The news for abortion rights in 2021 is decidedly mixed. In the U.S., over 561 abortion restrictions—including 165 abortion bans—have been put forward by 47 legislatures in the first half of 2021. One of these is S.B. 8, the Texas law that bans abortions after 6 weeks of gestation, when most people would not even realize they are pregnant. S.B. 8 also encourages private citizens to denounce anyone helping a pregnant person obtain an abortion; it even offers bounties of $10,000 for each successful case—a mechanism reminiscent of 19th-century Fugitive Slave Acts. On September 1, the Supreme Court of the United States refused to block the entry into force of S.B. 8, despite its evident unconstitutionality. This fall, the Supreme Court will review the constitutionality of a Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks. These recent developments suggest the new, ultra-conservative majority on the Court could be ready to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Last year, in Poland, the Constitutional Court upheld the government’s ban on abortions in cases of fetal malformation, creating a de facto ban on abortion in the country. Polish women took to the streets en masse to protest this, but while they delayed the outcome, they were unable to reverse the decision.
Yet, in other countries, campaigns for abortion decriminalization and access have resulted in significant progress. Spain announced in July 2021 that it will take measures to stop anti-abortion harassment at clinics, lift the mandatory 3-day waiting period for those seeking an abortion, and allow 16- and 17-year-olds to access services without their parents’ permission. In September 2021, the Supreme Court of Mexico declared that the criminalization of abortion violates the country’s constitution. This stunning, unanimous decision will turbocharge the progress already underway at the state level in Mexico. The Mexican states of Veracruz and Hidalgo had decriminalized abortion in the summer of 2021, following Oaxaca in 2019 and the federal district of Mexico City in 2007. Argentina decriminalized abortion in December 2020 while also guaranteeing that services are free of charge. Feminist movements in each of these countries have been campaigning vocally for abortion rights, access and justice for years, if not decades, showing what sustained, strategic feminist action can achieve.
Wanna know what’s at stake in the upcoming Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case? It will be heard by the Supreme Court of the United States in the fall of 2021, and could overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, the Court’s key decisions on abortion rights. The Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents Jackson Women’s Health (the last remaining abortion clinic in Mississippi, known as the “pink house”) is a fabulous source of information on this and many other reproductive rights cases.
Feminists in Mexico are decriminalizing abortion state-by-state: first the federal district of Mexico City, then Oaxaca, Hidalgo and Veracruz. Read more.
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The Supreme Court’s decision to hear a Mississippi abortion case is uniquely dangerous to our fundamental rights.