Words: Lucy Snow she/her
Content warning: abortion, mentions of rape
The Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade represents an immediate regression in women’s rights in the United States. The newfound ability of individual states to introduce abortion control laws as they please has inevitably resulted in criticism from across the globe, with despair at the disregard of democracy and the neglect of people’s fundamental needs. Juxtaposing this, however, are those who feel that this decision is to be celebrated and that the ‘fight’ for the salvation of life must continue. What is even more concerning is the prevalence of these figures in mainstream US politics, specifically the Republican Party.
This decision effectively places women’s bodies under the control of the government and exacerbates social inequality. While wealthier women can fly to states like New York to obtain a safe, standardised medical procedure, others, often those balancing homelessness, poverty and unemployment, are now left to carry out their unplanned pregnancies alone. Government officials can claim there are enough resources for new mothers in financial difficulties, but the funding of such resources is inconsistent. The responsibility of care for mothers has therefore fallen upon charities, although these charities are already overwhelmed. In turn, emotionally traumatised and exhausted women are left in the horrendous situation of either fighting poverty or giving up their children. This is reflected through research showing that women in the US are more likely to fall below the poverty line when denied abortion.
Given this predicament, how is it that anti-abortion activists reconcile their beliefs? Perhaps it is because so-called pro-life movements are underpinned by persuasive language and imagery. The way in which surgical abortion is described is not only medically incorrect but disturbingly allusive to murder. Campaigners dehumanise medical practitioners as ‘abortionists’, while there are vivid descriptions of practitioners as they aggressively ‘tear off the baby’s limbs and crush the head while the child is alive’, which also suggests that abortion is life-threatening to the mother. Indeed, Republican Senator Lindsay Graham refers to the foetus as a ‘pain capable unborn child’. Of course, someone reading all this with trust in their newfound role models and perhaps a religious upbringing or a lack of understanding of medicine would find themselves disgusted and angry.
This rage is especially apparent on social media, where influential and misguided information is spread to new and younger audiences. There is now a feminist movement led by Lila Rose, an American pro-life advocate who encourages young women to stand up for their rights against a supposed life-threatening abortion which favours men. The repercussions of these splintering campaigns, which are feminist in name only, are an ever-growing separation among a group of people who should otherwise stand in solidarity with one another.
Why is it, then, that there lies this prioritisation of a foetus which would die independent of its mother (at the maximum pregnancy term allowed) over the safety and will of a woman opting out of carrying a child? Outside the aforementioned feminist groups, is it because there is a chance that the foetus would become a boy? Who can say? Perhaps these beliefs represent a historic ideology placing only women as responsible for children, with men being able to opt-out of parenting. Or is it deeper desperation for control, diametrically opposed to the belief that women should be entitled to live life as they choose? This is especially apparent within the neo-misogynistic cults of men following figures like Andrew Tate, where the increasing abundance of women choosing to work instead of starting a family are leaving more men without relationships and invalidating masculinity. Their supposed solution is to simply take the choice of motherhood away. Nonetheless, as the Glasgow Students for Choice Society pointed out when speaking to us, trying to understand and identify the reasons people have for illegalising and guilting women through endless speculation can sometimes take away from the complexity of the issue.
Unsurprisingly, the prospect of losing control over one’s body triggers a deep emotional response. Rape, gender-based violence, abusive relationships and mistakes all happen; illegalising abortion will not stop that. But this loss of freedom and autonomy goes against the very constitutional principles the US was built upon, and the allowance of these abortion control laws to pass goes against the will of the majority of the country. This is not democracy.
If governments were truly concerned for the welfare of women and children alike, abortion would remain a medical right. There needs to be increased discussion about safe sex, consensual sex, and sex being pleasurable for women. Normalising these concepts is not always easy, but sex still being such a taboo allows misguided information to influence young people and manifests in the aforementioned neo-misogynistic cults. In the meantime, it is imperative that women turn their fear into anger, attend protests and write to politicians to express their dissent and disdain.Fundamentally, abortion will still happen after the overturning of Roe v. Wade. All this decision is doing is taking away the option of safe abortions for those vulnerable women most at risk.