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What is Roe vs. Wade, and how can it impact countless people if it gets overturned?
The Supreme Court’s leaked draft indicating that it may overturn Roe v. Wade means that millions of women in more than half of the United States may lose access to abortion or have their access severely restricted.
It would be a significant change in US abortion law, but human rights advocates fear that it will erode reproductive rights worldwide.
According to Amnesty International’s secretary-general, Agnès Callamard, if the decision is overturned it can “damage the global perception of the United States.”
Callamard added that the decision can “set a terrible example that other governments and anti-rights groups could seize upon around the world in a bid to deny the rights of women, girls and other people who can become pregnant.”
Roe v. Wade is the name of the two-year long lawsuit that led to the famous 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision establishing a constitutional right to abortion in the United States. The majority ruling found an absolute right to an abortion during the first trimester of pregnancy.
However, with the United States about to overturn the almost half-century-old constitutional protection for abortions, pro-choice activists fear that authoritarian governments across the world would cite the decision to justify future restrictions on their citizens.
According to Licha Nyiendo, chief legal officer of the group Human Rights First, believes that the Supreme Court’s draft opinion is a “step in a very dangerous direction for everyone in the United States and a frightening signal to authoritarians around the world that they can strip long-established rights from their countries’ people.”
If the United States overturns Roe vs. Wade advocates believe that it can lead to other countries to follow suit.
Tarah Demant, Amnesty International’s interim national director for programs, advocacy, and government affairs stated that striking down Roe vs. Wade would also erode the steady progress made in the global push for greater abortion rights.
The Center for Reproductive Rights, a pro-choice human rights organization, maintains a database called “What if Roe Fell?” that forecasts that if Roe v. Wade is overturned, over 20 states will outlaw abortion completely. (An abortion prohibition in the first trimester is currently deemed unlawful, yet some states have implemented such bans regardless.)
According to the New York Post, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming are the states that can be affected if Roe vs. Wade is overturned.
The Court’s legitimacy, which is supposed to uphold precedent, would be called into doubt if Roe v. Wade were overturned. Such precedent protects governmental stability by preventing significant decisions from shifting every few decades.
However, in this era of increasingly polarized politics, precedent is unlikely to overcome the odds.