My Body, No Longer My Choice?
By Emma Bradley ‘20
Imagine living in a world where the course of your life is decided for you — where you have no control over your own body. Imagine a world where choice is not allowed based on false presumptions, justice is not granted, and women are not protected under the law. Many of us now grapple with the realization that this sad hypothetical is becoming a reality in our own country. Recently, lawmakers in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, and Utah have passed legislation limiting access to abortion. These laws have been dubbed “heartbeat bills” because they base the ethicality of an abortion on whether or not the fetus has a heartbeat, a stage in fetal development that happens around 5-6 weeks. According to The Washington Post, Alabama’s abortion law is considered the strictest abortion law yet, deeming all abortions after six weeks illegal even in cases of rape and incest. The only exception? When the mother’s life is at risk or the baby has “fatal anomalies” that would prevent them from surviving. Missouri’s law also does not grant exemption from the law in cases of rape and incest. Additionally, lawmakers in Alabama are punishing doctors who perform illegal abortions.
Though abortion is legal under the Supreme Court Case Roe v. Wade, Republican lawmakers have ulterior motives in passing these abortion bans: they want these laws to be brought to the Supreme Court in hopes that the current 5-4 Republican majority will overturn Roe V. Wade or simply restrict abortion. However, I believe that restricting abortion is both morally wrong and statistically ineffective.
First, outlawing abortion beyond 6 or 8 weeks proves challenging because, according to the New York Times, most women do not yet know they are pregnant at 6 weeks. Thus, these abortion laws are essentially complete bans on abortion and therefore total violations of Roe V. Wade. I believe that these laws are morally unjust; a woman's body is her own, and if she decides she does not want to carry a child, she has a right to an abortion. These lawmakers either don’t realize or intentionally ignore that pregnancy is not just a physical change; it is a change in lifestyle. Forcing a woman to carry a child she does not want to carry is an utter and disgusting violation of her rights. The pro-life line of reasoning often stems from the common argument that a fetus is a human being, too, after it has a heartbeat. However, this reasoning, in my opinion, is flawed; a fetus at six weeks is not fully developed and would not live if born. I believe abortion remains acceptable until the point at which a fetus has a very likely chance of survival if born.
Second, outlawing abortion has been proven ineffective at the one goal it attempts to achieve: reducing the number of abortions. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that studies reproductive health, “the abortion rate is 37 per 1,000 women in countries that prohibit abortion altogether or allow it only to save a woman’s life, and 34 per 1,000 in countries that allow abortion without restriction as to reason—a difference that is not significant.” Thus, Republican lawmakers’ claim that their reason to restrict abortion is to “save lives,” loses weight, considering the lack of statistical difference in abortions between places that prohibit them or allow them. Lawmakers are avoiding the one viable solution: increased access to contraception. According to a study at Washington University of St. Louis, “providing birth control to women at no cost substantially reduces unplanned pregnancies and cuts abortion rates by a range of 62 to 78 percent compared to the national rate.” If lawmakers truly wish to change the number of abortions in the United States, they need to open their eyes, look at the facts, and act based on truth rather than presumption.
The recent laws in eight states restricting abortion constitute a complete violation of women’s rights. It is my sincere hope for the future that the U.S. Supreme Court finds these laws unconstitutional and overrules them.