It started with a Twitter account. Donald Trump's 'Make America Great Again' campaign prompted an extremist movement that for all intents and purposes has now stripped women of their fundamental rights and freedoms.
I'm referencing the controversial Supreme Court appointments during the Trump/Republican era who've been known to pander to pro-life and conservative-right views.
When you thought it couldn't get any worse, late last month the US Supreme Court overturned the 1973 case of Roe v Wade, which guaranteed the constitutional right to an abortion during the first two trimesters of pregnancy.
Pre Roe v Wade, 200,000-1.2 million abortions were performed in unregulated, illegal settings during the 1950s and 60s. In 1965 alone, 200 reported deaths resulted from illegal abortion, amounting to 17 per cent of maternity-related deaths that year.
Last week's decision is expected to see abortion banned in roughly half of US states and impact millions wanting to access abortion care. The US joins Poland, El Salvador and Nicaragua in recent reversals of abortion rights.
International evidence suggests that restrictive abortion laws do not reduce the number of abortions performed, but do increase the proportion of abortions that are unsafe.
The World Health Organisation has estimated that approximately 47,000 women globally die each year from unsafe abortions - induced by restricting access to services - and a further five million suffer a disability.
The current session considered Dobbs v Jackson Women's Health Organisation, where Mississippi's only abortion clinic challenged a 2018 state law banning abortions after 15 weeks. The state of Mississippi counter-argued that Roe v Wade should be reversed. And so it was.
While justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett were in favour of the ban, justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan disagreed with the majority, writing: 'With sorrow – for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection – we dissent".
The dystopian nightmare could get worse - Justice Clarence Thomas, in his opinion, wrote in reference to three landmark decisions concerning the right to contraception, the repeal of anti-sodomy laws, and the legalisation of same-sex marriage:
"In future cases, we should reconsider all of this court's substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell."
New Zealand weighs in
Closer to home, the National Party's Simon O'Connor came under fire for saying it was a "good day" on social media following the judgment's release.
While National leader Christopher Luxon has outwardly spoken of his pro-life personal views, he asked O'Connor to delete the post, saying "it was causing distress and does not represent the position of the National Party." He went on to say that he did not intend to relitigate abortion reform.
Luxon was referring to the Abortion Legislation Act 2020, which took abortion off the Crimes Act and gave women unfettered access to the services within the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.
While Luxon said O'Connor's views weren't representative of the party's, the bill - at the time of passing - came down to personal views, by way of conscience voting.
A history of abortion in Aotearoa
Let's backtrack. In 1861 New Zealand adopted England's Offences Against the Person Act, which criminalised anyone who attempted to procure an abortion, including the woman herself. The penalty was reduced to a maximum of seven years in the first iteration of the Crimes Act - The Criminal Code Act 1893.
Fast forward a century or so to 2019, the Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion Act 1977 and Crimes Act 1961 dictated that two doctors were required to approve an abortion, and it could only be done if there was a "serious danger" to women's health.
In its Ministerial Briefing Paper, the Law Commission said aspects of the framework could cause significant delay and present other barriers for women seeking abortion services.
A study undertaken in 2009 found that on average it took 25 days from a woman's first appointment with a referring doctor to when the abortion was performed.
"Depending on where a woman lives, the stage of the pregnancy and the reason an abortion is being sought, a woman may need to travel a significant distance to access an appropriate service," the report read.
Fees for those not eligible for public funding could range from around $700 to over $2400.
On August 5, 2019, then-Justice Minister Andrew Little introduced the Abortion Legislation Act following the Law Commission's Briefing Paper. The first reading passed 94/23, the second reading passed 81/39, and on 18 March 2020 the third reading passed 68/51.
Twenty-six of the 51 MPs who were opposed to the Bill are still in parliament.
They are: Andrew Bayly, Simeon Brown, Gerry Brownlee, Jacqui Dean, Paul Goldsmith, Harete Hipango, Anahila Kanongata'a-Suisuiki, Melissa Lee, Nanaia Mahuta, Todd McClay, Ian McKelvie, Todd Muller, Damien O'Connor, Greg O'Connor, Simon O'Connor, Chris Penk, Maureen Pugh, Shane Reti, Adrian Rurawhe, Jenny Salesa, Jamie Strange, Rino Tirikatene, Louise Upston, Tim van de Molen, Meka Whaitiri and Michael Woodhouse.
On Roe v Wade, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said last week: "People are absolutely entitled to have deeply held convictions on this issue. But those personal beliefs should never rob another from making their own decisions. To see that principle now lost in the United States feels like a loss for women everywhere."
Was the pre-2020 stance in New Zealand similar to what the US is now facing? In terms of legitimately accessing abortion services without bureaucratic or financial hurdles, I would argue that it was. But it's times like these when it feels impossible to resist the pull towards political tribalism.