Earlier this week, a deeply divided US Supreme Court allowed a Texas law that bans most abortions to remain in force. With this, most women in the nation's second-largest state no longer have the right to terminate pregnancy. The Texas law, signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in May, prohibits abortions once medical professionals can detect cardiac activity, usually around six weeks and before many women know they're pregnant.
The law went into effect on Wednesday as the court voted 5-4 to deny an emergency appeal from abortion providers and others that sought to block enforcement of the law. The justices however suggested that their order likely isn't the last word on whether the law can stand because other challenges to it can still be brought.
Texas lawmakers wrote the law to evade federal court review by allowing private citizens to bring lawsuits in state court against anyone involved in an abortion, other than the patient. Other abortion laws are enforced by state and local officials, with criminal sanctions possible. In contrast, Texas' law allows private citizens to sue abortion providers and anyone involved in facilitating abortions. Among other situations, that would include anyone who drives a woman to a clinic to get an abortion. Under the law, anyone who successfully sues another person would be entitled to at least $10,000.
It is the strictest law against abortion rights in the United States since the high court's landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 and is part of a broader push by Republicans nationwide to impose new restrictions on abortion. At least 12 other states have enacted bans early in pregnancy, but all have been blocked from going into effect.
But even as President Biden lambasted the Supreme Court's decision and others dubbed it as a obliteration of women's rights, the Texas US law is neither the worst or best when one looks at the global data. In many countries including El Salvador, Honduras and and Nicaragua abortion is prohibited altogether even if it poses a risk to the mother's life or even involves situations such as rape or incest.
Many other countries including Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Sri Lanka, Iran and Indonesia permit abortion only in cases where it poses a risk to life. Other nations prohibit it (even if it poses a risk to health) with a caveat for complex legalities or practices. Some countries including UAE and Qatar do not permit abortion in pregnancy due to rape.
It must be noted that foetal impairment is also not an acceptable reason for abortion in many countries. Nations such as Algeria, Andorra, Bahamas, Costa Rica, Egypt, Ecuador, Haiti, Jamaica, Malaysia, Morocco, Pakistan, Phillipines and Venezuela for example do not permit abortion for foetal impairment.
At the other end of the spectrum, are nations such Argentina, Australia, Belarus, France, Hungary, Iceland, Cambodia, Canada, China, Cuba, Kazakhstan, Norway and Russia where abortion is allowed under most circumstances.
India incidentally falls somewhat in the middle of the spectrum, with abortion being legal under various circumstances. Under the MTP Amendment Act 2021, abortion can be performed until 24 weeks of pregnancy. It is also covered by government schemes and health insurance funds.
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