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'Women's lives at risk': Biden blasts 'un-American' US Supreme Court anti-abortion ruling
24 June 2022, 15:15 | Updated: 24 June 2022, 23:22
- Individual US states will set their own abortion laws after historic Roe v Wade ruling overturned
- US constitution ‘does not confer a right to abortion,’ Supreme Court rules
- Court ruled in favour of the state by a vote of six to three
- Mississippi's restrictive 15-week abortion ban upheld by court
- Protests expected after judgement transforms abortion rights in the US
- It is a "sad day for the country" with millions of lives "now at risk", says US President Joe Biden
The lives of millions of women in America have been put at risk after the Supreme Court voted to overturn a landmark abortion ruling, Joe Biden said in an address to the nation.
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The US president said it was a "sad day for the court and a sad day for the country" after the ruling.
Roe v Wade was a landmark decision of the US Supreme Court in 1973 protecting a pregnant woman's liberty to choose to have an abortion.
The decision to overturn the ruling paves the way for states to ban the procedure completely, meaning millions of women are set to lose their legal right to terminate pregnancies.
Mr Biden said the move had taken America back 150 years, raising concerns that the "health and life of women across this nation are now at risk".
However, he vowed to fight any state that tried to stop women travelling to have an abortion.
"If a woman lives in a state that restricts abortion, the Supreme Court’s decision does not restrict her from travelling from her home state to the state that allows it," he said.
"It does not prevent a doctor in that state from treating her.
"Women must remain free to travel safely to another state to seek the care they need.
"My administration will defend that bedrock right.
"My administration will also defend a woman’s access to medications."
Today is a very solemn moment for the United States.— President Biden (@POTUS) June 24, 2022
The Supreme Court expressly took away a Constitutional right from the American people that it had already recognized. They simply took it away. That's never been done to a right that is so important to so many Americans.
The president also urged people to keep protests "peaceful".
"Violence, threats and intimidation are not acceptable," he said.
He instead called on voters to take a stand to restore the protections in the future.
"The only way we can secure a woman's right to choose is for congress to restore the protections of Roe V Wade as federal law," Mr Biden explained.
"No executive actions of the president can do that. Voters need to make their voices heard.
"Elect more state leaders to protect this right at state level. We need to elect officials who will do that. Personal freedoms are on the ballot.
"The right to privacy, liberty, equality are all on the ballot."
Today, the Supreme Court not only reversed nearly 50 years of precedent, it relegated the most intensely personal decision someone can make to the whims of politicians and ideologues—attacking the essential freedoms of millions of Americans.— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) June 24, 2022
Individual states will decide whether abortions are illegal or not following the historic decision.
It is expected at least half of US states will make it illegal.
The Supreme Court had been considering a case, Dobbs v Jackson Women's Health Organisation, that challenged Mississippi's ban on abortion after 15 weeks.
But the conservative-majority court ruled in favour of the state by a vote of six to three along ideological lines - effectively ending the constitutional right to an abortion.
It was followed by calls from one of the judges on the panel to "reconsider" past rulings on gay marriage and contraception too.
Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in his concurring opinion that justices "should reconsider all of this Court's substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell" – three cases relating to Americans' fundamental privacy, due process and equal protection rights.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the US Supreme Court's decision was a "big step backwards", adding: "I've always believed in a woman's right to choose."
Sir Keir Starmer also joined the widespread criticism of a decision, tweeting: "Today's devastating Supreme Court decision is a massive setback for women's rights in the United States of America.
"The right of women to make their own decisions about their own bodies is a fundamental human right."
Former US President Barack Obama condemned the decision to overturn the ruling, saying it "attacks the essential freedoms of millions of Americans".
"Today, the Supreme Court not only reversed nearly 50 years of precedent, it relegated the most intensely personal decision someone can make to the whims of politicians and ideologues—attacking the essential freedoms of millions of Americans," he wrote on Twitter.
The decision was the culmination of decades of efforts by abortion opponents, made possible by an emboldened right side of the court that has been fortified by three appointees of former President Donald Trump.
The ruling came more than a month after the stunning leak of a draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito indicating the court was prepared to take this momentous step.
What is the Roe V Wade abortion law?
Nearly 50 years ago, a case was brought to everyone's attention that the right to personal privacy under the US Constitution, should also protect a woman's right to terminate her pregnancy.
On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court agreed and decided the constitutional right to privacy also applied to abortion - overturning Texas laws and setting a precedent in all 50 states of America.
The case, Roe V Wade, was 'Jane Roe', a pseudonym for Norma McCorvey, who was a single mum, pregnant for the third time and wanting a termination.
She sued Dallas attorney general, Henry Wade, who made abortion a crime unless in cases of rape, incest or when a mother's life was in danger.
Roe argued that she was unable to travel for an abortion and that the laws were too vague and infringed on her constitutional right to privacy.
At the same time, a Texas doctor was also questioning the vagueness of the law as he was unable to reliably identify which patients would have the right for an abortion.
A third complaint came in the form of 'Does', a childless couple who wanted the right for an abortion should she ever fall pregnant as the medical risks made it unsafe for her to fall pregnant, but not life threatening.
All three complaints made it to the top court which led to the historic seven-to-two decision to allow women the right to an abortion.
There are fears the US Supreme Court's decision to overturn the historic Roe v Wade ruling will have profound and detrimental impacts on America's healthcare landscape, doctors and legal experts said.
“If this decision ends up being similar to what [was leaked], this is going to substantially affect abortion care, obstetrics care and healthcare more generally,” Dr Nisha Verma, a Darney-Landy fellow with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists told The Guardian.
The ruling is expected to disproportionately affect minority women who already face limited access to health care.
Thirteen states, mainly in the South and Midwest, already have laws on the books that ban abortion in the event Roe is overturned. Another half-dozen states have near-total bans or prohibitions after six weeks of pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant.
In roughly a half-dozen other states, the fight will be over dormant abortion bans that were enacted before Roe was decided in 1973 or new proposals to sharply limit when abortions can be performed, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.