Social Issues

Team of attorneys on mission to preserve abortion rights in US

By Lucia Leal

Washington, Nov 29 (EFE).- The election of Donald Trump convinced Jenny Ma to devote herself full time to the defense of reproductive rights. Five years later, the future of legal abortion in the United States rests on her shoulders and those of four other female attorneys.

Ma and her colleagues at the Center for Reproductive Rights, a New York City-based legal advocacy group, are now making final preparations for a landmark abortion case – Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization – that the Supreme Court will hear on Wednesday.

Julie Rikelman, a veteran attorney who challenged another abortion law before the Supreme Court last year, will be the member of the team arguing for the unconstitutionality of a Mississippi law that was passed in 2018 and would ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

The case is creating anxiety among the US feminist movement, which fears that the high court’s conservative majority (due to three Trump appointments) may use the case to strike down Roe v. Wade, a landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion throughout the United States.

Although Ma and the other attorneys are trying to remain optimistic, they are keenly aware of what will happen if that 1973 precedent is overturned.

“So we would be talking about two Americas. Basically, America where, depending on where you live, which state you happen to be born in or live in, whether or not you can access essential health care,” she said.

“And that’s truly devastating to people, especially when you consider who accesses abortion the most. It’s poor people, people of color, immigrant people, young people, people with limited means. And so the effect would be incredibly devastating across the United States.”

US states would be free to completely outlaw abortion in the absence of Roe v. Wade, and it is expected that many conservative-led states would take that step.

“The United States is in this moment of retrogression when it comes to reproductive rights and health care for women,” Ma said.

“Internationally, when you look at Mexico confirming the right to abortion, when you look at Argentina and you look at South Korea and you look at the United Kingdom and Canada, all of these countries, we are kind of in league with simply Poland right now in a way of retrogression. And that’s incredibly sad, but I think that the fight for justice is very long.”

While preparing to argue the case, Rikelman told Efe she tries to keep in mind that the right to an abortion is crucial for women’s equality and equal participation in society.

She said that a loss for her side, which is representing an abortion clinic in Mississippi, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, would lead to “chaos and harm.”

“Both for people who need access to abortion, but also for the courts, even for states that try to preserve the right to abortion,” she said.

In Roe v. Wade, the high court ruled that states cannot ban abortions before a fetus is viable (able to survive outside the womb), which at the time the case was decided was around 28 weeks.

But Rikelman said this current case could lead to huge changes at the state level.

“This is the first time since Roe was decided that the Supreme Court is being asked to rule on the constitutionality of an all-out ban on abortion before viability. This is a law that prohibits abortion two months before viability,” she said. EFE

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