She grew up in bad conditions. While living a difficult life, she gave birth to 2 children and gave them both up for adoption because she could not look after them. She learned that she was pregnant with her third child. This time she didn’t want to give birth. There was no solution other than abortion, but that was also prohibited by law -no abortion right-
She consulted a friend and been advised to say that she ‘had been raped and therefore wanted to have the child aborted’. Because in those days, abortion was allowed only for rape and incest victims in the state where she lived. She did as her friend told, but this claim was not accepted on the grounds that there was no police evidence that she had been raped. She lost the case, had to give birth to the child and gave it up for adoption just like her other 2 children.
This case was the starting point of the most heated constitutional abortion right debate in the USA today. In 1969, lawyers for Norma McCorvey, who wanted to exercise her right to abortion, filed a lawsuit in US federal court against district attorney Henry Wade, alleging that Texas’ abortion laws were unconstitutional. Norma McCorvey used the pseudonym Jane Roe instead of her real name in the case.
The matter left the local court and moved to the US Supreme Court. In 1973, the Supreme Court ruled in McCorvey’s favour, with a 7 to 2 majority ruling that the constitution provides a pregnant woman with a “right to privacy” that protects her right to choose whether or not to have an abortion.
This decision created a federal legal shield for abortion for the first time, pointing out that abortion is a private matter between the woman and the doctor. This famous case and the subsequent verdict also included ‘Roe v. Wade’ decision went down in history.
Flashback after 50 years
Years after that decision, in 2022, the same US Supreme Court overturned the 1973 “Roe v. Wade decision” that constitutionally guaranteed the right to abortion nationwide.
After 50 years, with this decision taken by stepping back, abortion ceased to be a constitutional right, and the laws on this issue were left to the states’ own initiatives. Prohibitions began following this decision in many states. Of course, with heated debate and demonstrations from both views…
The public is clearly divided. ‘Pro-choice’ circles argue that abortion is a private and personal issue and the final decision on this issue will be the mother’s choice. They naturally have a focused gaze on the ‘mother-to-be’.
“Pro-life” circles, on the other hand, argue that the baby gains the “human” identity through insemination and that it is an obligation to protect his life. Hence, they have a view focused on the ‘baby’ rather than on the mother and the mother’s conditions.
Today, abortion remains one of the most controversial and fiercest ethical and political battlegrounds. In 24 countries, it is completely illegal for women to terminate a pregnancy under any circumstance. In 37 countries, access to abortion is not possible, except when the mother’s life is in danger.
For example, access to abortion is extremely limited in Poland. Abortion can only be practiced when the pregnancy results from an illegal act, such as rape or incest, or when it threatens a woman’s health. Last December, Poland also announced plans to launch a central pregnancy registry that would require doctors to report all pregnancies and miscarriages to the government.
What are basic human rights?
Let us now come to the basic human rights dimension of the discussion. How will we evaluate this issue within the framework of very basic human rights such as personal freedoms, privacy and equality? Shouldn’t it be necessary to protect the rights of women who do not want this as well as those who want to give birth and become mothers? Isn’t this an important extension of gender equality that we always discuss?
Does this step back regarding abortion today also pose a threat to the freedoms obtained in different periods? For example, ‘Loving v. Like the Virginia case…
The case concerned Mildred Loving, a non-white woman who was sentenced to one year in prison for their marriage in 1958, and her white husband, Richard Loving.
In June 1967, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in Lovings’ favor and overturned their convictions. His decision nullified Virginia’s anti-racial discrimination law and ended all race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States.
The corporate world as a party
I think the corporate world also thinks so, and accordingly, in response to this constitutional guarantee, which has been abolished in the USA, they announce important decisions to protect their employees one by one.
Companies such as Walt Disney, Jpmorgan Chase, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Paramount stated that they will cover the travel expenses of their employees who want to have an abortion. Some companies promise to cover not only travel expenses but also medical operation expenses.
If there is a ban on abortion in the state they live in, this is a very important action that financially and morally supports its employees to go to another state where it is legal and have an operation there.
Going beyond that, Patagonia has announced that it will also bail out employees who will be arrested for “peaceful” protests in front of the US Supreme Court on the grounds of “reproductive justice”.
The fine line between individual liberties and public rights
Discussions on the abortion, in fact, cannot be evaluated independently of the scope of individual rights and freedoms. What is striking here is that, perhaps for the first time, the corporate world has positioned itself as a very clear side by raising a flag against the public-political world with such clarity.
Companies that take such a position for their employees today, also for the society in the coming period. They will hopefully act supportive of individual freedoms. Today, companies that support their employees to travel to different states for their rights will begin to do the same for different segments of the society that have access difficulties at this point.
We will see in the coming days whether this will lead to public backlash and legal liability. However, it is certain that; this issue will go down in history as one of the solid examples where companies take a clear and direct stance on the axis of creating long-term value for their stakeholders on individual, social and social issues.
It will also encourage us for a humanely healthy and sustainable future that we always discuss.