Legal Correspondent: Arunav Bhattacharjya
September 7, 2021: United Nations human rights monitors have strongly condemned the state of Texas for its new anti-abortion law, which their opinion violates international law by denying women control over their own bodies, bodily integrity and endangering their lives. In strong pejorative remarks Melissa Upreti, chair of the UN’s working group on discrimination against women and girls, slammed the new Texas law, as “structural sex and gender-based discrimination at its worst”.
She went on to warn that the anti-abortion legislation, which bans abortions at about six weeks, could force abortion providers an underground and drive women to seek unsafe procedures that could prove fatal. “This new law will make abortion unsafe and deadly, and create a whole new set of risks for women and girls. It is profoundly discriminatory and violates a number of rights guaranteed under international law,” the human rights lawyer from Nepal said.
The US Supreme Court’s majority decided by a five to four vote to allow the Texas law to go ahead, despite the provision’s blatant contempt of the court’s 1973 ruling legalizing abortion in the Roe v Wade. “The law and the way it came about – through the refusal of the US supreme court to block it based on existing legal precedent – has not only taken Texas backward, but in the eyes of the international community, it has taken the entire country backward,” Upreti, one of five independent experts charged by the UN human rights council in Geneva to push for elimination of discrimination against women and girls around the world said.
The new legislation bans all abortions after initial cardiac activity can be detected in the fetus, usually at around six weeks of pregnancy. The cut-off is criticized as very early as many women would not be aware that they are even pregnant, and up to 90% of all terminations in the state are expected to blocked. In Roe v Wade, the US Supreme Court led the way to legal abortion up to the stage where a fetus can survive outside the womb, typically around 24 weeks into the pregnancy. Under international law, governments are allowed to regulate voluntary terminations of pregnancy. But they are not allowed to do so in ways that jeopardize the lives of women, subject them to physical or mental pain or suffering, interfere with their privacy or their bodily integrity.
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