When I returned home in the afternoon of Friday 24th June, I noticed that, for the first time in a long time, my family were completely quiet. They all had their eyes fixed on the TV screen, gaping slightly, and with a somewhat horrified look on their faces.
They were watching live coverage of the overturning of Roe v. Wade in Washington.
For anyone who doesn’t know about the original case, it was one brought by Norma McCorvey (using the pseudonym ‘Jane Roe’), after she became pregnant in 1969 and wanted to terminate her pregnancy. Because she lived in Texas, where abortion was illegal except when necessary to save the mother’s life, she therefore filed a lawsuit against the district attorney, Henry Wade, arguing that the current abortion laws were unconstitutional.
Thankfully, the court agreed with her, and ruled in her favour. Moreover, when an appeal took the case to the Supreme Court, on January 22, 1973, a 7—2 vote agreed that, under the Fourteenth Amendment (prohibiting unjust and arbitrary deprivation of “life, liberty, or property” by the government), the right to have an abortion should, and must, be protected. Even though they still maintained a few limitations, based primarily on how far into the pregnancy a woman was and whether the abortion was needed in order to protect the life of the mother, this was still undeniably a huge win for every person in America who had previously feared what might happen to them if they had to go through an unwanted pregnancy.
It was also one that the public, naively, thought would last.
It seems that almost immediately after the original rulings, conservatives across the U.S. began to plot how they might eventually return to the previous laws. They worked relentlessly, shaping the courts and political system to suit their plan, in order to dictate their pointless desires unto the people. Many excuses were offered — often the same pathetic lines we still hear today.
One of the most ridiculous is the use of religion to justify the belief that abortion should be banned. Essentially these white Christians, who originate mainly from the Puritan backgrounds that first colonised — or, invaded — America, have now decided that they can invade women’s bodies too. They take a book (one that they can’t even prove the author of), and pick out a single random line, using it to decide how everyone else is governed. News anchor, Ana Kasparian says it best, when she explains that “I don’t care if you’re a Christian. In fact, I will fight for you to have your religious liberty and practice your Christianity. I don’t believe in Christianity, which means you do not get to dictate the way I live my life based on your religion”. In other words, Americans should be respecting each other’s Constitutional rights, such as the freedom of religion, meaning that if they believe, in accordance with their own religion, that they shouldn’t have an abortion, then they have every right not to do so. But that by no means entitles them to decide how others live their lives, based on their own religions, or if they do not even follow a religion.
As a Jewish woman, this argument speaks to me and my community. For us, Jewish life does not begin at conception (which is what many religious Christians believe). In the Talmud, a collection of statements and commentaries from ancient rabbis, one argument explains that, for the first 40 days of the pregnancy, the foetus is still “merely water”, and, after that period of time, it is then regarded as part of the pregnant person’s body, meaning it is actually secondary to the person who is carrying the child. Therefore, it is up to them whether they want to terminate the pregnancy or not.
In fact, in a 2014 survey of people of different religion’s opinions on abortion (not that it should ever really be anyone else’s business anyway), 83% of Jews said that they believed it should be legal, with 82% of Buddhists, 68% of Hindus and 55% of Muslims agreeing. Those who are not Christians top the rank, joined only by very liberal Christians (with 60% agreeing that abortions should be legal).
Another argument is that people should not be having abortions, even if they can’t look after the child once it is born, because they can always put it up for adoption. A common sign that floats through pro-life demonstrations is one that says some variation of “don’t abort, we will adopt your baby”. While this argument seems fair when first hearing it, it completely disregards the difficulty of the pregnancy that must still be endured, which could potentially be life threatening, as well as the fact that, in the U.S. alone, there are currently around 400,000 children in foster care, who are in need of a permanent home — which these pro-lifers are not offering them. This argument is further complicated by the fact that Republicans are continuing to strip away rights of people who actually do want to adopt, such as the Tennessee governor, Bill Lee, who signed an anti-gay adoption bill in 2020, allowing faith-based foster care and adoption agencies to exclude LGBTQ+ parents from caring for children in desperate need of it.
Essentially, this new ruling is pure hypocrisy. And let’s be honest, all it really is, as Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett describes it, is “state-sanctioned forced birth”. People are now going to be forced to give birth in a country where 192 Republicans have voted against providing $28 million of aid for the baby formula shortage. People are now going to be forced to give birth in a country where there is no universal healthcare, and the cost of merely giving birth can be as high as $15,000. People are now going to be forced to give birth in a country where the mortality rate for Black pregnant people is 2-3 times higher than others. People are now going to be forced to give birth in a country where gun violence is the main cause of death among young people.
The irony now is that, in the U.S., guns actually have more rights than those who give birth.
This is really a clear, and disturbing, indication of what the Republican party prioritises. The majority of this party is advocating for the suffering and killing of their own citizens. Their equals. This is not support. This is not representation of the people. This is control. And doing whatever they want just to prove how much power lies with them. This was never about religion, or personal beliefs, but rather the mission to reinstate the straight, cisgender white male as the most powerful being there is — the person whose rights have never been infringed upon.
