Sunday, 22 January marked the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark, but still controversial decision by the United States Supreme Court on the issue of abortion.

The decision upheld the right of privacy of a woman and held that that right extended to a woman’s decision to have an abortion.

On the 39th anniversary of the judgment, people from different sides of the political spectrum – the pro-life lobby as well as the pro-choice groups reiterated their respective stands.

Anniversary of Roe Vs Wade

The two sides of the abortion debate

In Washington’s Lafayette Park, hundreds of anti-abortion activists gathered to protest the landmark judgment. There was a march along the north gate of the Whitehouse, prayers, music, pro-life placards, as well as a speech from former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Protests were lodged against “killing of unborn children” (nomenclature for abortion frequently used by anti-abortionists) and the possible emotional fallout for the woman choosing an abortion was also sought to be highlighted.

On the other hand, those politicians that take up the anti-abortion stance are called anti women’s health by those who support the right of women to take their own medical decisions without the interference from the government.

One of the arguments that pro-choice individuals often make is the fact that when abortion was illegal, it resulted in women suffering and even dying due to self induced abortions.

The pro-choice voices have chosen to voice their protest against the enactment of 92 new abortion restrictions passed by as many as 24 American states last year. It is also pointed out that in counties where abortion is illegal, abortion rates are actually higher.

Why Roe Vs Wade was such a landmark

Nearly 4 decades ago, the US Supreme court extrapolated not only on the subject of a woman’s choice and freedom, but also on the concept of ‘viable life’. The right of a woman to undergo an abortion until “viability” which is the fetus being “potentially able to live outside the mother’s womb, albeit with artificial aid” was upheld in this decision.

The debate continues

Some pro-life groups advocate that abortion should be outlawed absolutely and that it should not be permitted at any stage of a pregnancy. For others, the debate is more nuanced and maternal health, fetal age and other factors are permitted to be considered. Similarly there are ifs and buts, particularly about abortion in the second trimester, in the pro-choice camp as well.

In conclusion, neither camp is about to convince the opposite camp, and 39 years on, Roe v. Wade is probably more controversial today than ever before!