Where does one begin an article on the day that Roe v. Wade is overturned? I could start this article talking about the consequences of banning abortion, how it disproportionately affects women of color and the LGBTQ+ population, how making it a felony to perform an abortion doesn’t actually get rid of abortions but rather leaves only the option for unsafe ones, and much, much more. I’m not going to focus this article on those points. All of these angles have been turned over, dissected, and discussed many times before. Written beautifully in a previous Gavel article by Ana Ibarra, all of these implications that she describes are no longer theoretical discussions that we are pushing and pulling in a debate. This is happening. Abortions are no longer federally protected under American law.
Instead, we need to try to understand why this is happening. Why the court feels they have the right to take away a sense of bodily autonomy for half of the country, and what the dissenting part of the court says in response.
The very short synopsis of the over 100-page majority opinion published from the court is that, basically, the right to an abortion (a.k.a Roe v. Wade) is not protected under federal law because it is not written in the Constitution. The Constitution states nothing about abortion or the legality of them, therefore the current Supreme Court sees it as better fit to be regulated at the state level.
The issue with leaving it up to states to regulate is that now states can individually decide if abortion should be legal. This is problematic for obvious reasons. It is now possible for states like Texas to charge doctors with a first degree felony for performing an abortion—a higher degree offense than the act of rape. That's right, a person seeking medical care and the person providing said medical care can get more prison time than a rapist. Furthermore, when you become a felon you can’t vote. Put two and two together: people getting abortions become felons and are consequently no longer able to vote, all because they made a choice for their own bodies.
At the time of writing this, 20 states have already or are going to ban or at least restrict the right to an abortion. Most of these states already had these laws prepared, set to go into effect as soon as Roe v. Wade was overturned. These are referred to as trigger laws. Those 20 are just the states that will certainly outlaw abortion. There are 10 more states for which the future of abortion is unclear.
Altogether, that is over half of the country. So overturning Roe v. Wade is not just leaving it up to the states to decide. Overturning Roe v. Wade is letting the majority of states in the nation take away the rights to someone's own body, safety and health.
In order to enforce these bans, states must be able to find out who has had an abortion and who hasn’t. This raises the question of protection of medical privacy. For example, reproductive health privacy comes into question with something as simple as a period tracker app. People who menstruate should have the right to track their cycle without worrying about who has that information. This information should not be public. Privacy in this age is hard to come by, and it is beyond concerning that states could find out who has had an abortion and prosecute them.
The Supreme Court's argument is based on deeply rooted misogyny, not logic. According to the Supreme Court, abortions are not rooted in American tradition, and the court therefore does not have the right to protect it.
From the majority of the Supreme Court's published opinion: “To be sure, this Court has held that the Constitution protects unenumerated rights that are deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition, and implicit in the concept of ordered liberty. But a right to abortion is not deeply rooted in American history and tradition, as the Court today thoroughly explains.”
What else is deeply rooted in American tradition? Racism, homophobia, and sexism. Does the court have the fundamental right to protect those things as well? They’re doing a pretty good job of it so far, given that the overturning of Roe v. Wade opens up the path to overturn same-sex marriage and limit access to birth control. A senator even mentioned leaving it up to states to decide if interracial marriage was legal. Yay for American tradition, am I right?
Speaking of American tradition, the irony of this decision coming the day after they decided to protect the right to carry arms in public is not lost on me. The proximity of these two decisions just demonstrates how no justice is really “pro-life.” They’re anti-bodily autonomy. It has been said again and again, but the issue of abortion is never actually about protecting a “fetus,” but rather protecting the control and power that the patriarchy has always held. If they were pro-life, they would support universal healthcare and support families after they are forced to have the children the conservative majority is supposedly “protecting.”
In a country where the word “liberty” is tossed around constantly, it is ironic to me that guns have more rights than my body does. In what world does “liberty” equate to stripping a person of their rights to a medical procedure, and beyond that their entire life direction? Even more ironically, that is the word that the majority opinion of the court decided to use while defending their decision to consistently turn over fundamental cases protecting the rights of the so called “free” American citizens they are so concerned with.
On top of protecting the right to be able to carry guns wherever one wants (including sneaking one into a school), there is a baby formula shortage right now. People who must have their baby also now must breastfeed it—which, by the way, is not possible for some families, including a lot of LGBTQ+ parents. This formula shortage is just a small example of how difficult it is to raise a child in this country right now. People who are going to be forced to have a child are now forced to reckon with the outrageously expensive healthcare and underfunded social programs.
Banning abortion extends beyond anything we can even comprehend. This decision not only brings us back to the 70s, when Roe v. Wade was established (I know 70s fashion and music came back, but did we have to take it this far?), but also brings us back to a time when straight, cisgender white men are the only ones with rights. But I guess what I’m seeing now is that we never made any real progress, only temporary relief. Once again, the suffocating power of the patriarchy crushes us all.
So what can we do about it? Protest. Resist the urge to just post Instagram infographics. Hug the people in your life affected by this decision. Take a deep breath, and get ready to fight. This is only the beginning.
If you or someone you know is looking for reproductive health resources, here is a comprehensive list put together by Planned Parenthood that breaks down access to abortions, birth control, testing, and medical advice.