I am not a woman. I am not a doctor, an activist, or a parent. I am, like most Americans, generally focused on other issues besides the (often toxic) national debate on abortion, at least until it pushes onto my consciousness.
Today it has pushed onto my consciousness. In a widely anticipated ruling, the Supreme Court of the United States has ended national protection for women receiving abortions after 5 months. It’s now up to the states to determine their own protections. Thus, in many states, beginning today, receiving an abortion is a crime.
We all understand why this is, I think. The argument from anti-abortion activists is quite simple, actually: every fetus is a human being, from conception to hospital delivery room, and purposefully ending its life is murder.
We also understand, I hope, that the Supreme Court did not make this argument in striking down the law. The 1973 ruling which protected abortion up to fetal viability (22–24 weeks) relied on the 14th Amendment, which was ratified in 1868 to defend and uphold the rights of newly freed slaves — “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States” and all that. Since then, and particularly since the law was more fully enforced following the Civil Rights movement, the Court has used this wording to defend the rights of individuals from states not just in cases of racial inequality, but inequality for women, LGBTQ+ individuals, and more. Abortion has been included in those protections. But the law was not originally written about women, or trans people, or anyone else, and there has been increasing pressure to return the amendment to its original reading, or at least as close as possible. Today’s ruling is a step in that direction.
Such a move, of course, turns my stomach as it relates to protections for minorities and women. Were we to strike down all laws and ordinances which rely on the 14th Amendment which did not relate to the plight of recently freed slaves, we would absolutely eviscerate our legal code. The Court even seems interested in further weakening 14th Amendment rights down the road… but I will keep my focus on abortion here, at least until the next right is under attack.
Nothing I can say is particularly new. But I wish to highlight a few things. This first issue has often been mentioned but it bears repeating: abortions do not cease when you outlaw them. And unless you set up nationwide call/text monitoring and a secret police to enforce your rules, you cannot stop abortions. Because when you take a decision which has financial, moral, and personal repercussions for the rest of one’s life and put it in the hands of the state, people will wrest it back. Beverly will text that sketchy doctor or sit outside the strip club waiting for their “expert” or quit her job and drive to a friend’s house in a liberal state to get the abortion and recover for a few weeks. George will risk his job and reputation to help his girlfriend through a traumatizing decision. And on top of all the social and emotional repercussions they would have faced before, they will now be liable to arrest and captivity by their own state for “murdering” this strange combination of sperm and egg which they (wittingly or unwittingly) helped to form a few weeks ago.
And lest we speak lightly of the time required in this process, timing is everything. Roe v Wade protected abortion past 20 weeks, by which time it is estimated that over 99% of women know they’re pregnant. But so many of the “trigger laws” which have gone into effect following the end of Roe don’t allow women time to even know if they’re pregnant — 0 weeks, 3 weeks, etc. After which you’re a criminal if you get an abortion. So if the condom breaks, or the pill fails, or (heaven forbid) you get drunk with your girlfriend and do something young and stupid, and you find out a few weeks later, you’re guilty of manslaughter if you want to rectify that mistake. Getting drunk and having sex is suddenly more dangerous than getting drunk and driving.
Finally, let’s not even talk about cases of rape and incest, which are not protected in many “trigger” laws. Because apparently, when a man puts his pole and lets loose inside a woman without her consent, the moral law of the universe is so structured that the woman is better off spending the rest of her life raising that baby (with or without his help) than she is driving down to the doctor’s office to have the result of the offending semen removed. Not only that, but apparently, her violation of the universal moral law if she removes that fetus is so great that the state is justified in throwing her in prison if she reacts to her rape or incest in that manner.
So yeah. I have a few feelings. Perhaps raw and perhaps even regrettable. But I think this state of affairs is regrettable, and it sickens me. So I write, to share and to commiserate and to hope for better days ahead. Here’s to freedom.