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The US Supreme Court's historic end to nationwide abortion rights on Friday drew unusual criticism from some of America's closest allies and bucks a global trend to more liberal reproductive rights.
The decision came one day after the Supreme Court also struck down some of the modest restrictions on guns -- an issue that, along with the US embrace of the death penalty, has long shocked other Western nations.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson -- a Conservative who worked closely with former president Donald Trump, whose judicial nominations paved the way for Friday's decision -- said the Supreme Court decision will have "massive impacts" worldwide.
"I think it's a big step backwards. I've always believed in a woman's right to choose and I stick to that view, and that's why the UK has the laws that it does," Johnson said on a visit to Rwanda.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau denounced the decision across the border as "horrific."
"No government, politician, or man should tell a woman what she can and cannot do with her body," Trudeau wrote on Twitter.
French President Emmanuel Macron voiced his "solidarity with women whose freedoms are today challenged" by the US Supreme Court, while Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said that legal and safe abortion was a fundamental right.
"Depriving women of their individual rights is a backlash against decades of hard-fought work," Linde said.
Among the few world leaders who may be heartened by the ruling is Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, an ally of Trump and his own country's evangelical Christians, who took to Twitter hours before the decision to denounce an 11-year-old girl's abortion of a fetus that was the result of rape.
US President Joe Biden himself deplored that the top court has "made the United States an outlier among developed nations in the world" as he vowed to keep up efforts to secure legal abortion.
Biden made his remarks on the eve of flying to a summit in Germany, which just Friday repealed a Nazi-era law that limits the information that doctors and clinics can provide about abortion.
And US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a point of stressing in a statement Friday night that his agency remains "fully committed" to helping provide access to reproductive health services both around the world and among its employees.
Traditionally Catholic Ireland overturned an abortion ban in a 2018 referendum and Latin America, long a stronghold against abortion, has also been moving to liberalize its laws.
Colombia in February legalized abortion up to 24 weeks into pregnancy and Chile shortly afterward said it would enshrine the decriminalization of abortion in its constitution.
Mexico last year had its own historic Supreme Court decision -- declaring the prohibition of abortion unconstitutional.
The United States was one of the first countries to grant a nationwide right to abortion with the 1973 Roe v Wade decision that was overturned Friday after years of mobilization by opponents.
But the United States was also an outlier in its sweeping right to abortion until fetal viability, although advocates stress that few doctors perform late-term abortions except in exceptional circumstances.
Representative Mike Waltz, a Republican, said that the United States had been "one of only a handful of countries in the world that allow abortion on demand, comparable to authoritarian regimes such as China and North Korea."
"Even most European nations maintain some restrictions for abortions," he said in a statement.
The Supreme Court decision, he said, "will save millions of innocent, unborn lives."
But drawing the anger of Republican administrations, a number of aid groups have advocated for legal abortion on the grounds that banning it would only make the procedure less safe and put women's lives at risk.
David Miliband, president of the International Rescue Committee and a former British foreign secretary, said the Supreme Court decision "marks a dark day for reproductive rights and bodily autonomy not just within the United States but the world over."
A US navy destroyer sunk during World War II has been found nearly 7,000 meters (23,000 feet) below sea level off the Philippines, making it the world's deepest shipwreck ever located, an American exploration team said.
The USS Samuel B Roberts went down during a battle off the central island of Samar on October 25, 1944 as US forces fought to liberate the Philippines -- then a US colony -- from Japanese occupation.
A crewed submersible filmed, photographed and surveyed the battered hull of the "Sammy B" during a series of dives over eight days this month, Texas-based undersea technology company Caladan Oceanic said.
Images showed the ship's three-tube torpedo launcher and gun mount.
"Resting at 6,895 meters, it is now the deepest shipwreck ever located and surveyed," tweeted Caladan Oceanic founder Victor Vescovo, who piloted the submersible.
"This small ship took on the finest of the Japanese Navy, fighting them to the end," he said.
According to US Navy records, Sammy B's crew "floated for nearly three days awaiting rescue, with many survivors perishing from wounds and shark attacks". Of the 224 crew, 89 died.
The battle was part of the larger Battle of Leyte, which saw intense fighting over several days between US and Japanese forces.
Sammy B was one of four US ships sunk in the October 25 engagement.
The USS Johnston, which at nearly 6,500 meters was previously the world's deepest shipwreck identified, was reached by Vescovo's team in 2021.
In the latest search, the team also looked for the USS Gambier Bay at more than 7,000 meters below sea level, but was unable to locate it.
It did not search for the USS Hoel due to the lack of reliable data showing where it may have gone down.
The wreck of the Titanic lies in about 4,000 meters of water.
© 2022 AFP
With its Siamese-twin decisions on Thursday and Friday, the Supreme Court didn't just turn back the clock or flip through the pages of the calendar looking for a new decade — or century — to love. Calling themselves textualists and originalists, they simply put the Constitution through a search engine and told it to look for some key words: Abortion? Uh-huh, not there. Gay sex? Not in 1791 or 1868! Same-sex marriage? Are you kidding?
