Human rights have been one of the most widely discussed topics of the day. These are the basic rights given to people worldwide irrespective of any ground for discrimination. One such absolute right includes the right to life with the right to abortion falling in the ambit of it.
Legislators across the world have time and again shed light on these rights and the introduction of the Human Life Protection Act by the Legislature of the State of Alabama, U.S. has yet again fired up the debate of the rights of the mother versus the rights of the unborn child between the two groups- the Pro-Life Movement and the Pro- Choice Movement.
Abortion is the termination of pregnancy by removal of the foetus from the uterus which causes its death. This termination can occur due to natural causes or can be induced by chemical or surgical methods. The medical term for abortion is Miscarriage or Induced Termination which is done before twenty weeks of gestation period of foetus.
With the advent of time the moral debate of abortion has time and again taken shape of well-framed laws by the Legislatures of various countries across the globe.
There has been a constant clash between the two groups who have different set of beliefs when it comes to abortion- the Pro-Life and the Pro-Choice Movement.
The Pro-Choice Movement talks about the individual liberty of the mother in relation to whether or not she wants to terminate the pregnancy. It talks about the establishment of a proper legal system to aid legitimate abortions. The main agenda is to give the mother her reproductive rights with proper sexual education being imparted to the society in order to ensure safe abortions. Since abortion affects only the woman’s physical and mental health, the continuance of the pregnancy should also be solely her own choice. It is always better to make it legal to terminate a pregnancy so that the women are not compelled to resort to any illegal and unsafe means for the termination. The comprehensive idea is that the Pro-Choice Movement is more inclined towards individual choice and freedom in order to encourage better parenting with planned children.
The Pro-Life Movement on the other hand, discusses the moral or ethical issues relating to elective abortion and the imposition of a complete ban on it. The main belief of the group is that the human foetus can be regarded as a person since it has a life in it and hence it too has the right to life. The credence of this system is based upon certain principles of Christianity according to which the homicide of a foetus or an embryo is same as the homicide of an actual person or human being. As per the principles of this group, the death of any foetus, being the same as that of a human being is justifiable on the same grounds.
The legislations across the world have not been able to find a middle path, and till date, the laws of the countries are either inclined towards the pro-choice movement, or the pro-life movement.
The historic decision of Roe v. Wade
The Appellant in the case was an unmarried woman named Roe who wanted to terminate her pregnancy but was denied permission for the same by the Texas Authorities since the law prohibits abortions except in cases where it threatens the life of the mothers. Roe did not have the finances to travel to a state where it was legal to get her abortion done. She claimed that the anti-abortion law was against her right to privacy granted by the Constitution.
She sought certain remedies from the court which included the declaration of the Anti- Abortion law as vague and unconstitutional along with an injunction order being passed which allows the abortions to proceed in Texas. The state court declared the law unconstitutional but the injunction was denied. The Supreme Court was approached for the states court’s decision to reject the injunction.
The case was decided in favour of the Plaintiff and it was said that due process was denied to the woman when she was denied the right to have the abortion as per her choice. The Plaintiff’s right to privacy and specifically her right to choose to terminate the pregnancy have been denied.
The court was of the opinion that right to privacy in the Fourteenth amendment included the women’s right to terminate her pregnancy, as was claimed by Roe. It reviewed the historical views of the anti- abortion law including the government’s interest in protecting a prospective life that can be nurtured and the health of the pregnant woman. These interests of the government have time constraints and are not compelling for the first trimester of the pregnancy when live birth is most certain.It should be the decision of the physician and the patient as to whether a pregnancy should be terminated before it gets to a point where it involves a compelling government interest.
The Alabama Human Life Protection Act
The State’s Statute criminalizing abortion i.e., section 13A-13-7 of the Code of Alabama, 1975 was not repealed but has remained unenforceable as a result of the Supreme Court’s judgement on Roe v. Wade which struck the Texas and other states schedules regarding the same as unconstitutional. The constitutional amendment on November 6th, 2018 recognized the rights of an unborn child and the sanctity of an unborn life and made it clear that the right to have an abortion is not included in it. The Code of Alabama, 1975 in section 13A-6-1 includes an unborn child utero in the ambit of the person for homicide, regardless of its viability. Also, the abortion shed light only on the rights of the women and not the unborn child.
As per the act, recent medical advances show that a baby’s heart starts to beat within 6 weeks, it can be heard by way of ultrasound machines in 8 weeks and a foetal Doppler can detect a heartbeat as early as 10 weeks. More than 50 million babies had been aborted since Roe’s decision in 1973 which amounts to a massive crime against humanity.
Keeping these issues and the death toll in mind, the state senate passed the above-mentioned Act in May 2019 and it shall be implemented in the state from November 2019.
The act makes it unlawful for a person to perform or attempt to perform any abortion except in cases where there is a serious health risk to the unborn child’s mother. The mother shall not be held criminally or civilly liable for any abortion or its attempt. Abortion shall fall under Class A felony and an attempt for the same shall fall under Class C felony.
Arguments against the bill
The Mental and Physical health of the women is the first and foremost ground based on which the bill should be declared unconstitutional. The women should be free to choose what happens to their body, whether they want to go through that pregnancy or they want to abort it. In case abortions remain illegal in the state, women will resort to back alley means to abort the foetus, which in turn would be harmful for both the mother and the child since it could cause serious health hazards by being done in the wrong way.
In cases where the mother does not want to carry the child but still has to bear it because she is being compelled to do the same under the law, there is a possibility that she might abandon the child after being born, which is even more damaging for the life of the child because now the child is left an orphan.
The lawmakers of the state need to understand the plight of a rape victim and the fact that the mother, in that case, will not be in the mental condition to bear the child since she is already in the trauma of what has happened to her.
By: Navin Kumar Jaggi & Ananya Mishra