Content Warning – the following article discusses topics that some readers may find distressing such as rape, trauma, death and forced pregnancy.
“My body, my choice” has ricocheted through the world, and I think I speak for everyone who believes in bodily autonomy when I say we are mourning with America right now. Our hearts go out to every person who has just been banned from the right to their own body and their own future.
We should all be angry. This news is devastating and it is wholly unacceptable that abortion is even considered a debate, let alone criminalised by judges, half of which don’t even have reproductive organs or understand how a women’s body works, or what this decision really means going forward. Or perhaps they just don’t care because they think it will never have an effect on their lives. Except it will, this is not just a fight for people who can reproduce or for people who live in a country where abortion is illegal, this fight is all of ours, men, women, non-binary, trans, old and young. Our human rights are being stripped and it is time we took a stand and say “no more”. Because this does and will affect us all. It’s appalling to hear “why do you care, you live in the UK” or “I’m a man, it doesn’t affect me”. These statements make you feel better about not caring, but turning a blind eye to the US criminalising people for not wanting to have a child, 14-year-old rape victims or ectopic pregnancy patients is a war against humanity and we need to stand together.
There are so many repercussions to this law that will have a detrimental effect on so many people.
Abortions happen regardless of whether they are legal or not, the difference is whether they are safe. But when governments decide to take people’s bodies into their own hands and criminalise abortion, people are forced to either resort to seeking an unsafe abortion by unqualified personnel or having a child that they did not want or for whatever reason personal to them cannot safely bring into this world.
All across the United States on Friday people waited as nine Supreme Court judges – most of whom were recommended by a pro-life Republican president – sat around a table and disputed the decision of ‘Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health’. It is astounding to me that we live in a world where those in power think they have any right to the decision over someone else’s body – women’s health should not be a conversation between anyone other than the person in question and whoever she/they decide to include. It is a struggle to comprehend how these people think, what runs through their minds and how could they have made such a damaging decision, a decision that most of them will not have to face the consequences of.
The moment Roe v. Wade was overturned, many things instantly transpired. From abortion trigger laws going into immediate effect, to forcing the closure of appointments and clinics – fear struck the American people and the world along with it. According to the Guttmacher Institute (a pro-abortion rights group) 26 states were likely to ban abortion as quickly as possible and in ten of those states, trigger laws have already been enforced, and to make it worse, only eight of those have the exception of allowing an abortion to save the person’s life – there is no exception for rape. Some states such as California have said they will protect a person’s right to their own body, they also have plans to enact a new constitutional amendment protecting reproductive rights. Although anti-abortion activists want more, already seeking a national constitutional amendment banning abortion completely throughout the whole of the United States. As if they haven’t done enough damage already.
A study that took place before the overturn estimated that roughly 100,000 people wouldn’t be able to seek a safe abortion within the first year of post-Roe and 75,000 of them would be forced to give birth as a result. Take a moment to think about that, not only to be told that you no longer have the right to your own body but also to be told that you no longer have a say in your own future. Planned Parenthood are doing everything they can to support those in need and have already started setting up office spaces on the borders of states where abortion is now banned, but the ability to travel from state to state is not accessible for all.
Many find themselves unable to leave their home due to an abusive partner and bringing a child into that environment is not safe for anyone. There will be people who don’t have the financial means to travel and are forced to have a child which will only cause further financial strain. There will be children who have been harmed and have no support. These are just a few of the reasons that many people won’t be able to travel out of state for help, and they barely even gloss over the disastrous effect this decision is already having and will continue to have.
There is also the problem of unsafe abortions because it is impossible to ban abortions, what the Supreme Court did was ban safe abortions and make it illegal to seek or perform one. But self-managing abortions are very common in the US and will become even more common now.
Heidi Moseson is an epidemiologist based in Oakland, California, who works at Ibis Reproductive Health. She and her colleagues studied abortion attempts and found that one in five tried to self-manage their abortion. However, she said: “Unfortunately, no one reported using medication abortion, they reported things like physical trauma, inserting objects into the vagina and ingesting substances that are harmful.” This shows a huge issue with people’s knowledge surrounding abortion medication and how to use it safely. Moseson now worries about the complications of obtaining abortion pills in the US, as many laws will be applied in order to criminalise people for doing so.
Mary Faith Marshall, a biomedical ethicist at the University of Virginia School of Medicine in Charlottesville said: “Roe cemented that pregnant people had constitutional rights, now, they will no longer have these legal protections and will not be full persons under the US Constitution, which I think is a travesty.”
And it is just that, a travesty. That this has happened, that there are people in this world who claim to be ‘pro-life’, the irony in those words. Taking rights away from people because they believe that abortion is ‘killing a child’, but the very minute the child is born, their empathy disappears along with their morals and compassion. People in this world who want a child born, but not a child fed, educated, housed and safe – that is not pro-life, that is selfish and immoral and a damaging, destructive perspective.
The overturning of Roe v. Wade will have its deepest impact on people of colour and poorer communities, plunging those already in severe poverty further in. This world and the people in power have put these communities through hell for long enough; people of colour, women and poor communities have suffered at the hands of rich old white men for far too long, and far too much damage has been done. It is shameful and outrageous that in 2022 new laws are being passed to restrict people’s human rights even further, it is shameful that after all this time we are now going back. When will those in power stop inflicting trauma on their citizens? I would like an answer, because enough is enough. The world is burning, and those who have the power to stop it keep lighting the match.
Featured Image Credit: NDTV