By Bridget Gum-Egan
After a little over one year living in a post-Roe world, the state of reproductive rights and health has taken a turn for the worst. As a woman, these issues directly affect me and my future. On top of that, as a woman with a disability, I became even more concerned. I know that my life isn’t guaranteed over a potential fetus’s if I have medical issues while pregnant, which is a real possibility. But this new dystopia-fueled reality made me examine the state of reproductive health.
The Dobbs decision was made by a 6-3 ruling in a primarily conservative leaning Supreme Court. Anyone who is well-versed in reproductive health issues was not surprised by what followed. As predicted, this decision made abortions scarce, dangerous, deadly and harmful to both fetus and parent. According to The Hill, the likelihood of having a pregnancy-related death is three times more probable in a state that bans abortions than in one that doesn’t.
More precisely, the Dobbs decision stripped away the constitutional right to get an abortion. By doing this, the door has opened for each individual state to make its own legislature around abortions. Essentially, the states can be categorized into three areas: total or near total bans, partial bans and no bans or very minimal. For example, Texas has a total ban, while Kansas has the ban in effect during or after 18-22 weeks, while New Jersey has absolutely no cut-off for abortions. Obviously, these bans are very politically aligned, in that, more red states that lean conservative have more restrictions, while blue states have less restrictions or none. However, these divisions leave what are called “abortion deserts” throughout the country, primarily in the south and midwest.
As was expected, and feared by many, the news has been filled with abortion horror stories this past year. For example, in South Carolina, there is a bill gaining support that would institute the death penalty for those who get an abortion illegally.
Another example is the story of a woman with multiple serious medical and health issues who was informed she was pregnant and wouldn’t be able to carry the baby to term, essentially keeping a fetus in her that would only live for days at most after it had been born. People facing these struggles with fetuses that have terminal illnesses or life-threatening conditions are forced to carry the fetus, deliver it, and watch it as it slowly dies. Not to mention that these conditions are painful for the fetus. Some states unfortunately don’t allow abortions for fetuses with life-threatening conditions.
In Mississippi, a 13-year-old girl was raped by a family member, causing her grandmother to take her to a different state to get an abortion because it was illegal in her home state. Some states that have bans don’t allow an abortion in the case of rape or incest. Many rape and incest victims are now faced in the nightmarish decision to either carry that child to term, or risk traveling out of state to get an abortion, which some states also consider to be illegal. Some other states where abortions are illegal include Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas.
Not to mention that pregnancy is often dangerous and risky for the person carrying the fetus. Even if you are the picture of health, things can go wrong. You can go into labor early. You can develop preeclampsia, which is a life-threatening condition. In states with strict abortion bans, the mother’s health is often a lower priority than the fetus’s and exceptions aren’t made for the mother’s help. On top of everything else, doctors are extremely concerned about all of these laws. Some doctors lost their jobs. Others, unsure that aspects of reproductive health are banned, are uncomfortable providing all kinds of reproductive care because they don’t want to lose their licenses. Some are specifically told not to act until the parent’s or fetus’s life is in grave danger because it could be seen as providing illegal reproductive care.
People have a lot to fear. It was recently announced that some period tracking apps collect your data and allow others to have access to it, potentially seeing when you could’ve gotten an abortion illegally. This kind of access weaponizes a tool meant to help people manage their reproductive health.
There are a few positives to look forward to. Since abortion bans are primarily a concern dominated by conservatives and republicans, the Dobbs decision actually helps to divide this previously unified group of people. While a lot of republicans support abortions, they each have different ideas as to what an appropriate ban looks like. These debates fracture the party, leaving democrats, who typically support abortion access, the opportunity to make some gains for better reproductive rights.
Also, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved the use of the drug called mifepristone, which is used in medication abortions. This case is currently working its way through the court system as two separate federal court judges ruled in opposing sides, meaning one believed that the FDA had this power, the other claiming it didn’t.
I recognize that reproductive rights and health issues are controversial and not everyone agrees with my position of being pro-choice. I don’t expect everyone to. My firm belief is that being pro-choice leaves the option to get an abortion open, not that you have to get one if you get pregnant. I also strongly agree with Rachel, from the TV show “Friends:” “No uterus, no opinion.” If this isn’t an issue that you personally have to deal with, I’m not sure why your opinion should have as much weight as mine, someone who may need to deal with this in the future.
However, I also believe that there are more appropriate ways for those who are pro-life to support their beliefs and agendas. For example, getting rid of the death penalty, as that takes away a life. Or you can try to work for free and equal access to healthcare to improve and help lives that are already on this plane of existence. Donate time, money, and/or food to those in need. Support government programs that provide aid to those in poverty or in a lower socioeconomic status. You can even adopt children in the future. There are just so many other ways to support life on this planet. Leave reproductive rights to those who will be putting their bodies through that experience.