UK scientists warn US Supreme Court abortion decision will leave ‘women’s blood on hands’

Elizabeth Warren says 'we will fight back' against abortion ruling

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At present, women across the US have the liberty to choose to have an abortion courtesy of the 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade. The case was brought by one Norma McCovery — known by her legal pseudonym “Jane Roe” — against her local district attorney Henry Wade. It saw the court rule the US Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment provided a “right to privacy” that protected the right to abortion, balanced against the government’s interests in protecting health and prenatal life. However, the court is now looking to overturn this decision under the rational that, as the Constitution makes no reference to abortion, “no such right is implicitly protected” and that the decision should be passed back down to the state level.

In their editorial, The Lancet said: “What is so shocking, inhuman, and irrational about this draft opinion is that the Court is basing its decision on an 18th-century document ignorant of 21st-century realities for women.

“Although Alito gives an exhaustive legal history of abortion, he utterly fails to consider the health of women today who seek abortion.

“Unintended pregnancy and abortion are universal phenomena. Worldwide, around 120 million unintended pregnancies occur annually. Of these, three-fifths end in abortion.

“And of these, some 55 percent are estimated to be safe — that is, completed using a medically recommended method and performed by a trained provider.

“This leaves 33 million women undergoing unsafe abortions, their lives put at risk because laws restrict access to safe abortion services.”

“The fact is that if the US Supreme Court confirms its draft decision, women will die.

“The justices who vote to strike down Roe will not succeed in ending abortion, they will only succeed in ending safe abortion.”

They concluded: “Alito and his supporters will have women’s blood on their hands.”

Justice Samuel Alito was the author of the draft majority opinion of the court that was leaked to the US news outlet Politico earlier this month.

Nominated to the US Supreme Court in 2005 by then-President George W. Bush, Justice Alito has long been considered one of the most conservative justices on the court.

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The Lancet warned that Black women would suffer disproportionately from the decision as it appears to stand.

In part, the editorial explained, this is because they have an unwanted pregnancy rate double that of non-Hispanic White women.

In addition, the maternal mortality rate for Black women is almost three times higher than that for white women, with unsafe abortion an important contributor to this discrepancy.

The Lancet wrote: “These sharp racial and class disparities need urgent solutions, not more legal barriers.”

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The medical journal added: “If the court denies women the right to safe abortion, it will be a judicial endorsement of state control over women.”

This, The Lancet said, would be “a breath-taking setback for the health and rights of women — one that will have global reverberations.”

Following the leak of the draft opinion, spontaneous protests against the proposed decision have erupted around the United States.

This weekend alone there have been more than 380 individual protest events involving thousands of people, with major rallies in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City and Washington DC.

According to the Lancet, bans on abortions are supported only by a minority of Americans.

The US Supreme Court has been dominated by its contingent of conservative justices after it was remodelled during the presidential tenure of Donald Trump.

The court has confirmed that the leaked opinion is indeed genuine, but has cautioned that it will not necessarily reflect the court’s final decision.

If the draft is confirmed, however, the decision would allow individual US states to set their own laws regarding abortion practices.

According to the pro-choice research organisation the Guttmacher Institute, as many as 26 of the 50 states are either “certain or likely” to ban abortion if permitted to do so.

The full editorial — “Why Roe v. Wade must be defended” — is published in The Lancet.

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