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Zoe Edgerley reflects on 20 years of undergraduate women at St Andrew’s College
This past week the Republican controlled Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade. This heartbreaking action reverses the decision in 1973 that made abortion legal and recognised a woman’s constitutional right to abortion under the fourteenth amendment, the right to privacy. In 1973 the decision won with a seven to two majority, and now, in 2022, we see women’s rights go back fifty years. A five to four vote to overturn Roe V Wade now means that there is no federal constitutional right to abortion with the decision on laws regarding abortion to be decided by the states.
The overturning of Roe versus Wade now results in abortion no longer being protected by the constitution. Already eight states have made abortion illegal with thirteen to follow in the following months and nine uncertain. It is expected that twenty-six states will make abortion illegal – that’s half of the states in the country. Half of the United States is going to deny millions of women the right to have an abortion, even in cases of sexual assault or life endangerment.
Activist and member of the Democratic Party Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stated “what the Supreme Court just did is they chose to endanger the lives of all women and birthing people in this country. But not only that, they have chosen to strip rights from men too. Because frankly the right to our own bodies and the right to form our own families belongs to all of us. It does not belong to lawmakers”. This isn’t a decision that just affects the women of the United States. It affects everyone. The choice to start a family does not just fall on the pregnant woman, it also falls to the man who made her pregnant, and with the ban on abortion it takes away the choice not just from women but from men too. The inability of the Supreme Court to take into consideration the lives that will be affected, not just physically but emotionally and mentally is barbaric. Already, there are around twenty two thousand children abandoned at birth in America due to unwanted pregnancies. There are currently around four hundred thousand children in the foster system, and sadly around one hundred thousand of those children will never find a permanent family, and that number will only continue to grow.
A significant argument in support of the overturning of Roe versus Wade is this idea of ‘pro-life’. It is necessary to highlight the fact that the United States is not ‘pro-life’, it is ‘pro-birth’. An abortion isn’t just a way to terminate a pregnancy. The procedure is used to save lives. But not only in regards to health and viable pregnancies – it also lets those not ready for a child (for financial circumstances or otherwise) to have a choice, potentially saving them from a life they aren’t ready for. For instance, the treatment for a septic uterus is an abortion. The treatment for a miscarriage that the body won’t release is an abortion. The treatment for an ectopic pregnancy is an abortion. Without these procedures women die.
Each year around six hundred and thirty thousand American women chose to have an abortion, and even if you consider that a foetus is a person, abortion still isn’t the leading cause of death in the United States. Heart disease kills seven hundred thousand people a year, cancer takes six hundred thousand lives, Covid killed three hundred and fifty thousand. And that’s just deaths caused by illness.
If America was ‘pro-life’ everyone would be entitled to healthcare, and hospitals and research would be given more funding. As of 2022 deaths by firearms are the leading cause of mortality in the US for children. Around six in one hundred thousand children will lose their lives due to gun violence. In 2020 five hundred and thirteen people lost their lives in a mass shooting. In the same year over twenty one thousand homicides occurred and nearly fifty thousand Americans took their lives, around twenty five thousand of those individuals using firearms to end their lives. There is a notable overlap between those who are ‘pro-life’ and those who are ‘pro-firearm’, beliefs that are commonly held by members of the Republican Party. Why is a foetus more valuable than an established life? it is no more than a clump of cells until the five week mark at the earliest. There is a notable overlap between those who are ‘pro-life’ and those who are ‘pro-firearm’, beliefs that are commonly held by members of the Republican Party.
The overturning of Roe versus Wade is not action in the direction of protecting lives – it’s a clear attack on women, stripping them of their rights and taking away choices regarding their own bodies. The ban on abortion is not going to be the last step back for America; LGBTQ+ and racial communities are also at risk. Both gay and interracial marriage are laws established on the same criterion as Roe V Wade, and this could quite possibly lead to an overturning of them as well in the future. Specifically, the 2015 decision of Obergefell V Hodges to recognise same sex marriage under the fourteenth amendment and further grant it as well as the Loving V Virginia case that allowed for interracial marriages to be permitted also under the fourteenth amendment. Justice Clarence Thomas stated, “in future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell”. If the foetus that is born due to the ban is gay, will its protection and rights still be fought for? If more cases under the fourteenth amendment get overturned America will soon see itself struggling with huge notions of contradiction on what is permitted regarding these issues, and the result will be frenzy. The ban on abortion does not just affect women – it affects everyone.