In truly appalling news for American women, the first days of May 2022 saw the leak of a secret draft of a US Supreme Court ruling to overturn and reverse the constitutional right to abortion for women in the USA.

Political journalism company Politico published a piece on May 3rd which suggested that five of the nine Supreme Court judges have privately voted to overturn the decision made almost fifty years ago in the landmark Roe v. Wade case that made abortion legal across the USA.

The ramifications of this repeal are astronomical.

Roe vs Wade Explained

Prior to Roe vs Wade, abortion was legal in only four US states and allowed with limitations in sixteen others, making it illegal in thirty states.

Roe vs Wade refers to a landmark 1973 lawsuit that ultimately led to the US Supreme Court establishing a woman’s constitutional right to a first-trimester abortion. It has been the precedent and benchmark for the conflict between the Pro-Choice and Pro-Life movements in the USA for almost 50 years.

In 1973, a 22-year-old pregnant single woman who was known legally as “Jane Roe” brought a class action challenging the criminalisation of abortion in Texas and whether such laws were constitutional. At the time, she was the unemployed, unmarried mother of two children, and pregnant for the third time. She unsuccessfully sought an abortion in Texas, and ultimately gave birth to a child whom she placed for adoption.

Henry Wade was the Dallas County District Attorney whose role it was to enforce the state law which prohibited abortion, except where it was required to save a woman’s life.

The basis of Roe’s lawsuit was the argument that the Texas law was unconstitutional, vague, and in violation of her right to personal privacy. The US Supreme Court had to determine whether or not the Constitution recognised a woman’s right to end a pregnancy by abortion. Despite being a conservative-leaning court, a 7-2 majority found that it did, balancing the government’s interests and protecting both women’s health and the potential for human life.

The ultimate result was that the Court determined that a woman’s decision to have a first-trimester abortion was between her and her doctor. This nullified the previous bans in thirty states. Furthermore, certain regulations were imposable for second-trimester abortions and foetal life was to be protected for third-trimester pregnancies.

Roe v. Wade has underpinned abortion law in the USA since 1973.

The Latest Ruling on Roe vs Wade

Former US President Donald Trump intentionally hand-picked three new ultra-conservative pro-life Supreme Court judges, with a clearly-stated agenda to ultimately overturn Roe v. Wade.
In June 2022, the US Supreme Court is set to rule on Mississippi’s attempt to widely ban abortions in the second trimester. This is in response to Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organisation which challenges the Mississippi ban on abortion after 15 weeks. (The current law excepts second-trimester abortions for medical, life-threatening emergencies and severe foetal defects, but has no provision for pregnancies that result from incest or rape.) The lawsuit argues that this law violates Roe v. Wade, while the respondents maintain that Roe should be reversed.

If the ban is upheld, it will undermine Roe vs Wade and other precedent-setting cases which allow all states to regulate abortions between 15-24 weeks.

The Politico Leak

In an unprecedented leak, Politico has published a secret, signed draft of the pending majority decision that overturns Roe vs Wade. The draft maintains that the US Constitution does not grant any right to abortion and that “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start”.

Why is This Case so Important?

If, as it appears is set to happen, Roe vs Wade is overturned, it would enable individual states to once again set their own benchmarks for abortion law, potentially heavily regulating or even banning it outright. This imperils the rights of millions of American women and literally sets women’s health and women’s rights back decades.
Despite this, national polling across the USA consistently demonstrates that a majority of Americans believe abortion should be legal.

What are the Implications if Roe vs Wade is Overturned?

The implications if Roe vs Wade is repealed can not be understated.

In February 2022, the US Senate voted against a bill (46-48) that would have granted federal abortion rights, instead leaving it to individual states.

For the US, immediate consequences for women will be felt.

For example:

  • 22 states will immediately ban or severely restrict abortion, and four more (Montana, Nebraska, Indiana and Florida) are likely to follow suit.
  • States including Mississippi and North Dakota have “trigger laws” which will take effect and demonstrate that the state government is committed to banning abortion.
  • Arkansas will have an immediate, almost total ban on abortions.
  • South Carolina, Louisiana, and Kentucky will ban abortions from six weeks gestation – a point at which few women yet know they are pregnant.

The majority of states which will restrict or ban abortions, in the Midwest and the South, are also home to some of the nation’s poorest, most vulnerable, and disadvantaged women. Poorer women (who in these vulnerable states are often also women of colour) will be less able to afford to travel and access abortions interstate.

Thirteen states plus Washington DC have local laws that will continue to protect abortion access. Abortions will be available to only those women who live in these states or who can afford to cross state lines for the procedure.

Where abortion is banned, there would be no provision in cases of rape, incest, foetal deformity, or for pregnancy under duress. Women would be forced to give birth to children they can’t afford to raise, or who are brought into a vulnerable family dynamic. Women will be forced to, alternatively, seek unsafe illegal abortions with potentially severe physical and emotional repercussions.

A woman’s autonomy over her own body and life would be removed. There are suggestions that, in some states, the banning and criminalisation of abortion could lead to prison sentences for women who undergo an illegal abortion (and the doctors who provide them). It is also a potential slippery slope of governments dictating further and stepping into issues relating to emergency contraception, ectopic pregnancy, and miscarriage. It is a truly terrifying concept.

As Hillary Clinton stated on May 3, 2022, “this decision is a direct assault on the dignity, rights, and lives of women … it will kill and subjugate women…”.

If Roe vs Wade is overturned there will be no direct impact in Australia.

Abortion is now legal throughout Australia with differing restrictions between states. However, even here the abortion debate has been driven by politicians with their own agendas, and our judges have little power to overrule our legislation to create new or enhanced freedoms for Australian women to choose.

Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) has recently released a statement in response to Roe vs Wade in support of abortion services in Australia.

Legal Abortions in NSW & ACT

Gynaecology Centres Australia offers Australian women of all ages access to safe, legal first-trimester abortions in NSW and the ACT.

With five clinic locations (Sydney, Newcastle, Gosford, Wollongong, and Canberra), we deliver women the gold-standard, world-class medical care they deserve, with access to surgical abortions and medical abortions where appropriate.

We have a professional, compassionate team of highly experienced doctors, nurses, and other support staff.

For first-trimester abortions in NSW and the ACT, as well as a comprehensive array of other women’s health services, or to simply access concise, unbiased information and support, contact us today. We also carry out vasectomies for men.

Our services are 100% confidential and you do not require a GP referral to visit our clinics.

Please call 02 9585 9599 or complete our online booking form.