[The graphic from the Washington Post shows in which US states abortion access is protected and where it is predicted to be restricted if Roe v. Wade falls.]
Camilla is a third-year International Relations student, who is interested in politics and international law. She is passionate about equality and social mobility, addicted to coffee, and a big fan of g&ts.
Unless you live under a rock, you have seen the news surrounding the near abortion ban in Texas – and the many stories of people who needed abortions who would not be able to get them anymore. With similar restrictions on abortion access in Poland passed last year, it is obvious that reproductive rights are under attack. Whilst it is easy to be comfortable in the UK where this is not the case at the moment, we need to stand in support with the many AFAB (assigned female at birth) people for whom this is the case.
So, what has happened in Texas? The bill that went into effect on September 1st 2021 bans abortions after an ultrasound can detect heartbeats from the embryo – said to be around the 6 week mark. This is despite medical and legal experts agreeing that the term is misleading as embryos may show evidence of cardiac activity at different times but don’t have a heart at this point in their development. The Supreme Court did not ban the bill, a decision which has been criticised by President Joe Biden and various human rights activists across the globe. The law also includes an aid and abet clause which opens up the possibility for ordinary people to sue anyone, who aided someone in getting an abortion after the 6 week mark, including healthcare providers. This could mean that healthcare providers like Planned Parenthood could waste time and effort in court, even if they ultimately win the cases. Multiple companies – including Lyft and Uber – have made funds for their employees to cover any potential legal fees. Bumble and Match have made a fund as well for similar purposes. The Texas law chips away at Roe v Wade. Ultimately if Roe v Wade gets overturned, the right to abortion is only protected in 21 US states, leaving roughly 25 million AFAB people to live in states where they are expected to loose abortion access.
Consider the implications of prohibiting access to abortions. Both historically within the US and in countries where this is currently the case, prohibiting abortions only removes the option of a safe abortions – but the procedure still happens. One third of all unsafe abortions are performed in the least safe conditions often by untrained professionals with invasive methods. Clandestine abortions are more safe than they used to be because of access to medication, yet unsafe abortions can lead to many health complications and still cause between 8-12% of all maternal deaths. Similarly, unsafe abortions and the associated risks of humiliation, agony, sterility, or death did not stop AFAB people from getting abortions in the
past. People who could afford to pay or to go across borders to get an abortion had access to safe abortions. Others found it difficult if not impossible to get access to this life-saving healthcare. The world of illegal abortions was expensive and frightening, and this might become the case again, disproportionately affecting working class people and people of colour, as the white middle and upper class are more likely to have the funds to go out of state.
According to a survey published by Gallup in 2020, 79% of Americans do not want to see Roe v Wade overturned, and 67% of Americans think that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. According to Planned Parenthood, this indicates that Americans support the constitutional right to abortion, and believe that most Americans want lawmakers to stay out of the issue of abortion altogether. Despite this, abortion is a politically divisive topic in the US where various groups are against abortions. Many Christian groups include religious reasons for being against abortion, despite the fact that the Old Testament only mentions abortions in terms of property rights and the New Testament does not mention abortions at all. Furthermore, scientist do not agree where life starts, as life is a cycle and the start of life has been culturally defined. Thus, there is really no scientific or Judaeo-Christian argument against abortions on the basis of conserving “life”, and even if there was, the bodily autonomy of the pregnant person is more important. Further, most self-proclaimed pro-life people really are not pro-life as they would then care about the child and supporting it, after it is born. When you then add that abortions used to be legal within the US up until movement was detected and were only made illegal to control the growth of different population groups, we expose a layer of xenophobia, racism and white supremacy to the legal status of abortions. Again, prohibiting abortions is not related to the “life” of a foetus but an effort to control non-cis men.
So why should you care? At this point, you may be just as exhausted as I am with this conversation as there really is no middle ground. Despite you doing everything to avoid it, you can still get pregnant – no birth control is 100% effective. If there comes a time, where you are faced with this choice, you should be able to choose what happens next and be able to choose between safe and legal options – Everyone should have bodily autonomy. Some might be able to travel out of their country or out of their state to access healthcare, but this access is skewed over racial and class lines making the access to safe abortions an intersectional issue, and one you should care about.