Roe v. Wade hanging in the balance
Over the past two months, the Supreme Court has heard oral arguments on two important abortion cases. The first is SB8, the Texas bounty hunter law, which offers private citizens $10,000 to bring suits against anyone who provides or assists in an abortion. The second, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, deals with a Mississippi law banning abortion at 15 weeks, before the viability limit set by Roe v. Wade. Women in the United States are anxiously awaiting a decision—but so are women around the world.
MSI team members in countries like Nigeria, Ghana and Zambia tell us that the anti-choice movement in their countries has already been emboldened by threats to a woman’s right to choose in the U.S. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, the effects will be felt around the world.
Here’s what you need to know about these two cases:
SB8: The Texas bounty hunter law
Earlier this year, Texas law banned abortion after six weeks, before many women even know they’re pregnant. The law allows individuals to sue anyone who assists in an abortion – whether they’re a doctor, a receptionist, or even an Uber driver taking someone to an appointment.
The law has already forced Texas women to travel out of state for abortion care. The Supreme Court initially allowed the law to go into effect, but sounded skeptical of the law’s unusual enforcement mechanism during oral arguments in November. If the Court decides to overturn this law, abortion care may resume in Texas—but there’s a bigger threat on the horizon.
Dobbs: Threatening Roe v. Wade directly
On December 1, 2021, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The case involves a Mississippi law that would ban abortions after 15 weeks – much earlier than the current standard, set by Roe v. Wade, which allows abortions up to the point of viability, generally around 23-24 weeks gestation. Mississippi is asking the Supreme Court to overturn Roe altogether, allowing restrictions on abortion at any point.
At oral arguments, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority seemed open to overturning Roe and allowing states to set pre-viability restrictions on abortion. A decision is expected sometime in 2022. The consequences could be immediate and dire. Twenty-one states have laws on the books which would immediately ban or severely restrict abortion if Roe is overturned, and other states could quickly follow, leaving women throughout the United States without access to safe care.
But the impacts would go beyond the United States. Esi Asare, Youth and Advocacy Officer for MSI Ghana, told us that the opposition has already worked anti-choice laws like SB8 into their talking points. If “so-called developed countries” like the United States are reconsidering their abortion law, then Ghana should too. Other countries look to the United States for leadership. If the US turns back the clock on abortion rights, it will send a clear message to the anti-choice movement, emboldening them to harass providers and push for harsher restrictions on abortion.
At MSI, we believe that everyone has the right to control their own body and future – and that includes the right to end an unwanted pregnancy. Working in countries with serious restrictions on abortion, we’ve seen how these laws hurt women, driving them to risky, unsafe abortion and endangering their lives. We’ll continue fighting for a world where everyone, no matter where they live, can access safe abortion. You can help us keep this crucial work going, click here to donate!