Opinion: The Supreme Court’s Mishandling of the Sacred Right to Choose
By Sophia Alexandrou
This past month, a Supreme Court majority opinion that, if followed through with, will effectively overturn Roe v. Wade, eliminating the right to receive an abortion on the federal level, was leaked. Should this happen, it would be up to the states to decide their own abortion laws. This situation is highly unprecedented, not just because it marks the first time in American history that a case was disclosed to the public during the court’s deliberation, but also because it introduces an exceedingly scary possible future for women across the country.
While it is true that this Supreme Court decision will not effectively ban access to all abortions in the country, it is likely that at least half of the states will. In fact, 13 states including Arkansas and Idaho have put in place trigger laws that will ban abortion the second the court officially decides to overturn Roe v. Wade. This issue here is that even though there will be abortion clinics available in other states in the country, many of the women who are seeking this service do not have the resources to travel to these places. According to the Guttmacher Institute, three-quarters of the abortion patients in the United States were low-income and 49% were below the poverty line. Many of the women seeking abortions cannot afford to pay for their pregnancy or raise a child, and the government knows this. Does it simply not care? It appears that the government will make the only solution to a financially devastating issue fiscally out of reach for the poorer class in order to maintain a level of economic and political power over them. Taking away the rights to an abortion is not just oppression directed towards women, it is oppression that specifically targets poor women.
An alliance to the “pro-life” side of the debate regarding abortion rights is very telling of one’s level of hypocrisy. If people are truly “pro-life,” wouldn’t they value the lives of the estimated 70,000 women who die annually by unsafe abortions? Wouldn’t it also interest them to know that a majority of these occur in developing nations where abortion is illegal and that safe and legal access to abortions decreases the average annual maternal mortality rate? Again, it appears that people who support the pro-life movement do not care. The pro-life argument is not one that is based in care for human life, it is based in the desire for human control. Whether this desire manifests in the control over someone else’s body or someone else’s ability to decide the path of their own life, these “pro-lifers” want nothing but control.
Many point to the morality and philosophy of abortion to support their opposition to the medical practice. The debate over abortion is multi-faceted and nuanced. Arguing over the technicalities of what abortion technically is or is not, is immensely unproductive. When a fetus becomes a person is constantly debated and consistently polarizing across both medical and religious communities and the definition of “murder” is seemingly never fully agreed upon. However, these technicalities are not actually that essential to the discussion of abortion. Ultimately, this argument comes down to a person’s right to bodily autonomy.
The right to bodily autonomy is protected under the Fourth Amendment and under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which prevents the government’s infringement of privacy, the exact clause that provided the basis for the decision of Roe v. Wade. This is why the government cannot force one to donate blood, even if donating the blood is the only chance someone else has to survive. The government should not be able to force a woman to give up her body for nine months, even if it would mean saving the life of an unborn fetus. Whether one agrees with morality of this clause is entirely irrelevant. What power dynamic would a state hold with its people if it were allowed to take any amount of control over a citizen’s body without their consent?
Because the federal right to an abortion through Roe v. Wade is a court precedent and not an actual law, the only action that could prevent the overturning of this decision is if Congress codifies it into law. Then, the only way the Supreme Court could challenge and possibly overturn it would be through another court case. The Democrats in Congress have expressed their intention to do so soon, but nothing has happened yet. This precedent should have been codified into law much earlier.
The belief in the right to choose is not the belief in murdering babies, it is the belief that every decision to receive an abortion was the right one for that person. It is the understanding that one does not have to morally agree with the practice to understand its necessity. It is the understanding that nobody has the right to control what happens to someone else’s body. The “pro-choice” argument is often accompanied with the sentiment that men should not be making decisions about women’s bodies. While this is definitely true, women should also not be making decisions about other women’s bodies. The decision to get an abortion is an incredibly individual one and should be left out of the hands of the government. The only role that government officials need to assume regarding abortion is simply allowing a woman the power to choose.