It seems like a simple statement – it’s my body, so I have the right to choose what happens to it. However, it’s one that is causing problems at all levels of society, specifically as it relates to abortion. “My body, my choice,” is one of the battle cries of pro-choice activists, yet once again the American Supreme Court is hearing a case regarding abortion rights, this time regarding a 2013 Texas law (known as SB5) that has already shut down half of the state’s abortion clinics. Although the right to abortion was guaranteed in America by the case Roe v. Wade in 1973, Republicans have been pushing to restrict this right across the US ever since.
Texas is a relatively conservative and Republican state, so it is not a surprise that a challenge to Roe v. Wade emerged there. The lawmakers who passed SB5 disguised it as a law protecting women’s health by requiring abortion clinics to meet strict standards, such as those for ambulatory surgical centers. However, everyone knows this isn’t the actual reason behind the law – the lawmakers themselves have admitted it.
Shutting down abortion clinics presents a far greater risk to women’s health. Some conservative Republicans and pro-life activists seem not to understand that women do not get abortions “just because.” Abortion is a difficult process that is very emotionally painful for many women, and many women choose to have abortions because they will not be able to care for a baby, they were raped and did not want to have their attacker’s baby or the pregnancy is a danger to the pregnant woman. In Texas, women whose pregnancy puts them at an immediate risk are now unable to get an abortion or find it much harder to do so. There is no way that Texas’ new law regarding abortion can be viewed as one supporting women’s health—it has the opposite effect since women are now resorting to illegal or dangerous measures to get an abortion.
“People will always find a way no matter what, and if it’s illegal people will hurt themselves or abuse the children,” said NYU Shanghai freshman Catt Kim. “But I also think you should take into account what is considered a baby in a court of law—for example, if a pregnant woman is killed, at what point is it considered a double homicide? But it shouldn’t be based on religion.” Interestingly, America has a law about the legal status of unborn children. Passed in 2004, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act says that any unborn child, at any stage of development, can be a legal victim. However, it is explicitly stated in the act that this law does extend to abortion cases. Whether abortion is “murder” of an Unborn Victim or not is something not covered by U.S. law.
Most anti-abortion activists have perspectives similar to the writers of SB5—they approach the issue of abortion from a religious perspective, not from one respecting individual rights and women’s health. And SB5 isn’t a new development in the fight over abortion and other reproductive rights. In 2011, a Republican from Nebraska proposed a bill that would allow health providers to deny birth control to women for religious reasons. The bill was defeated in March 2012 but was quickly followed by other attempts: A South Dakota law requires “spiritual counseling” at a religious center before an abortion. A Republican from Louisiana wants women who have abortions to be tried for feticide (killing of a fetus, a crime which currently will get you 5-15 years in prison). A Republican from Indiana also led a charge to defund Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides abortions but also offers other health services to both men and women. And, who can forget Nov. 27, 2015, when all the anti-abortion hatred led Robert Lewis Dear to enter a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs and kill three people?
When you look at this history of bigotry and violence perpetrated against women by anti-abortion activists, it seems laughable to call them “pro-life” anymore since they have killed people in the name of their cause. Approaching the issue of abortion from a religious view also doesn’t make sense in 21st Century America – America is not a Christian nation, there is no official religion, and, therefore, it is unethical to make legal decisions based on religious beliefs. “If a woman wants to have an abortion, she should be able to. The government is mostly male, why should they be able to tell us what to do?” agreed NYU student Evelyn Yang. If Republicans were really concerned about protecting the health of women, they would make sure that abortion clinics across America are fully funded, not shut them down.
This article was written by Savannah Billman. Please send an email to email@example.com to get in touch.
Photo Credit: Steenaire on Flickr