Online Musings: 43 Years After Roe Vs Wade
Slavery, imprisonment, rape, disease, murder, kidnapping. Any situation where an adult is not in control of his or her own body is a loathsome one, and one we avoid at all costs and even criminalize to help protect ourselves.
So why are women in this country still being forced to remain pregnant and give birth to unwanted children, clearly not in control of their own bodies? Why are they being harassed and obstructed from obtaining the urgent medical care they need when the deeply personal decision is made to terminate a pregnancy?
The 1973 Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision established the right of a woman (and her physician) to decide “whether or not to terminate her pregnancy” during its first three months. This means a woman should experience zero obstacles, restrictions or waiting periods to having an abortion during this timeframe and those who impede the supply of such services should be barred from doing so.
The Court’s decision further upheld limits on the ability of states to control personal behavior, a protection found in the Fourteenth Amendment’s concept of personal liberty. The Court confined the states' ability to restrict later stage abortions to only those regulations necessary to protect a woman’s health or in the third trimester after the fetus is potentially viable outside the womb.
Despite those clear guidelines, so far this year 411 abortion restrictions have been introduced in state legislatures according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy analysis organization. Nine states have introduced measures to ban all or most abortions in their states, and 13 states have introduced bans on D&E abortions, the most common technique used in second-trimester abortions, for reasons having absolutely nothing to do with protecting a woman’s health. These latest restrictions only expand the state-by-state dragnet already in place to limit a woman’s access to abortion, or completely prevent it, as in the Texas situation currently under review by the Supreme Court.
But while the Court debates, these women must wait, which of course is too late for them and the years of women who have come before them. Why should any state be allowed to restrict any woman’s access to this fundamental right? Women have always had this right. Women have always had abortions. According to WHO approximately 125,000 abortions are performed worldwide each day. In the US, where nearly half of all pregnancies are unintended, four in 10 of these are terminated by abortion. Highly restrictive abortion laws are not associated with lower abortion rates, just higher unsafe abortion rates and fatalities. Roe vs Wade protects women’s health, not state-enacted restrictions.
But what about the unborn life? When does life begin? While some believe a penis creates a new soul and life begins magically with the wave of a magic wand, in truth, it takes months of construction, undertaken solely through the efforts of a woman, to create a new person. The project may get scrapped at any point along the way for any number of reasons by a woman’s body — most of them before a woman even knows she is pregnant, as her body spontaneously aborts up to half of all pregnancies throughout her lifetime. But sometimes those reasons are consciously made decisions that the pregnancy must end because now is not the right time or the right partner or she doesn’t want any children or she already has enough children.
The idea that a soul is created at conception — making pregnancy the will of God and an abortion an act of murder — is purely a personal belief. In other traditions, a soul denied entry through one birth mother eventually finds another or comes back to the same mother at a later date. Purely a personal belief. Likewise for those who believe the soul does not enter the fetus until the “quickening,” the first time the baby is felt kicking, around the fourth or fifth month. For billions of others around the world, an unwanted pregnancy is a medical condition to be treated like any other and the safest, most effective procedures are performed in the patient’s best interest without any discussion of soul. Also a personal belief. So who is to be believed? This is why Roe vs Wade clarified and constitutionally protects a woman’s right to have access to safe, legal and readily available abortion services anywhere in the U.S.
Opponents, however, continue to restrict these rights at the state level. Particularly in this presidential election year, choosing candidates who are vigilant about protecting women's rights is a priority. The numbers of people saying they won’t vote for either Trump or Hillary is staggering. If Bernie does not make it to the nomination, I don’t particularly like Hillary myself, but not voting for her just because I don’t like everything she stands for is abandoning this issue that’s too important to leave up to chance. If nothing else, Hillary will protect a woman’s right to choose when and if to become a mother.
To all mothers everywhere and every woman who has ever mothered a doll, a friend, a sibling, a co-worker, a pet — your heart is forever loved because you opened it and let someone else in. Even if things didn't turn out perfectly, that love never goes away. Happy Mother’s Day!
Carol Bedrosian is the publisher of Spirit of Change holistic magazine. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.