Regardless of which state you live in, women in the United States collectively wept on 24 June. The Supreme Court stripped a civil right by a vote of 6-3 simply because those holding the opinion that a foetuses’ life supersedes a woman’s choice were in the majority at the time of hearing Dobbs v Jackson, a case which will forever be known as the antithesis of Roe v Wade. For nearly 5 decades the decision of Roe v Wade stood not only as an expansion of abortion rights in the United States, but one that expanded the right to privacy. At a time where privacy is seemingly on the decline the decision holds immense value.
It is clear that the rights Americans hold are volatile, no matter how long a precedent has stood, no matter how hard such a right was fought for we never seem to stop fighting. As of 28 June, 7 states – South Dakota, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kentucky, Arkansas, Alabama and Wisconsin – have officially placed an outright ban on abortions with the first 6 listed states doing so without exception – including rape or incest. 7 more states have abortion bans pending while 2 states have temporarily blocked outright abortion bans.
In the coming weeks, as states ratify anti-abortion laws it could mean that nearly half (21 out 50 states) of the United States has completely banned abortion or restricted it to the effect that any protective law would be moot. Since the decision, clinics are performing abortions up until the minute anti-abortion laws are ratified, doctors are contacting lawyers to ensure what they are doing is legal, Plan-B pills are flying off shelves and women living in states where abortion is banned will have to travel to a neighbouring state where abortion is legal.
If one thinks simply traveling to a neighbouring state to have an abortion is an easy solution, you’d be mistaken, it should be seen as a luxury and a privilege as not every woman will have the means to do so. More than that, in the event a woman needs immediate life-saving treatment they may simply not survive the journey across state lines. Women who die as a result of the anti-abortion legislation will be martyrs for the pro-life movement who may recognize their death as tragic but nevertheless fulfilling the obligation of womanhood.
This decision does not just impact women though, it effects national privacy laws and previous Supreme Court rulings that used similar interpretations of liberty and equality under the 14th Amendment. These rulings range from the recognition of inter-racial (Loving v Virginia) and same-sex marriage rights (Obergefell v Hodges) to a ban on state “sodomy” laws (Lawrence v Texas).
President Joe Biden acknowledged at the time the Supreme Court opinion was leaked that “every other [Supreme Court] decision relating to the notion of privacy is thrown into question.” Now this premonition may become reality and pregnancy will be persecuted through surveillance. Corporations that collect data including Meta, Google and Apple will be left to answer to law enforcement agencies seeking warrants to access data prosecute those who choose to have an abortion or the clinics or people that perform them.
When the College Tribune published an issue specifically covering violence against women we discussed overt violence in the Republic. Make no mistake, the decision repealing Roe v Wade is a violent act against women in America, just less obviously so. A ban on abortions does not eliminate them in any state, it simply results in the means of obtaining an abortion becoming more precarious. Women will sit and wait for their lives to be saved from sepsis, haemorrhage and preeclampsia because their heart beat is not loud enough to drown out the foetuses’ heart beat and women will continue to sit and wait until one heart finally stops.
The decision is not a one-step forward two-steps back situation but rather one-step forward and fifty steps back. The ruling tells us that the government does not care if we die, if we struggle or if we even sideline our ambition just to produce the next generation. A moral duty based on the beliefs of half the country now becomes a legal one regardless of the potential impact on the mind and body of pregnant women, the strain on families and the aspirations of those not yet ready.
The United States government is not pushed to rethink its actions against its citizens until covert violence becomes overt. I raise a question then, who’s life or how many lives will it take to bring back abortion rights in the United States? These rights hold weight, they are a matter of life and death, but more so now a battle that places liberty against life, a concept thought to be synonymous in American democracy.
Danielle DerGarabedian – Incoming Editor