This article first appeared in Salon.
But guns? Well, the founders spelled it "arms," but we know exactly what they had in mind! The right to walk around with your guns on your hip or slung over your shoulder because you need 'em for self-defense!
It's tempting to say that the justices handed down these two decisions because they could, but what they did and how they did it is even worse: Just a month after 19 elementary school children and their two teachers were shot dead with a semiautomatic military weapon of war, they mumbled about life and provided for the mechanics of death and. over a 24-hour period, set forth the new outlines of an obscene legal regimen.
They threw out 50 years of precedent and two of their previous decisions and concluded that since "the Constitution makes no express reference to a right to obtain an abortion," such a right does not exist. But the right to "keep and bear arms" is spelled out clear as a bell by the musket-owning founders in the wonderful Second Amendment.
For a constitutional right to be enjoyed by all citizens, according to the Roberts court, it must be old. Really old. If it didn't exist in, say, 1816, then it doesn't exist at all.
What the six so-called conservatives are relying on these days are two words not found in the Constitution: history and tradition. Both are suddenly seen as absolutely necessary in determining whether certain rights deserve to be preserved. The decisions are rife with phrases like, "We then canvassed the historical record, and found yet further confirmation," and you know what the "historical record" confirmed, don't you? Exactly what the majority wanted it to. It turns out that in order for a constitutional right to be enjoyed by American citizens, it must be old, and the older the better. If a right existed in the 18th and 19th centuries, well, this court is fine with it. But if that right wasn't enjoyed by the citizens of, say, 1816 — like the right to privacy, under which various other so-called modern rights exist, such as the right to purchase and use contraceptives, the right to have sex in the manner you choose, and the right to marry a person of your own sex — then those rights simply don't exist.
The majority leaves out the inconvenient truth that abortions, legal or otherwise, have been performed since the beginning of history as we know it, and the ownership of guns and other weapons of death and destruction have been restricted by class, income, social standing and political power for just as long.
The Thomas opinion on guns, along with concurrences, is 83 pages long. The Alito opinion on abortion, with concurrences, is 147 pages long. I would encourage you to read both decisions, if only to experience the blissful tsunami of their references to the way things were back in the 1700s and 1800s, but it's actually necessary only to take a look at a very few lines from the appendix to the Alito decision, which lists excerpts of the laws on the books forbidding abortion in the 37 states and 13 territories (!) that eventually became states from the 19th and 20th centuries. They are listed in chronological order by date, and just check out the first few:
- Missouri (1825)
- Illinois (1827)
- New York (1828)
- Ohio (1834)
- Indiana (1835)
- Maine (1840)
- Alabama (1841)
Citing laws from the 19th and early 20th centuries to justify what the majority is doing in the 21st century isn't just corrupt, it's disgusting, it's insulting, it's condescending, and it amounts to madness. The purpose of this list of horrific and antiquated laws and punishments for women who have abortions and people who perform them is to make the point that ending Roe in some sense returning to normal, because abortion has been illegal for a very long time practically everywhere. But the subtext is just as clear: You should be glad we're not turning the clock back to this.
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The language of the statutes is as brutal as the prison terms, running from six months to 10 years, that were prescribed for women who have abortions and anyone assisting them. I'll give you one excerpt just so you get a flavor of the "history and tradition" of abortion laws that the majority cites with obvious glee. This is from the Virginia statute of 1848:
Any free person who shall administer to any pregnant woman, any medicine, drug or substance whatever, or use or employ any instrument or other means with intent thereby to destroy the child with which such woman may be pregnant, or to produce abortion or miscarriage, and shall thereby destroy such child, or produce such abortion or miscarriage, unless the same shall have been done to preserve the life of such woman, shall be punished, if the death of a quick child be thereby produced, by confinement in the penitentiary, for not less than one nor more than five years, or if the death of a child, not quick, be thereby produced, by confinement in the jail for not less than one nor more than twelve months.
That the Virginia law, which applies to "any free person," is racist on its face causes the Supreme Court majority no shame whatsoever. The entire opinion, along with its concurrences, is practically giddy with delight. Comparing their reversal of Roe v. Wade with the Warren court's reversal of Plessy v. Ferguson in its 1954 decision ending segregation in schools, the Republicans on the court tell us that up is down with smiles on their faces. Their reasoning doesn't even amount to intellectual dishonesty. It's legal terrorism.
It makes you wonder, doesn't it, how long we'll have to wait until a decision comes down from this court with an appendix approvingly listing Jim Crow laws in support of throwing out, oh, let's take a wild guess and say Brown v. Board of Education. After all, why start with boring stuff like affirmative action when we can go back and take care of this whole race thing at its source, huh?
It took the Civil War to end slavery. All it took to return to enslaving women by forcing them to bear an unwanted child and go through the pain and sometimes life-threatening act of giving birth was the six signatures of the Republican majority. For the likes of Thomas and Alito and the rest of them, if it was good enough for the founders, it's good enough for us.
Oh, by the way: here's another word that's not in the wonderful founding document we call the Constitution: Woman.