancy, challenged the law. The Mississippi law was struck down.
Significance of Supreme Court decision
The abortion opinion is highly divided between conservatives and liberals. The liberal judge majority had prevented any chances of overturning the Roe judgment.
The appointment of three conservative judges during the tenure of Donald Trump has provided conservatives the best opportunity to overturn Roe.
The decision will have ripples across the world with a victory for conservative right wing opinion. Half of the US states are likely to ban abortions.
Implications for people
If the judgment is overturned, there will be no legal protection for abortions. States will bring back their stringent laws to curb abortion.
Abortion law in India
The ceiling for abortions was raised to 24 weeks by amending the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971.
The ceiling is applicable for special categories of pregnant women such as rape or incest survivors.