In News:

  • The US Supreme Court took the historic step of overturning the landmark 1973 Roe vs Wade ruling, which established a constitutional right to abortion.
  • The 1973 Roe vs Wade ruling was the basis for legal abortions across America for nearly half a century.


  • In 2018, the e state of Mississippi banned most abortions after 15 weeks, much before foetal viability, and sooner than what was allowed by the Roe case.
  • Lower court also struck it down, ruling that it “unequivocally” violated the constitutional rights of women.
  • Finally, the Supreme Court pronounced the judgement..

Focus: Major SC judgement of US concerning abortion

Roe v. Wade Ruling (1973)

  • The case is named after the name of the 22-year-old plaintiff.
  • The ruling struck down laws that made abortion illegal in several states, and ruled that abortion would be allowed up to the point of foetal viability.
  • Foetal viability is the time after which a foetus can survive outside the womb.
  • Foetal viability is often seen as the point at which the rights of the woman can be separated from the rights of the unborn foetus.
  • Foetal viability was around 28 weeks (7 months) at the time of the ‘Roe’ judgement.
  • However, experts now agree that advances in medical sciences have brought the threshold considerably down to 23 or 24 weeks (6 months or a little less). Latest studies reveal that this could be further dropped to 22 weeks.
  • In this case, the Court ruled that the Constitution of the U.S. protects a pregnant woman's liberty to choose to have an abortion without excessive government restriction.

Planned Parenthood v. Casey case, 1992

  • In this case, the Supreme Court modified its rulings in Roe v. Wade judgement.
  • The Court reaffirmed that the constitution provides a woman the right to choose to have an abortion.
  • However, it rejected Roe's trimester framework in favour of a foetal viability threshold.
  • It also overruled the tight scrutiny criteria for considering abortion restrictions.

Significance of these judgements

  • Strengthened the concept of personal liberty
  • Social and ideological differences over the issue of abortion
  • It also resulted in a social and ideological struggle between Democrats who are pro-abortion and Republicans the anti-abortion bloc.
  • Polarised US society and politics.

News Summary

  • The United States Supreme Court has overturned by a 6-3 majority ‘Roe v. Wade’, the court’s landmark 1973 judgment that made abortion a constitutional right.

Key Highlights:

  • The court upheld a Republican-backed Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks.
  • The Mississippi law allows abortions only when there is a medical emergency or a severe foetal abnormality. No exception is provided for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.
  • Abortion rights will now be determined by individual States.
  • The top US court held that the Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision.

Criticism faced by Court

  • Infringes upon the rights of women over their own bodies.
  • Verdict came along ideological lines

Where does the US stand after this verdict?

  • By erasing abortion as a constitutional right, the ruling restored the ability of states to ban it. Now states are free to enact their own laws on this matter.

Abortion laws in India

  • Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act 1971, controls abortions in India.
  • Initially, as per the act abortion was permitted up to 20 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Through a 2021 amendment, the ceiling was raised to 24 weeks.
  • However, this was done only for special categories of rape or incest survivors, that too, with the approval of two registered doctors.
  • In case of foetal disability, there is no limit to the timeline, as per the advice of a medical board consisting of a panel of doctors set up by the governments of states and union territories.
  • In 1994, the PCPNDT (Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques) Act was enacted to prevent misuse of the MTP Act.