Opinion | Through lens of law: HK domestic workers cherish as women's rights sacrificed at altar of US judiciary
By Augustus K. Yeung
"'What is happening here [in America]?' a distraught Nancy Pelosi said on Friday. It's a good question and I can answer it, because I was there [referring to the US judiciary] at the start of the corrosive chain of events that led to women losing control of their own bodies. I saw how America went from a beacon of modernity to a benighted outlier…" lamented Maureen Dowd, The New York Times' seasoned columnist.
"In recent years, Hong Kong has been portrayed by some anti-China American politicians as a world city which has gone abusive of human rights…" said Marjorie Jacinta, "while the Supreme Court of the United States has overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade of 1973 that legalized abortion in the country.
By ruling on Friday that the right to abortion was not "deeply rooted in this nation's history or tradition", the Supreme Court put an end to the nearly 50 years of the federal constitutional right to abortion.
Now, the power to determine where, how and if abortion is permitted rests in the hands of individual US states, and more than half of them are expected to prohibit or severely restrict abortion.
Indeed, at least six US states including Arkansas, Kentucky and Missouri have rushed to do so by introducing "trigger laws".
The US Supreme Court ruling has enraged the progressive elements in the nation, with people in the thousands taking to the streets in many cities to vent their anger. On the other hand, the conservative elements in the US, with people in the thousands taking to the streets in many cities to vent their anger. On the other hand, the conservatives celebrated the days as a long-awaited historic victory.
The Sad Abortion Case of a Philippine Domestic Worker
However, here in Hong Kong, Marjorie Jacinta considers herself lucky as women's abortion rights are protected by local law: Several years ago, she got pregnant by a fellow Pilipino man who refused to be responsible. Fortunately, the Hong Kong law permits abortion, and so her anxiety was eased with the help of the city's public health system, which charged HK $30,00 dollars, paid for her by the helpful family that employed her.
In contrast, her younger sister Margaret Wakar, working in the US state of Missouri must look for ways to solve her impending problem of unwanted pregnancy: Her employer has been pressing her for "confession", holding her passport and trying very hard to prevent her from seeking outside help.
In the US, now her sister's fate is not so simple – as America turns backward in judicial rulijng.
Moreover, as Marjorie cherishes her personal freedom, living in cosmopolitan Hong Kong, the plight of her sister Margaret has become "the talk of town" in the two-hundred-thousand-strong local Philippine domestic workers community (amid the recently banned women's abortion rights in the U.S.)
In US It's All Partisan Politics, the Supreme Court Included
In fact, ever since the Supreme Court draft opinion on striking down the Roe v. Wade got leaked on May 2, the debate on abortion intensified to an irreconcilable degree.
Calling it a "sad day for the court and for the country" President Joe Biden called on US voters to elect candidate who will recover the abortion right, while previous president Donald Trump tried to claim credit for nominating 3 conservative judges to the Supreme Court who were among the 6 justices to rule in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade.
In recent years, the US, which has long proclaimed itself to be a beacon of democracy and individual freedom has become increasingly divided, with abortion being one of the most divisive and inflammatory issues among the people.
Despite the heightened tensions, and the heated debates on abortion, it seems most people in the US disapprove of the Supreme Court ruling. According to a Pew Research Center Survey, about 61 percent of the adult respondents in the US said abortion should be legal all or most of the time, with only 37 percent saying it should be illegal. In simple terms, the overturning of Roe v. Wade is not a victory for America, as six of the nine Supreme Court justices voted in favor of the ruling.
Maureen Dowd said confidence in the Supreme Court, given the "radical reign of Clarence Thomas" has dropped to a new low. According to a Gallup poll, only 25 percent of US adults have "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in the Supreme Court, down from 36 percent a year ago.
It is a foregone conclusion that the Supreme Court ruling will have far-reaching impacts on US society: About 930,160 abortions were performed nationwide in 2020, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Deprived of the right to abortion, hundreds of thousands of women now must shoulder the huge mental, physical, economic and social cost of pregnancy or seek the help of illegal abortion clinic – even in cases of rape and incest, which are quite common in the American working-class families with step-fathers.
Many women may even be forced to give birth to children who are likely to face baby formula shortage, child abuse and gun violence.
At the very least without a one-stop service system to fully protect the rights of women and newborn as was in the case of lucky Marjorie Jacinta in Hong Kong, the verdict to end the constitutional right to abortion is ill-considered.
The chaos over the Supreme Court ruling reveals only the tip of the deeply rooted trouble the US is getting itself mired into: The slow death of American democracy and the irresistible rise of partisanship.
All the talk of a fetus' right to life and reproductive freedom will hit a dead-end; it is nothing more than an instrument American politicians and officials employ to realize their ulterior motives.
The author is a freelance writer; formerly Adjunct Lecturer, taught MBA Philosophy of Management, and International Strategy, and online columnist of 3-D Corner (HKU SPACE), University of Hong Kong.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of DotDotNews.
Read more articles by Augustus K. Yeung: