No, the Fall of Roe v. Wade Is Not Worth It Just to End Pro-Choice Complacency
Welcome to The Week in Reproductive Justice, a weekly recap of all news related to the hot-button issue of what lawmakers are allowing women to do with their bodies!
Would abortion rights across the country actually be strengthened by the reversal of Roe v. Wade? Abortion rights activist and author Robin Marty argues that it would in a controversial essay published this week, in which Marty writes, “If Roe v. Wade’s fate really comes before the Supreme Court, then for the first time in decades, the abortion rights movement will understand that the threat it is facing is not theoretical, and supporters will stop fighting like it is.”
While I have to disagree, personally, that the end of a legal precedent as fundamental as Roe could be beneficial—it sounds a bit like Susan Sarandon’s response to Donald Trump’s election, honestly—I couldn’t agree more about the reality that complacency has plagued the national dialogue about abortion rights for decades.
Certainly, many women and allies have been speaking up and fighting for reproductive justice for decades, warning about all that was at stake in the 2016 presidential election and pointing out the dangerous, anti-choice movements seizing state legislatures, but for the most part, both “pro-choice” politicians and people have cited the existence of Roe to look away from and dismiss valid concerns about the modern, escalating war on reproductive rights for years.
As a result, more than a third of all 1,200 anti-abortion laws enacted since 1973’s Roe decision were passed in the last roughly seven years alone, and maternal death rates, especially for women of color and women in states with more anti-abortion laws, have steadily increased.
Just this week, anti-choice Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed into law the most extreme anti-abortion restriction in the country: a ban on abortions at or after a fetal heartbeat develops. This law, which has previously been enacted in Iowa before being thrown out by a judge, would effectively ban all abortions, as a fetal heartbeat develops around six weeks—before most pregnant people are aware they’re pregnant.
For many women and pregnant people in this country, Roe has never been a complete reality, or much more than a theoretical right rendered inaccessible by too many legal, socioeconomic, or geographic restrictions. The success and efficiency of the anti-choice movement has not always been visible on the national level, but has been a long time in the making, more recently taking highly visible form in the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, and an onslaught of high-profile anti-abortion laws and lawsuits.
Marty couldn’t be more right that it’s past time for a serious, action-oriented reckoning to save reproductive rights before it’s too late, but I still believe we can have this reckoning without making things even more perilous through the end of Roe—and without relegating those who would be harmed by Roe’s reversal to collateral damage just to teach bad allies a lesson
Everyone shoulders an obligation to listen to the voices of marginalized communities and do what we can to advocate for their rights and access to these rights; it shouldn’t necessitate colossal harm to these marginalized communities to finally make everyone realize this.
Federal judge once again strikes down Kentucky anti-abortion law
In what is notably the second decision by a federal judge to strike down Kentucky anti-abortion laws in just a matter of days, on Wednesday, a judge struck down a law that would ban abortions that were believed to be performed on the basis of the fetus’ gender, race, or disability.
Laws like this embody what is, at this point, run-of-the-mill legislative behavior for anti-choice politicians: emotionally manipulative rhetoric to justify restrictions on women’s right to make their own health care decisions. The reasoning behind women’s decision to have an abortion is highly personal, and should never be weaponized to deny them autonomy.
Last week, the same judge blocked the enforcement of Kentucky’s fetal heartbeat abortion ban.
While both rulings mark significant victories for reproductive rights, and Kentucky women and pregnant people, it’s concerning nonetheless that this many unconstitutional, dangerous anti-abortion laws are being passed in state legislatures, to be challenged in court at all.
Illinois bill to protect minors’ reproductive rights advances
In some much-needed good news, an Illinois bill that would repeal a law requiring minors to notify their parents before receiving abortion care passed out of an Illinois’ state Senate committee. Current Illinois law permits minors seeking abortion care to bypass the parental notification requirement with the permission of a judge, but as a former associate judge on the Cook Judicial Circuit Court has put it, this isn’t another option, but an additional “unnecessary hurdle for [minors.]”
Across the country, 37 states, including Illinois, require parental involvement in minors’ access to abortion care, in the form of parental notification or consent laws. These laws can place minors with abusive or intolerant parents in serious danger, or prohibit them from safely accessing health care altogether.
Being a minor, and therefore being less likely to be financially independent, comes with enough challenges to access abortion care, as is. The addition of parental involvement laws further sends the message that bodily autonomy and determinism should be contingent on a person’s age or their parents’ beliefs.
Committee hearings for the bill saw an onslaught of highly dangerous, but at this point typical, anti-abortion rhetoric equating the health care service with murder and infanticide, but it ultimately triumphed and will now move for consideration from the full state Senate.
Tune in next week to see what lawmakers will try next in their never-ending mission to derail reproductive justice!
(image: Avivi Aharon / Shutterstock.com)
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