By Lauren Edwards
The news right now is tough and as a parent to a 14-year-old impressionable daughter, we discuss current affairs a lot and I try my best to reassure her concerns about the war in Ukraine, climate change and life after Covid. However, when my daughter asked me what Roe v Wade was about, I felt an overwhelming sadness and for the first time an inability to reassure her. It seems inconceivable for this law to have been overturned, resulting in a woman no longer having control over decisions to do with her own body.
In 1969, at the age of 25, Jane Roe, was pregnant with her third child – she had been raped. At the time, an abortion was considered a crime in thirty states of America. Roe lived in Texas, where abortions were illegal. Roe filed a case to challenge the law to seek a termination. Henry Wade, District Attorney for Dallas County, defended the anti-abortion law, the case was rejected, and Roe was forced to have the child, which was then put up for adoption.
In 1973, the Roe v Wade case was re-examined by the Supreme Court justices and with a 7-2 vote the law was overturned, with the Court deciding that a woman’s right to an abortion was a private matter and protected by the US constitution. It was a huge milestone for women to have their choice returned to them and paved the way for Planned Parenthood centres to open across America allowing women the opportunity to access abortions legally.
Fast forward 50 years and in June 2022, in a 6-3 majority, the Supreme Court justices decided to overturn the ruling, ending the nationwide right for women to seek an abortion. With immediate effect, twenty-six states made the decision to ban abortion, with many states expected to impose severe restrictions.
Three of the Supreme Court justices, in returning the decision, were reported to have said, “from the very moment of fertilisation, a woman has no rights to speak of.”
I felt numb when I heard this news. What will happen to a woman who is raped or a teenager who has an unplanned pregnancy? What about if you have an ectopic pregnancy or a trapped miscarriage and without the option of an abortion you could die? How can a woman not have the right to make a choice about their own uterus?
Now, for example, in the state of Alabama, the penalty for a doctor who performs an abortion in the case of rape could mean life imprisonment, which could result in a longer prison term for the doctor than what the rapist will receive.
My daughter has recently started her periods and relies upon the period tracker Flo installed onto her mobile phone. Sadly, this week, Flo have introduced a new ‘anonymous mode’ to allow users to remove their personal data to avoid law enforcement authorities the ability to identify any women who may be seeking abortions.
When I was thinking about writing this article, I read and watched video clips of those who backed this decision, the ‘pro-life’ supporters, to ensure that I could provide a balanced view. What astounded me was the celebratory way in which they received the news of their victory, describing it as an historic moment to ‘save children.’ Politicians in Alabama even compared abortion to the holocaust in terms of ‘lives lost,’ even demonstrating outside a Holocaust Museum in America.
Mike Pence, former vice-president to Trump, and who is planning to run for president himself in 2024, is no surprise a ‘pro-life’ supporter. Remember, this is the man that, due to his staunch religious beliefs, does not believe in dinosaurs or evolution. His response to the overturning of Roe v Wade was:
“Today, Life Won. By overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court of the United States has given the American people a new beginning for life, and I commend the Justices in the majority for having the courage of their convictions. We must not rest and must not relent until the sanctity of life is restored to the centre of American law in every state in the land.”
This is a controversial subject and usually I would try to stay neutral in my opinion but each time I read a ‘pro-life’ celebratory response I feel sickened, frightened even, at this new control over women’s rights.
Just take a second to imagine explaining to your daughter why they need to use the anonymous mode on their period tracker. Imagine you or your daughter having to choose a back street abortion or travelling in secrecy to another country where your choice did not make you a criminal.
There have been a lot of celebrities and political figures who have spoken against the decision in the last few weeks. I have provided some quotes below, but I think it is also worth watching Olivia Rodrigo’s response at Glastonbury here.
“Now with Roe gone, let’s be very clear; the health and life of women in this nation are now at risk.”Joe Biden, President of the USA.
“Just because you’re not an American citizen does not mean the overturning of Roe V Wade is none of your business. If you support women’s rights and human rights you NEED to be vocal about how drastic and appalling the overturning of the constitutional right to an abortion is.”Cher
“It is an outrage to ban abortion, period, and all the more heinous that it excludes those who have been raped or are experiencing incest, non-consensual or not. So there’s a higher penalty for doctors who perform these operations than for most rapists? This is a travesty, and I pray for all these women and young girls who suffer at the hands of this system.”Lady Gaga
Illustration by Faye Brocklebank