Reproductive Rights Progressing… Backward
Issue 16, Volume 112
By Erica Li
A person’s options, once pregnant, vary throughout the country. Though states cannot ban abortion outright, many restrictions, such as long waiting periods, consent requirements, and strict facility codes, are enforced. For example, a pregnant person living in New York would be able to easily access an abortion, while a pregnant person living in Texas would need to check whether it’s been six weeks of pregnancy and acquire parental consent for the procedure if under 18 years old. If the reversal of Roe v. Wade is officially finalized, it will be completely up to the state to decide the necessary standards around receiving an abortion. Whether people’s reproductive rights continue to be protected will depend on whether state representatives lean toward pro-choice or pro-life. Pregnant people’s right to make decisions over their bodies should not be decided by the political opinions of strangers.
Today, the fear that the Supreme Court will revoke the right to abortion is very much set to become reality. A leak of the draft opinion from the Supreme Court confirmed that Roe v. Wade could be overturned. In the draft, Justice Samuel Alito argues that “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start” and that it is time to return the “issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”
Increasing political polarization in America means that anything is possible. In 13 states, trigger laws are poised to enter into effect the moment Roe is overturned, which could limit the right to even access basic contraceptives. For example, in Louisiana, the legislation would classify abortion as murder and define “personhood” as beginning from the moment of fertilization. Essentially, anything that would prevent a fertilized egg from becoming a real pregnancy and being born would be considered murder, including intrauterine devices and emergency contraceptives like Plan B. In Michigan, an abortion ban from 1931 that makes providing abortion a felony outside of cases in which the life of the pregnant person is threatened is also at risk of being revived if Roe v. Wade is officially overturned.
What many pro-life supporters and conservatives do not take into account is that a pregnant person’s physical and mental health are at risk when forced to keep the fetus. People who are denied an abortion are more likely to have higher levels of anxiety, lower life satisfaction, and lower self-esteem. They are also more likely to be victims of domestic abuse, as denial of an abortion forces them to stay in contact and depend on their partners, putting both themselves and their children at risk. Additionally, a person’s ability to control when and if they want to have a child is often connected to their current socioeconomic status. Seventy-four percent of people who choose to get an abortion do so because having a child would interfere with their education, work, or ability to care for dependents. Seventy-three percent of people choose to abort because they cannot afford having a child.
Striking down Roe will impact marginalized communities the most. Accessing abortions, even with Roe currently in place, is already highly difficult for people of color, low-income Americans, and those living in rural areas. These communities already struggle to access proper care since restrictions set by state legislatures have forced the closure of many clinics, creating “abortion deserts.” Even where there are clinics that can offer them care, people of color are more likely to experience obstacles. Black women die at three to four times the rate of non-Hispanic white women due to pregnancy-related issues, and Black and Hispanic women experience higher rates of unintended pregnancy than white women. Asian American and Pacific Islander women also tend to forgo reproductive healthcare due to cultural stigma, stereotypes, and fear.
Furthermore, the end of Roe v. Wade means access to reproductive health care for the transgender and nonbinary community would be further limited. Many abortion facilities also provide hormone therapy and other essential services to transgender people. If these facilities close down, many transgender people will not be able to access necessary medical services. Transgender and nonbinary people already face discrimination in the American healthcare system. About 30 percent of transgender people reported delaying or discontinuing seeking care because of fear of discrimination, and approximately one in four transgender people said that they have been denied equal treatment in healthcare. If a transgender man does carry a pregnancy to term, the effects of hormone therapy on pregnancy can change the medication he has to take. However, many reproductive health facilities aren’t able to provide transgender-specific treatments. Many transgender patients who need reproductive healthcare are also victims to misinformation. Transgender people are more likely to live in poverty, more likely to be unemployed or underemployed, and less likely to have insurance. If Roe is struck down, the effects on marginalized communities will be severe.
A popular argument that many pro-life supporters make against abortions is that people can just put their children up for adoption or into the foster care system. Adoption is not a replacement for abortion rights. Adoption is often difficult and traumatic for the birth parents. In order for adoption to happen, someone still needs to carry a pregnancy to term and give birth. That process itself is already incredibly risky, especially in America, as maternal death rates increase. Additionally, there are social consequences to consider, from unwanted questions to potential abuse from family members or spouses. According to a study at Tulane University, homicide is the leading cause of death for pregnant people. Furthermore, many birth parents experience intense grief, mourning, and alienation. Society doesn’t provide support for birth parents when it comes to negotiating or maintaining contact with their biological children. It is not easy to find a home for their birth child as well. There are more than 400 thousand children in foster care in the U.S. Less than half of the children who get put up for adoption actually get adopted, and in fact, if and when a child is adopted are affected by systemic racism. Black children take longer to be adopted than white children. Moreover, the birth parents are not the only ones who are affected by adoption. The children are as well. Adopted children often deal with lifelong issues around their identity and feelings of self worth and abandonment.
The biggest issue is that restricting abortion will not decrease the number of abortions happening throughout the country. It will cause a greater number of people to die, as people will choose to self-induce abortions through dangerous practices or go to someone without the proper skill to perform the procedure. As a result, many people will end up getting infected, hemorrhaging, or receiving extensive injuries because they lack proper medical equipment, support, and information.
People’s right over their sexuality and their reproductive system shouldn’t be a debate in America. It should not be decided by the hands of state representatives or the government but rather by the people themselves. Restricting or even banning abortion would be incredibly damaging to a person’s health. This consequence is why more people in America need to fight to protect reproductive rights. Donate to abortion funds, as they help connect people with the resources they need to get proper healthcare. Join in on protests to raise awareness, and make sure that your voice is heard. But most importantly, if you can vote, vote. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, then it will be up to the state to determine the legality of getting an abortion. We all need to vote to ensure that our future is in the hands of state representatives who we know are going to support our choices. We need to continue to fight to protect people’s right to make their own choices for their own bodies.