With the Supreme Court of the United States overturning its decision in Roe vs Wade, abortion is no longer a federal law in the United States, which means some states can ban abortion.
Roe vs Wade: Everything you need to know and how it affects Nigerian women's abortion rights[Pulse Explainer]
Does the decision in Roe vs Wade have anything to do with Nigerian women?
What happened in Roe vs Wade?
The case began in 1970 when Jane Roe —a fictional name used to protect the identity of the plaintiff, whose real name is Norma McCorvey instituted federal action against Henry Wade, the district attorney of Dallas County, Texas, where she lived.
At 21 years old, Jane Roe (McCorvey) wanted to get an abortion in Texas, but she couldn’t.
So, she met with attorneys interested in pursuing abortion cases at the federal level, and they took the matter to court.
The court held that compelling interest would make it regulate a pregnant’s woman right to abortion and allow abortion only at the end of the first trimester of pregnancy.
This is because, at 24 weeks of pregnancy, a baby is capable of meaningful life outside the mother.
The decision in Roe vs Wade was only a partial victory. Roe vs Wade allowed abortion up till a certain time, and it wasn’t until Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey that the restrictions were broadened.
The Supreme Court held that restrictions on abortion are unconstitutional when they place an “undue burden” on a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus is viable or able to survive outside the mother.
What are the consequences of overturning Roe vs Wade in the US?
What the court did was interpret the constitutional provision that guarantees the right to privacy. They held that abortions are not protected by the constitution.
Justice Samuel Alito said in the court’s majority opinion, "the Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision, including the one on which the defenders of Roe and Casey now chiefly rely—the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment."
America like Nigeria operates a federal system which means the federal government can legislate for the whole country, but where they fail to do this, the states can do so.
This is called the principle of covering the field in constitutional law.
Following the decision of the Supreme Court, abortion is illegal in 11 states in the US. Twelve other states have laws are trying to ban and restrict abortions.
Does Roe vs Wade affect Nigerian women?
Although abortions are rampant in Nigeria, they are prohibited and are only legal to save the mother's life. Section 228, 229, and 230 of the Criminal Code criminalizes abortion.
According to PMA, "More than 6 out of 10 abortions were considered most unsafe, and 11% of women experienced complications for which they sought post-abortion care at a health facility."
To the question if Roe vs Wade affect Nigerian women. Technically it does not, however, with the recent development in the US, it will be donkey years before abortions are legal in Nigeria. Since the US judicial decisions can serve as a persuasive precedent for Nigerian courts.
Read the article on Nigeria’s legal position on abortion here.
What do pro-lifers say?
These people are against abortion. The argument that pro-life people profer is that life begins at conception and not at birth. This means a fetus is a living thing.
It has all the attributes of life while it is within its mother.
Pro-lifers describe in graphic detail how the baby is pulled apart limb by limb from the womb.
To them, abortion is murder, and it ends a budding human life and does not give it a chance to develop.
What are the arguments of the pro-choice people?
Pro-choice people are for abortion.
They believe that a woman has a right to decide what to do with her body, anything she deems fit, and since the baby is part of her, it is her decision to make.
Also, a woman might have valid reasons why she does not want to have a baby, and she shouldn’t be forced to keep it.
Pro-choice people also believe that the baby does not exist until it is alive and outside the mother, and that is only when it can be termed murder.
I have a confession; I am pro-life but only personally.
I cannot enforce personal convictions on people, and criminalising and making abortion illegal does that.
You cannot force a woman to have a child she doesn't want to because she would get rid of it, by any means.
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