America is quickly taking the shape of a strange merge of every piece of dystopian and speculative fiction you’ve ever read. Obviously, with the clearly displayed belief that women can and must be controlled by the state, we’re beginning to see more of a correlation with American reality and the life described in Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ — some women are even trying now to secure trips to Canada, in order to attain access to abortions. Moreover, it is now going to become possible for states who completely criminalise abortions to use digital surveillance to track people, an idea with a painful connotation to George Orwell’s novel, ‘1984’. People who use period-tracking apps in America are now being advised to delete them, as well as using a VPN (virtual private network), throwaway email adresses, private browsers, or pre-paid debit cards when ordering what is called a ‘Plan C’ pill, effectively an abortion (up to 11 weeks) without a procedure.
Health, however, is not the only significant issue after this ruling. Now that something so simple as self-determination and bodily autonomy has been compromised, the group who are going to be arguably the most threatened are low income women of colour. For decades upon decades, conservatives in the U.S. have blamed black mothers for everything that their children may go on to do. They repeatedly claim that “it starts at home”, completely disregarding the possibility that, because of difficulties in raising the child, for whatever reasons, these mothers have been unable to provide in the way they would have liked to. In the words of Ibram X. Kendi, “there is no separating the sexist and racist and classist aspects of this ruling”. Because, let’s be honest, sexism and racism and classism is what drove Republicans to bring the case back to light and overturn the original result. One Republican congresswoman, Mary Miller, even described this as a “historic victory for white life” at a campaign rally the next evening, for former President Donald Trump. And, while a spokesperson later claimed that she was supposed to say “right to life”, I personally find it very hard to believe that someone who had just made such a mistake would not immediately correct themselves, or even have their mistake pointed out by all those around them, if they’re all such loving and caring people, who do not have any racist or white-supremacist ideals at all. This is an almost amusing defence coming from the person who, in the ‘Save The Republic’ rally that sparked the January 6th insurrection attempt last year, thought it would be a good idea to quote Hitler.
These are not good people. They are not looking out for the American people. They are not pro-life. They do not want to protect others. Or rather, they do, unless it is protecting them from things like coronavirus, or school shootings, or from poor access to healthcare, or poverty, or even climate change. They are pro-life until the baby meets any criteria of being a minority, whether that means the baby is trans, Black, gay, sick, disabled, etc.
This is all not to mention that, while the Republicans are so busy caring about unborn children, they could not care less about the life of the person who might want to end their pregnancy. Some American politicians, such as Texas state Representative, Bryan Slaton, are even calling for punishments as severe as the death penalty for those who seek out or administer an abortion.
No, I’m not joking.
The right to life and freedom in life is becoming less and less evident in American politics. And we should all be furious. Following the ruling, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, the longest-serving member of the high court, and someone whose wife was part of the January 6th insurrection attempt last year, wrote that they should now look to “reconsider” other crucial landmark decisions that the Supreme Court has made in the past. These include the 1965 case of Griswold v. Connecticut, which set out the protection of a couple’s marital privacy rights against government restrictions on contraception; Lawrence v. Texas in 2003, which declared it unconstitutional to criminalise any intimate relationship between two consenting adults of the same sex; and Obergefell v. Hodges, which led to the legalisation of same-sex marriage in 2015. Justice Thomas believes that, in doing this, he and the court would be fulfilling their duty of “correct[ing] the error[s]” made in the past.
Many people are speculating about who they’re “coming for” next. But don’t be fooled. They’re already here. They’re already stripping away the rights of people who are supposed to be free. We allow ourselves to underestimate the Republican party, laughing at their absurd and inane comments, and then all of a sudden we’re shocked when they follow through.
They’re not clowns. This is not a skit. These are real, dangerous people, posing a threat to our American counterparts. This issue, however horrifying it is, feels somewhat distant to us, because, here in the UK, our abortion laws feel settled, and suffer little risk of being challenged at the moment. But this is still our fight too. Every human is entitled to the freedom that abortions can provide. No one should be forced into something so potentially life-shattering.
Innocent people should never have to die trying to save themselves from the cruelty and heartlessness of their leaders.
The good news is that, now more than ever, people are learning more about how to support those who are looking for abortions. One organisation working hard to help the cause is Planned Parenthood, a trusted reproductive health care provider that seeks to inform people about all aspect of sexual health, educating on topics like STIs, contraception, birth control and abortions — that is, until many of their clinics were shut down, almost immediately after the ruling. Nonetheless, they are continuing to do whatever they can to protect people’s rights and offer some sort of access to abortions.
I urge you to follow this link and make a donation to the organisation: https://www.weareplannedparenthood.org/onlineactions/2U7UN1iNhESWUfDs4gDPNg2?sourceid=1000063&_ga=2.68880340.494323769.1656535807-1639706374.1656535807
I feel that the only way I can end this is by reminding you of the quote from Amanda Gorman:
“We are never alone when we fight fire with Feminism”.
By Sarah Clif, student