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Why is the overturning of Roe vs Wade a problem for sexual assault victims?

Mar 11,2023
One of the most well-known Supreme Court cases in history is undoubtedly Roe v. Wade.The right to an abortion has been considered personal and private to a woman. As a result, it has continued to dominate American politics. The judgment was extolled as a victory for women who struggled to gain equality and freedom. It was criticized by some people as the supreme court went too far. Roe was the national abortion legislation for more than 50 years, despite the controversy that surrounded it.

The Supreme Court cannot revisit the same case and make a different decision. Additionally, because of the legal principle of stare decisis, which means "leave the judgment stand" in Latin, succeeding judges are frequently reluctant to expressly overrule earlier judgments. The stare decisis doctrine, however, is not legally binding nor consistently applied. This point is shown by recent instances involving reproductive rights that attacked the freedoms guaranteed by Roe. A total overturn of Roe v. Wade previously appeared unthinkable. 

However, abortion rights may change through further judgments even without a total overturn. That explains why so many states have kept passing legislation that goes against Roe. In 2022, a Mississippi-based case of this nature was heard by the Supreme Court, which resulted in the surprising reversal of Roe Vs Wade. Before 1973, there were many different abortion regulations across the US. While some states had outright bans on abortions, others had limited exceptions. Roe v. Wade created a legal framework for federal restrictions on abortion by ruling that a Texas abortion law was unconstitutional. Therefore, abortion regulation is once again left to the states to decide upon in the absence of Roe.

How has Roe vs Wade emerged as a problem for sexual assault victims?
Sexual violence (SV) and reproductive health are intertwined in the public health issue known as rape-related pregnancies (RRP). Pregnancies that a rape victim ascribed to the rape are included in the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) under RRP. Particularly vulnerable to rape are women. Violent crime such as rape has a multitude of short-term health effects, including damage, STDs, and pregnancy.

So far, RRP affected almost 3 million American women over the course of their lifetimes. RRP was prevalent in all racial and ethnic groupings in about equal amounts (i.e., Hispanic, White non-Hispanic, Black non-Hispanic, and other non-Hispanic). In their lives, almost 18 million women have been sexually assaulted vaginally. Compared to women who were raped by acquaintances (5.2%) or strangers (6.9%), those who had a current or past intimate partner raped were more likely to report RRP (26%). A kind of reproductive coercion by the same partner was used on 30% of women who had been raped by an intimate partner. Notably, 20% of women said that their partners had attempted to make them pregnant against their will or to prohibit them from using birth control. About 23% said their spouse or partner wouldn't use condoms. As compared to women who were raped by an intimate partner but did not become pregnant, women who reported RRP were substantially more likely to have been the victims of reproductive coercion. The pregnancy that a rape victim has connected to the rape is referred to as rape-related pregnancy (RRP).

But after the Supreme Court's decision reversing Roe v. Wade, which eliminated abortion as a constitutional right nationwide, health experts said that they started to hear more stories of rape-related pregnancies among young women seeking an abortion. Dr. Erika Werner, head of the obstetrics and gynecology department at Tufts Medical Center, said that before the Roe decision, she had never heard from a colleague about a pregnancy that was being forced to continue due to rape. "I've heard about three in the past three weeks."

Irrespective of age, it is challenging to determine the prevalence of rape-related pregnancies because it is one of the most underreported crimes in the nation. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, over 7 out of 10 sexual assaults go unreported. Previous studies indicate that rape-related pregnancies seldom result in abortions. According to a nationally representative poll conducted by the abortion rights organization Guttmacher Institute, barely 1% of women who fell pregnant through rape in 2004 chose to have an abortion.

According to CDC research from a year ago, 1,410 abortions in girls under 15 were documented in 2019 based on abortion surveillance data from 47 states. In that age range, Ohio recorded 63 abortions while Indiana reported 18. The Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault, or MOCSA, is led by Julie Donelon as president and CEO. Her primary goal is to assist and enhance the lives of those who have been affected by sexual abuse and assault.

Court's conclusions on Roe vs Wade case
The following arguments served as the foundation for Jane Roe and the other participants' case:
The Texas statute violated a person's 14th Amendment right to "liberty."
The Texas statute violated the Bill of Rights' guarantees of marital, family, and sexual privacy.
A person has the unrestricted right to end a pregnancy in any method, at any time, and for any reason, they see fit. Even with Roe v. Wade being overturned, the issue of abortion law in the US is far from settled. 

Abortion opponents will continue to contest constitutional privacy rights, with some of those disputes reaching the Supreme Court. The Ninth Amendment may be the foundation of new legislation that strengthens privacy rights (including abortion) rights. It's not yet apparent how the Dobbs ruling would impact other privacy rights, such as those pertaining to sex and birth control. The case has presented a complex world of post-traumatic and sexual assault victims who are struggling with the consequences of dealing with physical, mental, social, and political agency. Furthermore, it has attempted to make a connection between planned parenthood, the value of life, and political agency.