While the overturning of Roe v Wade doesn’t make abortions illegal, it leaves the states with the power to decide about the legal status of abortion.
In a stunning decision, the US Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe vs Wade judgement by a 5-4 majority. With this, abortion is no longer a fundamentally guaranteed right for women in the world’s biggest economy.
Reproductive rights and access to abortion are issues that have sharply divided the nation across political ideologies. Restricting access to abortion has become one of the main poll planks that the Republican Party campaigns on. While the overturning of Roe vs Wade doesn’t make abortions illegal, it leaves the states with the power to decide the legal status of abortion.
Nearly half of the states are poised to either completely ban access to abortion or restrict it in a way where it is essentially banned. With this decision, effectively half the women in the country lose access to safe, affordable and legal methods of abortion even in cases of rape, incest and in some cases even, medical emergencies.
Here is the timeline of abortion access in the US:
Connecticut becomes the first state in the US to make abortions illegal. At this time, abortion was performed using medicinal plants and traditional medicine.
Strong campaigning by doctors and other stakeholders ensured that abortion was illegal across the entirety of the US by the 1900s.
Margaret Sanger founded the American Birth Control League, which would go on to become the Planned Parenthood organization to help spread awareness about contraceptives.
With advancements in medicinal procedures, more sophisticated methods of abortion are developed. These are safer for women but with abortion being illegal, they are usually performed in back alley operations which lead to many deaths.
Under President John F Kennedy, abortion rights see resurgence. With the help of the Equal Rights Movement and the Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW), legal access to abortion becomes a goal for activists.
Colorado decriminalised abortion for cases of rape, incest and where a pregnancy would leave the woman with any permanent physical disability, including death.
Hawaii becomes the first state to fully legalize abortions in 1970 with abortion rights laws being passed in states like New York, Alaska and Washington among others soon after.
The influential Roe vs Wade case is brought to the Supreme Court for the first time. ‘Jane Roe’ sued the state of Texas for the law that made abortions illegal except in cases where it threatened the life of the mother.
The Supreme Court passes its landmark verdict enshrining abortion as a fundamental right under the US Consitution’s right to privacy. By this time, nearly 15 or so states had permissible abortion laws.
In an about-face, the US Congress passed the Hyde Amendment, which prevents the use of federal funds for cases of abortion.
Several other important legal cases regarding abortion are taken up by courts in the US, while the Republican Party slowly positions itself as the party against abortions as they contravene fundamental Christian values.
In 1994, President Bill Clinton signs the Freedom of Access to Clinics Act which makes it illegal to obstruct or threaten those going to abortion clinics.
Just two years later, he vetoes the Partial-Birth Abortion Act which would have made it illegal for doctors to perform partial-birth abortions.
Republican President George W. Bush passes the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act.
The Supreme Court states that it is illegal for Texas to place restrictions that put an undue burden on women to get an abortion.
President Donald Trump inducts three conservative judges to the US Supreme Court, giving conservatives the numbers they need to overturn Roe vs Wade as Chief Justice Roberts deferred on overturning past verdicts.
Mississippi passes a state law that bans most abortion operations after the first 15 weeks of pregnancy before most women even have any inkling of their pregnancy. The state’s law leads to the Dobbs vs Jackson Women's Health Organization lawsuit reaching the apex court.
A leaked draft opinion by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito shows that the court would be most likely to strike down Roe v. Wade. Months later, the Supreme Court gives its judgement on the matter with Justice Clarence Thomas in his concurrence also adding that the court needed to “reconsider” previous judgements on political issues like the legality of same-sex sexual activity, same-sex marriages, and availability of contraception.