Fighting for reproductive health care rights 

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This sign states that, “Safe and Legal Abortion = Pro-Life!” Prohibiting abortion will promote unsafe abortions. Photo by Gayatri Malhotra/Unsplash

Reproductive health care is not valued nearly as much as it should be. From poor sex education in schools to stigmatizing and ostracizing those who need reproductive health care, reproductive health care is immensely glossed over. This summer, reproductive health care rights will come under fire once again when the U.S. Supreme Court makes a decision on the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, which could overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that legalized abortion based on a trimester system. 

The Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case essentially refers to a 2018 Mississippi law called the “Gestational Age Act,” which prohibited almost all abortions after 15 weeks of gestational age. This challenges Roe v. Wade because if the U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of the Gestational Age Act, it would set a new precedent of the state controlling abortion laws.  

In addition, Roe v. Wade also allows abortion up until the point of viability, which is at about 24 weeks; the Gestational Age Act prohibits abortion before the fetus is viable. Therefore, the Gestational Age Act directly challenges the regulations set forth by the Roe v. Wade case. 

The consequences of overturning Roe v. Wade are significant. Abortions are a necessary part of reproductive health care that will no longer be protected nationwide if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the Gestational Age Act. 

If Roe v. Wade is overturned, it is predicted that abortions will no longer be protected in about 26 states — currently, 22 states already have laws or amendments in place that would ban abortions as soon as the right to an abortion is not protected nationwide. Sixteen states as well as Washington D.C. have laws in place to protect abortion rights. 

Prohibiting and criminalizing abortions will not make them less likely to happen; instead, it will promote unsafe abortions, which often cause serious infection, hemorrhaging and death. According to the Guttmacher Institute, rates of abortions in countries where abortion is illegal are comparable to rates of abortions in countries where abortions are legal; the difference is that where abortions are illegal, people seek unsafe methods. In El Salvador, for example, even though abortions are illegal, one in three pregnancies still end in abortion.

A range of contraceptive methods. Accessible contraception is more likely to decrease the number of abortions. Photo by Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition/Unsplash

Things that are more likely to decrease the number of abortions include accessible contraception, better childcare and paid family leave options, livable wages and affordable housing — all things that support children and families after they are born and work to decrease incidences of unplanned and unwanted pregnancies.  

However, this is not a conversation many anti-abortion advocates are willing to have, choosing instead to focus on outright bans, rather than making abortions less necessary altogether. Many of these anti-abortion advocates call themselves “pro-life,” but they cannot truly be pro-life if they are working so hard to harm the lives of people with a uterus and when they do not care to support children and families after they are born. 

Other states are creating their own abortion bans, such as Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill banning most abortions after 15 weeks and in Oklahoma, where Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill making performing an abortion a felony except in the case of medical emergencies. In Missouri, a recent bill also attempted to criminalize abortions in most cases, including when a pregnant person was experiencing an ectopic pregnancy.  

Although when the bill was signed, ectopic pregnancies were not mentioned; thankfully, it is worth noting that even the mere thought of criminalizing abortions in the case of ectopic pregnancies is despicable. Ectopic pregnancies occur when the fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus, usually on the fallopian tubes. A fertilized egg cannot survive outside of the uterus; thus, this pregnancy would not and could never be viable, and, if not treated soon enough, it could cause severe hemorrhaging and possibly even death.  

These abortion laws clearly have severe consequences for people with a uterus. Many of these laws do not take medicine and science into account and are solely concerned with creating overt bans rather than taking actionable steps to decrease the frequency of abortions. 

These laws are especially harmful to those from lower-income families. When states criminalize or limit access to abortions, those who can afford to travel elsewhere to seek abortions often do so. However, those who cannot afford to travel or lose income from taking time off work, may not be able to receive an abortion. It is a sheer denial of reproductive health care based on class. 

With the upcoming decision on the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, it is more important than ever to pay attention to this issue. People must realize how important having access to abortions is to comprehensive reproductive health care and must work to ensure that these rights are protected by creating awareness and supporting reproductive justice organizations. Access to safe and legal abortions must be fought for.

3 COMMENTS

  1. The big question is — does anyone get pregnant for the purpose of an abortion? Absolutely not. If someone decides she needs an abortion, it can’t be an easy decision, and must have come through a long and difficult process. As the Supreme Court previously held, it’s based on the right to privacy (and rightfully so — it’s a family-based decision, and politicians should stay out of it). It needs to be stressed — NO ONE wants an abortion. It just happens that some very unfortunate circumstances lead to them. Perhaps, lawmakers and executives (like the aforementioned DeSantis and Stitt, as well as Reeves from MS and Parson from MO) need to start thinking about how to help those citizens, rather than just going for the “easy” and frankly, wrong, solution. As the author implies here, it’s an agonizing situation. No need to make it worse.

  2. The basic question is, does anyone become pregnant with the intention of getting an abortion? The answer is no. If someone decides to get an abortion, it’s because she happened on unfortunate circumstances that led to the pregnancy or the viability (e.g., an accidental or criminal pregnancy, or a previously healthy pregnancy that became less viable). The Supreme Court previously held that abortion is legal and they cited the constitutional right to privacy — rightfully so! This is a decision made within the family, and politicians should not interfere. Still, DeSantis, and others (such as Reeves and Parson from MS and MO respectively) could look to bettering their constituents’ lives (such as for the low-income individuals mentioned here), and instead, they go for the “easy” and wrong solutions. If politicians really want to be pro-life, there are much more effective ways at doing it. But, I guess that’s too much to ask of some of these people.

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