8 JUL - 2022
“It’s explicitly obvious that abortion bans will always disproportionately harm the people who already suffer the most injustices at the hand of the very same system.”
In 1973, a landmark legal decision Roe v. Wade was decided where the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) issued a 7 - 2 decision providing that the right to abortions are constitutionally protected.
Around the time of the Met gala (yes I have to frame this in reference to popular culture) due to another court decision being considered (the conservative majority of) SCOTUS were looking to reconsider Roe, a decision which was upheld for nearly half a century. When I heard about it, I felt sick to my stomach. The whole premise of removing access to abortions is extremely out the gate when we’re in 2022. Individual bodily autonomy should be a given (one would think).
As a woman, the fact that you have a choice to decide what to do when such a situation arises is what most of us find comfort in. I don’t need to think about the worst-case scenario to justify somebody having an abortion, because sex isn’t just for procreation but for pleasure too. But like most people on this side of the world, it felt far removed from my day-to-day and ominous. It felt dystopian at best.
In June 2022 SCOTUS made this a reality.
SCOTUS’s decision in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organisation upheld a law from Mississippi that bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy and the opinion issued stated that the decision in Roe v. Wade was incorrect in recognising a constitutional right to an abortion. As the news spread, it felt like we were in the pilot episode of The Handmaid’s Tale.
Put aside the ethical issues and your stance on pro-life or pro-choice. Put aside the fact that statistically, a pregnancy is thirty times more dangerous than an abortion (that in and of itself should make the pro-lifers so hell-bent on protecting a life pause to consider).
It’s a fact that you can only ban safe abortions. Even before overturning Roe, globally, approximately 45% of abortions were already unsafe abortions. It’s explicitly obvious that abortion bans will always disproportionately harm the people who already suffer the most injustices at the hand of the very same system. The people most marginalised by this are not the middle-class white women but the women of colour, the women in abusive home situations, the women with disabilities, and the women with low incomes who are now prevented from accessing an essential health care service, and hey, depending on what state you’re in… criminalised for it too.
Going even further than that, clinically, it’s hard to distinguish between a miscarriage and an abortion which means that there’s an increased risk (especially in areas of abortion prohibition) that physicians can decline to treat women who are having miscarriages in fear that it’s classed as abortion.
SCOTUS’s current conservative squad have a hit list looking to re-visit other landmark decisions. I'm talking about the rights to legally have contraception [so now you want to criminalise abortion AND make contraception illegal… is abstinence the only way forward??].
The ramifications for a decision like this are scarier because they are instant. A number of American states had passed abortion bans since Roe v. Wade with the intention that abortion would be banned entirely if SCOTUS ever did overturn the precedent or if a constitutional amendment was made which subsequently prohibited abortion.
The ONLY NINE (out of 50!) states where the right to abortion is fully protected by state legislation, constitutions or other laws and policies are California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. On the flipside, there are TWENTY-ONE states (mainly all of the ones located in the south and mid-west parts of the US) that are characterised as “hostile to abortion” meaning they have clearly expressed a desire to ban abortion entirely and criminalise them.
Going even further, Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and South Dakota have immediate bans on abortions entirely which are enforced through criminal penalties. Abortion is quite literally illegal and criminal in such states. The rest are kind of just floating in the middle ground somewhere.
I could quite literally go on for hours about how safe, legal abortion is a necessary component of comprehensive healthcare and why a women’s decision-making ability over their own body and reproductive rights is so important, but I feel that’s a given to this audience. The issue is that it’s scarier and much broader than just this.
SCOTUS’s current conservative squad has a hit list looking to re-visit other landmark decisions (I'm talking about the rights to legally have contraception [so now you want to criminalise abortion AND make contraception illegal… is abstinence the only way forward??], the rights to same-sex marriage, and property rights cases to name a few) noting that the court has a “duty to correct the error established in those precedents”. To say that we're not going to a time before Roe v. Wade but somewhere far more sinister is an understatement.
The fight for reproductive rights is important and much bigger than just the US. It’s easy to disassociate because it’s not our country, but the truth is, this affects us all. It gives conservatives a chance (across all countries) to become bold with such views.
Below is an amalgamation of various resources and links that you can visit to help fight for reproductive rights at a distance. Even if it’s your name on a petition, and that petition helps lobby for a change, that’s something.
The American Civil Liberties Union is currently fighting for reproductive rights by organising protests, filing for litigations to protect to access to abortions in each state and so much more. On their website www.aclu.org you can sign up to donate to help their cause (you can also sign up to be a monthly donor and help the fight against a number of other human rights too!).
Other helpful resources to consider if you’re interested in the fight for reproductive freedom are as follows:
Donate to any of the various abortion funds listed:
Abortion Rights Organisations
Sign These Petitions