Indian American women strident in opposition to SCOTUS ruling on abortion

Ritu Jha –

Indian American entrepreneurs and civil rights organizations believe the United States Supreme Court decision on June 24 to overturn Roe v. Wade was “a black page in American history”. Many called this ruling “outrageous” and said it “marks an attack on women not just across U.S. but everywhere else in the world.”

Lakshmi Sridaran, Executive Director, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) told indica, “We are outraged at this unnecessary decision by the Supreme Court.”

Sridaran said SAALT is working with partner organization South Asian SOAR (Survivors, Organizations, and Allies Rising), which issued a powerful statement when the decision was first leaked in May of this year.

“From forcing sterilization to banning abortion, the U.S. government has a dark and hypocritical history of controlling women’s bodies, particularly women of color,” Sridaran cited. “With this cruel and unnecessary decision, women of color will be disproportionately burdened with accessing safe abortions in a country that already has one of the least accessible and least affordable healthcare systems in the world.”

She added, “Moreover, the U.S. has repeatedly demonstrated its immense disregard for human life from unjust wars abroad to lukewarm mask mandates during a pandemic to the repeated unwillingness to pass meaningful gun control reforms. It is more than evident that the preservation of human life is a dangerously false narrative to justify a ban on abortions.”

San Francisco Bay Area’s Manju Mishra, who serves on the board of various organizations and has worked with non-profits working for the disadvantaged and for victims of domestic violence, said the ruling was “a black page in American history.”

The ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade reverses nearly 50 years of legal precedent, and completely changes the landscape of women’s reproductive rights. The court on June 24 ruled 6-3 to uphold a Mississippi law that would ban abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. In addition, it also overturned the nearly half-century precedent set in Roe v. Wade that guaranteed the constitutional right to an abortion. This means, states now have the ability to set their own restrictions and could determine the level of access to abortion.

To be sure, the SCOTUS decision does not ban abortion completely, but because it opens states’ ability to enhance or put new restrictions on women seeking access to abortion, this process will more likely than not, become highly uneven, with some states banning it altogether and some others allowing it.

How is that abortion, which is totally acceptable in most parts of the world, has become a contentious issue in a ‘progressive’ country like the U.S.? Many analysts say that across the world, people look to the U.S. as not just a superpower but also a beacon of freedom. It’s demoralizing and horrifying, they say, that just when the world is waking up to equal rights for women in all spheres of life, America backtracks nearly 50 years.

“This inhumane decision completely sabotages recent advancements in social development and equality,” said Mishra, who also serves on the board at Narika, a non-profit organization that supports victims of domestic violence.

“The thought of serious, dangerous consequences like forced pregnancies, infanticide, rape cases and overburdening an already broken foster care system terrifies me,” Mishra said. “Not to mention that health-related problems will increase with the use of contraceptive medicines and techniques. Deny a woman the right to an abortion and you think she’ll just leave it at that? If someone needs an abortion, they will do anything to get one — Illegal abortions have a multitude of their own dangers, both physical and mental.”

She added, “What kind of global superpower that preaches equality, opportunity and human rights for its people takes away a woman’s right to her own body? Forcing a teenager, a child, to carry another child strains physical health, mental health, relationships, societal structures and the state of the world. Children born to parents who never wanted them will be neglected, cast aside; is that the pro-life world you want? How ridiculous is it to try to save unborn lives by putting the ones who are already here at risk.”

Anita Manwani, founder and CEO of Carobar Business Solutions/reLIMS in the Silicon Valley told indica, that she is outraged and disappointed at this giant leap backward for womankind in the U.S. She feels it is a harbinger for more regressive laws as the courts may decide to interpret all of the Constitution based on the time and cultural context of the Founding Fathers of this nation.

“It is scary that the conservative judges of today will endanger the lives of so many women and will be guessing what the forefathers intended in the constitution 235 years ago,” Manwani said. “Laws that made sense 235 years ago cannot be applied in their entirety to a society and a country that has progressed so much in the past two hundred years.”

Reena Gupta, founder of Mom Relaunch, based in the Silicon Valley, said, “When I heard that Roe v. Wade was being overturned, my heart sank.”

She believes SCOTUS has no right to make a choice that every woman and person with a uterus should be able to make themselves. There are many reasons as to why women could want an abortion, including financial instability and health concerns.

“Time and again, I have seen women come forward with such issues,” she said. “It is incredibly absurd that women, when we should be getting equal choice, our rights are being taken away in the 21st century when we just got them in the 20th. We need more progressive leaders to take us forward instead of pulling us back to the past.”