In the year 1969, Norma McCorvey (Jane Roe) became pregnant with her third child. She wanted an abortion as she didn’t WANT this baby.
But she lived in Texas, where abortion was illegal, except when it’s NECESSARY to save the mother’s life (most of this is general knowledge, available on Wikipedia).
As a result of this, her attorneys, Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee, filed a lawsuit on her behalf, in a US Federal High Court, against her local attorney, Henry Wade.
Weddington and Coffee alleged that laws against abortion were unconstitutional, as they infringed on a woman’s right to determine what happens to and in her body, which was guaranteed in the American Constitution.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas ruled in her favour and declared that the relevant Texas abortion statutes were indeed unconstitutional.
Henry Wade and the State of Texas appealed this ruling to the Supreme Court of the United States.
On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court issued a 7–2 decision holding that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides a FUNDAMENTAL “right to privacy”, which protects a pregnant woman’s right to an abortion.
Going further, the court ruled that the right to abortion is not ABSOLUTE and must be balanced against the government’s interests in protecting women’s HEALTH and PRENATAL LIFE.
The Court went on to explain that during the first trimester of pregnancy, governments could not regulate abortion at all, except to require that abortions be performed by a licensed physician.
However, during the second trimester, governments could regulate the abortion procedure, but only for the purpose of protecting maternal health and not for protecting fetal life.
After viability (which includes the third trimester of pregnancy and the last few weeks of the second trimester), abortions could be regulated and even prohibited, but only if the laws provided exceptions for abortions necessary to save the “life” or “health” of the mother.
This American Supreme Court ruling, that women in the United States of America had a FUNDAMENTAL right to abortion, is what has come to be known as ROE VERSUS WADE.
Yesterday June 24 2022, 49 years after that landmark decision, the Supreme Court, “in a 6-3 ruling powered by its conservative majority, upheld a Repulbican- backed Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
The justices went further to vote 5-4 to overturn Roe, with conservative Chief Justice John Roberts writing separately to say he would have upheld the Mississippi law without taking the additional step of erasing the Roe precedent altogether (https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-supreme-court-overturns-abortion-rights-landmark-2022-06-24/).
The immediate implications are that American States now have the ability to once again BAN abortions if they so desire. So far, twenty-six States are likely to ban abortion as soon as practically possible. And with Roe Vs Wade overturned, another 13 States will ban abortions because of their trigger laws.
There are even talks that the Supreme Court justices might roll back other rights, since conservative Justice Clarence Thomas has URGED the court to reconsider past rulings protecting the right to contraception, legalizing gay marriage nationwide, and invalidating state laws banning gay sex.
While we do not have a ‘legislative problem’ in Nigeria, many Nigerians who are pro abortions usually make reference to Roe Vs Wade. But with Roe Vs Wade gone, I do not think much will change regarding extant laws and practice in Nigeria.
Here in Nigeria, abortion is legal only when it’s necessary to save the life of the mother. But this doesn’t mean there aren’t abortions anyway.
Regardless of what the legislation is on abortion, there are lingering concerns. For instance, the findings of the PMA2020 Abortion Survey regarding Abortions in Nigeria, Version 2, March 2020, are worrying:
- In 2017, the annual incidence of abortions in Nigeria was
29.0 per 1,000 women age 15 to 49 based on respondent
reporting—more than 1.2 million abortions.
- When including information related to the experience of respondents’ closest
confidantes, the number of abortions in Nigeria rose to
nearly 2.0 million.1
- More than 6 out of 10 abortions were considered most unsafe, and 11% of women sought care at a health facility following perceived complications.
- Women living in rural areas, younger women, women with
no education, and women who are poor were the most likely to have the most unsafe abortions.
- In Nigeria, most public tertiary facilities provided postabortion care (92%) and safe abortion services to save a woman’s life (83%); lower level public facilities and private facilities were much less likely to do so.
I know first hand, some of the extreme difficulties faced by young single women who make the RARE and LAUDABLE decision to keep their baby, against all odds.
I also know that many of these women usually do not have adequate health care, and financial liberty to COMFORTABLY stay with this decision. And even if they do, the SOCIETAL STIGMA that accompanies raising a child out of wedlock is staggering.
With the reversal of Roe Vs Wade, there is no better time for pastoral agents all over the world to advocate for better health care for women who find themselves in situations of unwanted pregnancies.
As pro lifers, our responsibility is to life. But we cannot pretend to be pro life, if we do not care about women who truly need our support in making the decision to keep unwanted pregnancies.
Legislations are good, but legislations in themselves do not remove the extant challenges that people face on a daily basis. Our prolifeness should not end on the pulpits. We must climb down from our high horses and meet the weak and weary members of our flock where they are.
In the US, while pro abortionists now grapple with how to continue providing ‘safe abortions’ for people who will no longer be able to access health care as a result of the ban, I expect that pro lifers in that clime also do more to provide funding and health care for many young women who require it to be prolife.
Here in Nigeria, we must realise that we don’t ENCOURAGE promiscuity when we provide needed pastoral and medical care for prolife expectant mothers. At best, we reduce the number of risky abortions that still take place in spite of regulations against it.
© Oselumhense Anetor, 2022