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A slippery slope: abortion now, what next?

Few, if any, women come to the decision of an abortion lightly. It is an extraordinarily difficult and emotional choice to make, but for the women who choose abortion, it is necessary. No woman’s neighbor, friend, colleague or local representative is entitled to her reasoning; nor is the mayor of her city, the governor of her state, the U.S Supreme Court Justices or any other person or politician. In an unprecedented breach of confidentiality, an initial draft majority opinion of the Supreme Court was leaked on May 2, 2022. The Supreme Court debased precedent twice when it was revealed that Roe v. Wade is likely to come tumbling down within the next couple of months, along with 49 years of precedent and a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body and her own health. 

Despite the thickly religious rhetoric around abortion in the United States, it is less a religious issue than it is a political one, which has become exceptionally clear within the past year. Ireland and Mexico, two of the most Catholic nations in the world, have legalized abortion. One out of every four abortions in the U.S. is performed on a Catholic woman. Over half of American Catholics support the right to an abortion, and figures are similar for other religions that traditionally oppose abortion. If religious countries and people can support the right to an abortion, then it has to be about something else in the U.S. In 1976, Republicans incorporated an anti-abortion stance into their platform, an issue that hadn’t previously divided Democrats and Republicans. Once the GOP became a vehicle for the pro-life movement, it garnered support from the stronger, far-right Christians, who then drew religion in. Politicians adapted their expressions on abortion to appeal religously, but in reality, the stances on abortion pushed by conservative politicians were ones motivated by control and power; control in their party and power over women.

Power-hungry politicians have continued to adopt this rhetoric, using women’s bodies as a political battleground. This recently culminated in a series of unfortunate events including Trump’s appointment of three conservative Supreme Court justices — the passing of S.B. 8, a law that prohibits abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected and is enforced by involving civil lawsuits against anyone who intends to or does “aid and abet” an abortion — by Texas Governor Greg Abbot and the subsequent restrictive abortion laws in other states. These developments put Roe v. Wade in jeopardy and poised the Supreme Court to overturn it. While some political analysts had predicted the overturn of Roe V. Wade given the current conservative majority of SCOTUS, the blatant disregard of precedent and the Fourteenth Amendment is jarring, as are the implications this will have for women in the United States. One of the most alarming parts of the draft was where it stated, “The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision.” The Constitution fails to make direct references to an enormous number of rights that we have, including gay marriage, the use of contraception and many other personal choices. To overturn Roe v. Wade on these grounds is dangerous, as it opens a doorway to overturning cases like Obergefell v. Hodges and Griswold v. Connecticut, which allowed gay marriage and contraception, respectively. These cases, among others, act as precedents in a similar way that Roe v. Wade does. If Roe v. Wade is overturned so easily, then who is to say that these cases will not be as well one day, if it is in the best interest of politicians and the Supreme Court. 

What women deserve in a perfect world is autonomy without shame. But throughout American history, regardless of whether or not abortion has been legal, women have been faced with the heavy stigma and political implications of their choices. While abortion is undoubtedly a moral and philosophical argument, it should not be a political or social one. Nonetheless, picketers and politicians alike feel entitled to the decisions of other women, who they do not know, understand or listen to. These strangers equate a woman’s choice about her personal life to murder. When someone walks into a women’s health center for an abortion, only one person gets hurt that day: the woman who gets berated by unkind and hurtful words in an hour of need. It is women who will feel the repercussions of men — who will never be in a position to understand what a choice like abortion would feel like — with state and federal legislatures ripping away a fundamental right and women’s agency.

When Roe v. Wade is overturned, about 100 million women will lose access to abortion, and all American women will lose a fundamental right and power over their own bodies. One of the quotes circulating widely from the draft, written by Justice Samuel Alito, is, “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start.” He is wrong; what is egregiously wrong is the audacity of anyone, especially male politicians, to cast the claims, wants and needs of a living woman aside, to regulate the personal decisions of 50.8% of the American population. Low-income, high-risk and women of color will feel this wrath the most. Women will be forced to carry pregnancies that they do not want for reasons that no one is entitled to know. The overturning of Roe v. Wade will not eliminate abortion; it will elimanate safe abortion. Women will retreat back into the same alleyways they were in before 1973. In these alleyways, with illegal, at-home abortions, real women will die. 

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