Sept. 18, 2020 was a personal loss to generations of women across the U.S. It was the day Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Ruth Bader Ginsburg died. For many women like myself, my stomach sank because of the implications that would come with an open spot in the Supreme Court so close to the election. My first worry, along with many other women all over social media, was “What if they overturn Roe v. Wade?” The right to our bodies could possibly be taken away at the hands of conservatives who have been trying for years to end the ruling. Ginsberg’s open spot scares women who are pro-choice all across the U.S. because her spot may be given to someone who votes against everything Ginsberg fought for.
On Sept. 26, President Donald Trump selected a replacement for Ginsberg: federal judge Amy Coney Barrett, an anti-abortion Catholic who has let her personal beliefs get in the way of her legal rulings. It is no surprise that President Trump has nominated her, as he did pledge in his 2016 campaign, and many times after, that he would only nominate pro-life Justices for the Supreme Court. Barrett meets Trump’s criteria for a Supreme Court Justice, as she has said that abortion is “always immoral” and has a clear anti-abortion rights judicial record. Barret wokred for three years on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals; she has already dealt with two cases surrounding abortion, and has ruled in both cases with in the favor of pro-life. This gives the possibility that she would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade in the future, as the court could be tilted six to three in conservatives’ favor.
What is Roe v. Wade? It is a legal case which was handled by the Supreme Court in September of 1973 regarding the restricted access of abortion and how it is unconstitutional, as it violated a woman’s constitutional right to privacy. Norma McCorvey, better known as “Jane Roe” (a fictional name in order to keep her privacy), filed a lawsuit against the district attorney of Dallas County, Henry Wade, in order to challenge the Texas’ laws at the time which prohibited abortions unless the doctor deems the pregnancy life threathening, thus making the abortion illegal.
In the lawsuit, Roe claimed that Texas’ laws on aborition violated her constitutional rights because it violates her personal bodily privacy that is protected under First, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments. The Texas abortion law also violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which is the right to privacy, and a woman’s right to an abortion falls under this right.
The majority opinion of the case was written by Justice Harry A. Blackmun of 7 – 2 majority of the Court, making aborition legal in every state. This meant that each state could no longer make their own laws about aborition. The laws enforce that in the first trimester of the pregnacy, the State is not allowed to regulate whether or not a woman is allowed to have an abortion.
However, during the second trimester, the State is allowed to regulate abortions unless they are related to maternal health. By the third trimester, since the fetus is now “viable,” the State can ban abortions, or place restrictions on them (depending on the situition; if the mother is dying or the fetus has no heartbeat). In my opinion, if Roe v. Wade is overturned by the majority of conservatives on the Supreme Court, they will not just stop there, and go much farther than abortion rights.
Roe v. Wade and Griswold v. Connecticut go hand in hand. Griswold v. Connecticut of 1965 is the Supreme Court law that came for Connecticut’s restriction laws on birth control access, and was another law that went against the privacy rights in the Constitution. The ban of birth control in Connecticut infringed the privacy rights of couples who are married, and when Roe v. Wade passed, this was then applied to unmarried couples, giving women the right to decide. If Roe v. Wade was overturned, these ‘privacy’ rights would no longer exist, thus restricting access to contraceptives, and making other laws like Lawrence v. Texas —which made homosexual sexual activity legal — easily overturned as well.
If Roe was overturned, the U.S. would go back to how abortion was treated during pre-Roe days — meaning that abortion could be mainly illegal across the U.S., as it gives the States the power to make their own abortion laws. This could lead to women having unsafe abortions if they don’t have safe access to it, including women going to different States that do have legal abortions to get the procedure done. Before Roe v. Wade, illegal abortions were common amongst women, and in 1965 it made up one-sixth of pregnancy related deaths. Women could once again be forced to carry a child against their will.
If the women were unmarried, they would be coerced into giving their child up for adoption, and were shamed into not speaking out. This sounds very similar to the plotline of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, where fertile women were forced to be child-bearing slaves called handmaids. Women need to be in charge of their own bodies; no laws should stand in the way of what a woman wants, because women were not put on Earth to reproduce.
Moreover, conservatives have been pushing the “personhood legislation,” which states that a fertilized egg is a “person,” making it have constitutional rights. Those who believe the “personhood legislation” claim that birth control is a form of abortion because of the hormones that are in it prevent fertilized eggs from implanting inside of the uterine wall, which, in their eyes, is the “murder” of an unborn child. In-vitro fertilization in their eyes as well is “murder,” because only some embryos are implanted inside of the uterus, as they do not implant naturally.
The “personhood legislation” is based on claims that are not scientific; they are rooted in religious judgement, not scientific facts. So, if Roe vs. Wade were to be overturned, a woman’s right to an abortion, as well as contraceptive use, could no longer be a legal right, depending on the State’s legislators. Even if a woman were to get an abortion if it is illegal in their state, they could be subjected to punishment, and this could include the doctors who preform the procedure as well. According to President Trump, this is a good idea, as there should be “some form of punishment” for those who choose to have an abortion.
Roe v. Wade represents more than medical access to abortions; overturning it would send the message that women don’t have the right to make their own decisions. The overturned vote criminalizes women who want to make their own choices surrounding their own bodies. 64 percent of women depend on birth control today for various reasons, the common misconception is that birth control is only used to prevent pregnancy. 58 percent of women in the U.S. depend on birth control for medical reasons: irregular menstrual cycles, menstrual pain, treatment of acne, and endometriosis. Restrictions surrounding birth control would be at the cost of women continuing to endure the pain because of their reproductive organs. Even if a woman is taking birth control to prevent pregnancy, she should not be shamed, and has a right to contraceptives just as any other woman who has a medical reason.
As a woman myself, I am scared about what is to come within the next few weeks leading up to the 2020 election. I am not the only one; many women fear that our rights can be taken from us with a blink of an eye. Fourth-year Karen Romero is one of these women. “Personally, I would feel stripped of my fundamental rights as a woman with reproductive organs. I view abortion as a strictly medical procedure that everyone should have access to rather than a nation-wide moral dilemma. That makes very little logical sense to me,” she said. “The rights and choices of living women will always be my priority and the chance of Roe v. Wade being overturned will threaten the agency and physical safety of myself and other women in my community. ”
Romero is not the only one who holds this opinion. “Terrifying and reflective of how the justice system wasn’t made for anyone but cis white men,” third year Nona Golden said. “Also, a reminder that our basic human rights are not a given in the U.S. as we were relying on one 87 year old woman to fight for and maintain women’s rights on a national level. If that doesn’t show you a failed system I don’t know what does.”
It is essential that women have the right to choose what they do to their bodies. No man or woman should be able to take away these rights from us because of their religion or lack of knowledge on reproductive health. It is not a man’s right to choose what a woman does with her body. A woman’s body is her own, and no one should be making life changing decisions about it, but her. My body, my choice!
Feature image: Tori O’Campo / Quaker Campus