Reaghan Mulligan | Newsroom Manager
May 15, 2022
On Monday, May 2, Politico published a leaked draft opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito that demonstrated a majority vote in favor of overturning the landmark decision Roe v. Wade, which established the protection of abortion in 1973. Backlash, turmoil, and concurrence simultaneously ensued within the 24 hours following the release of the 98-page opinion.
People across the nation are angry, and they have every right to be.
Despite Roe’s initial controversial decision, challenges to the outcome were mostly pushed down in the following decades. Recent years, however, saw legislation from Southern states begin to infiltrate the protective bubble established in the 70s, calling attention and concern to the fate of abortion rights across the country.
Although abortion remains legal in the United States, states like Texas have enacted severely limiting legislation that all but eliminates a pregnant person’s access to abortion. By taking action to prohibit abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks into the pregnancy, the legislation seeks to eradicate essentially any possibility of terminating a pregnancy. On average, people who become pregnant discover around five and a half weeks of gestation, making the window to obtain an abortion after realizing pregnancy incredibly narrow.
This quick span of access proves to be no accident, as other states begin to follow suit with incredibly limiting abortion-based legislation that seeks one single end goal: to block pregnant people from safe, legal abortion access.
After the newly created Republican supermajority on the Supreme Court, many Americans predicted the consequent legislation that would be reexamined and overturned if the opportunity was available. Of all the things to go, abortion access comes as no surprise.
Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was petitioned to the Court in 2020, yet remained in their docket until its hearing approval in May 2020. It sought to prohibit pregnancies after 15 weeks and became a symbol of the many cases threatening to uproot Roe v. Wade’s foundation. Lurking behind appeals for limitations on abortion access lays the undermining of bodily integrity and the eradication of pregnancy terminations—all of which have since been brought into the limelight by Justice Alito’s leaked opinion draft.
“While other countries are making great strides in women’s rights, America is taking away women’s rights,” senior Kanei Padhya said. “I believe that our legislators and our President are not doing enough to prevent Roe v. Wade from being overturned.”
Alito’s opinion demonstrates a keen interest in upending both Roe and Casey v. Planned Parenthood and emphasizes the importance of regranting states the jurisdiction on abortion access—which would inevitably result in the banning of abortion across many Republican states. The draft not only investigates the constitutionality of Roe v. Wade but also draws conclusions on the validity of utilizing the 14th Amendment’s due process clause in order to protect certain rights including, but not limited to, abortion access. Alito’s repetitive references to pre-Roe America clarify his intentions of returning the access to abortion to what it was before Roe by any means necessary.
“This opinion would not only deprive women of control over their bodies and lives, but deprive them of their privacy as well,” junior Genevieve Heal said.
Alito attempts to reference Sir Edward Coke’s “17th-century treatise” as a valid precedent to deem abortion “murder.” Meanwhile, Sir Edward Coke lived in the 16th and 17th centuries—more than four hundred years ago—dying before even the Salem Witch Trials occurred. Relying on long-dead men to prove the invalidity of abortion seems an effective tactic for a pro-life crowd which seeks to reassume tradition. However, this “tradition” seems to imply the subordination of women and the general elimination of bodily autonomy.
Despite the admitted progress of social movements in modern America, the allusion to incredibly dated material in order to condemn abortion is an illogical justification for the prohibition of a woman’s access to abortion services. The argument surrounding Coke’s conclusions revolve around pervasive and timeless attempts to limit women’s rights to their own bodies—a tale as old as time, thanks to Coke’s interpretation of abortion as a “heinous offense.” Urging to reaffirm a centuries-old precedent serves only to digress the societal advancements made towards the liberation of pregnant bodies and the ultimate goal of total autonomy, a concept that wealthy white men like Sir Edward Coke could not fathom.
Yet again, the decisions for women are made by men whose autonomy is protected with or without Roe and Casey. Men, who do not need legislation to affirm the right to their own bodies, continue to impose acts that strip women’s reproductive rights out of their hands and face no repercussions for their actions.
“[The draft] proves that human rights are at stake for any person who is not a white, cisgender male,” junior Kayla McLaughlin said. “It is an individual’s right to choose whether or not they want an abortion, and this right should not be dictated or controlled by the government.”
It sends a loud message to the people of America: abortion is no longer a protected right. While it remains technically legal, action is taken daily to chip away at this access until not even its foundation remains. Alongside this proclamation lays a more intricate interpretation: a woman’s bodily autonomy cannot be respected, nor upheld, by the government.
“These are bodies and lives we are talking about here,” McLaughlin added. “Let people make the choice, don’t make it for them.”
All states wishing to limit abortion—no matter the extent or severity—are posing a direct attack on personal autonomy. It is not enough to provide omission from abortion prohibition for cases of rape and incest (though notably, some proposals reject even this exception entirely). It is not enough to only permit bodily autonomy when one’s body has been violated. These overbearing constraints explicitly demonstrate that a woman’s body is not entirely her own, and that women do not have full authority over their decisions.
Pregnant people must be ensured full access to pregnancy termination without government interference in order to maintain safe abortion practices and avoid the inevitable increase in unsafe terminations that would consequently occur.
Enforcing laws made primarily by people who will never face pregnancy or its consequences proves the insensibility of anti-abortion crusades. Why should there be laws presiding over the ability to control one’s own body, when Republican rhetoric rallies around the concept of freedom? The lengths taken to protect the right and freedom to bear arms demonstrate a pathetic contradiction to the lack of support around the freedom to choose to end a pregnancy.
No pregnant person should be forced to carry to term if they do not wish to. Without access to safe abortion, desperation may lead individuals to end their pregnancy via dangerous and even fatal methods. Without access to safe abortion, the inability to care for a new child can cause a rise in the already flooded foster care system. Without access to safe abortion, a child may grow up in an unsuitable environment.
Limiting access to abortion does not support life. Rather, it chooses a route of prohibition rather than seeking solutions that may ultimately lower the abortion rate. Like preaching abstinence in sexual education, banning abortion does little to solve any issues.
If “pro-life” supporters truly wished to lower the number of pregnancy terminations performed in the United States, they would advocate for comprehensive sexual education, accessible contraceptives, and day-after pills, and would ultimately rally behind the right to choose what is best for one’s situation.
Without these necessary improvements, the anti-abortion movement continues to advocate against women, and against their ability to choose for their own bodies. Attacks on abortion access remain a blatant assault on reproductive freedom and, consequently, on women across the nation.
“The midterms are coming up in November. We need to vote these politicians out of office who are not representing all of their constituents,” Padhya stated when asked how the general public can support abortion access. “Representatives and Senators are supposed to be our voice, but rather than listening to us, some are turning the other way and taking away our rights.”