The ruling of the Supreme Court of Friday is already called “historic”. It significantly changes the abortion access rules that have been in place in the US for more than half a century.
The ruling overturns the 1973 ruling in the Roe v. Wade case. The judges then decided that the decision to give birth to a child or perform an abortion is a private matter, the protection of which is guaranteed by the constitution. As a result, abortion was considered legal, at the state level it was only possible to introduce regulations limiting the availability of the procedure in the second and third trimesters.
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However, these rules are a thing of the past. On June 24, the Supreme Court ruled that access to abortion is not a constitutional right. Justice Samuel Alito, who justified the decision, explained that the constitution’s provisions do not refer directly to abortion at any time, so the decision on legality or prohibition must be made by individual states.
“The Supreme Court made a big mistake. It did something it had never done before: it took the previously recognized right of Americans,” US President Joe Biden said shortly after the announcement of the ruling.
The consequences of the verdict did not last long. According to the staff of the Guttmacher Institute – the American pro-choice organization that has been active since 1969, 26 states want to ban abortion. Thirteen states have previously passed laws restricting free access to abortion, on the understanding that they would come into effect when the Roe vs Wade precedent is lifted (the so-called trigger laws). These are: Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming.
Their residents can go to an abortion clinic in another state where abortion is allowed to terminate their pregnancy. However, given the vastness of the country that is the United States, this comes at a cost that many patients cannot afford.
Experts are already saying that the recent punishment will mainly affect poorer women, representatives of ethnic minorities, rather than reduce the number of procedures performed, but expand abortion underground.
“Research and statistics show the disproportionate and uneven impact of abortion restrictions on people who are marginalized and discriminated against in any way — ethnic minorities, low-income people, youth, LGBTQ communities, immigrants, people with disabilities,” writes Dr. Hermania Palacio of the Guttmacher Institute.
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Not only politicians and activists, but also representatives of the business community reacted to the ruling of the Supreme Court. Dozens of companies operating in the United States offered their employees psychological and financial support when deciding to terminate pregnancy. The latter is to pay for travel expenses to a state where this type of procedure is legal.
The list of several dozen companies that have decided to take such a step includes various entities, from financial institutions (Bank of America), through technology giants (Meta, Microsoft), to the entertainment industry (Disney, Warner Bros Discovery and Netflix), clothing (H&M, Levi Strauss) and cosmetics (Johnson & Johnson).
In a text devoted to this subject, the New York Times quotes representatives of several companies who have decided to help their employees.
“It is a painful blow to reproductive rights that have been protected for more than half a century,” said Roger Lynch of Conde Nast.
“We believe that the best health care decisions are made by the individual in consultation with the physician,” explains a Johnson & Johnson representative.
For many companies, the reimbursement will simply be included in the care package offered to employees. Because previously employees paid travel expenses for the treatment of selected diseases, they can now also claim expenses related to a trip to an abortion clinic.
“In light of a recent Supreme Court decision, we have expanded our health care options to cover the costs of transporting insured employees and their relatives who are forced to travel to access abortion and reproductive care,” a representative of Warner Brothers to NYT journalists.
The relief efforts are being undertaken not only by businesses, but also by municipal authorities — Baltimore’s mayor has stated that the city will give $300,000 in grants to organizations involved in reproductive rights and family planning.
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