Today, the Supreme Court of the United States announced its decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, a landmark 1973 court case that established a constitutional right to abortion in the United States. Like many people, I was incredibly sad to hear this news.
Let me preface this by sharing where I’m coming from: I am a Christian and my religion is deeply important to me. I am also pro-choice. I do not believe that life begins at conception. I do believe that everyone has the right to choose what happens to their bodies.
I’d like to start by pointing out the obvious: abortion is a moral issue. While the potential for life may begin at conception, being a human being requires more than a fertilized cell, embryo, or fetus. At the risk of sounding unprofessional, there’s no way you can convince me that a zygote (which looks like this) is the same as a living, breathing baby.
And look, I’m not here to argue about when human life really begins. Whether it’s the legal issues that this could create (should child support payments begin at conception too?), the staggering number of miscarriages that occur before a woman knows she’s pregnant (does God really give that many babies only a few weeks as a fetus to experience life?), that IVF treatments are performed with the knowledge than many fertilized eggs won’t survive (those suddenly don’t count?), or the fact that many religions (including my own) treat abortions differently than they treat murder, the concept of life at conception doesn’t make sense to me.
I’d like to add that this doesn’t mean I scoff at anyone who celebrates a pregnancy as soon as they find out — I think it’s wonderful to prepare for the potential life growing inside of you. I just don’t think it’s an actual human being until much later. And I’m not really sure when I believe life begins. Maybe it’s in the third trimester and maybe it’s not until that baby draws its first breath, but it’s certainly not at the point of conception.
What Did Roe v. Wade Decide?
Many people think that overturning Roe v. Wade will reduce the number of abortions in the country and end there, but that’s not true. Roe v. Wade was decided based on the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which, according to the court, granted a woman a fundamental “right to privacy” in terms of her medical decisions made before the second trimester of pregnancy.
Before about 1850, abortion was widely tolerated until, in the late 19th century, a group of male doctors decided to police abortions through various methods of surveillance and investigation.
Because Roe v. Wade was based on a woman’s right to privacy, what do you think is going to happen now that women apparently don’t deserve that constitutional right anymore? In today’s era of electronic usage and online data, what is stopping the government and/or third-party companies from monitoring the activity of every person with an unplanned pregnancy and arresting them as soon as they arrive at an underground abortion clinic? Roe v. Wade may have quite literally been the only legal precedent stopping that Big Brother behavior. If you aren’t concerned about that kind of surveillance (and what precedent that kind of monitoring may set in the future), then…I don’t know what to say.
Overturning Roe v. Wade also removes rights for other aspects of the fertility process, including IVF treatments. Depending on how states and judges define human life, IVF may soon become illegal in many parts of the country as well.
Banning Abortion Isn’t the Answer
Let’s look at a couple of statistics about abortion. Many pro-life advocates use late-term abortions as a driving argument, but the vast majority of abortions are performed during the first trimester. In fact, almost 80% of abortions are performed before the patient is 9 weeks pregnant. Only about 1% of abortions are performed during the third trimester. Many hospitals and medical facilities won’t perform a late-term abortion unless there is a serious medical need for it.
Abortions are very common and occur regularly around the world, regardless of what the law says. It is estimated that about 25 million unsafe abortions take place every year. Unsafe abortions are so common that they are a leading cause of maternal deaths and morbidities for women, many in developing countries where it is impossible to access a safe abortion.
I don’t need to point this out, but I will anyway: wealthy individuals, whether they are Republican or Democrat, Christian or Atheist, will always have access to safe abortions. About half of the people who seek abortions live below the federal poverty level. Over 60% of abortions are sought by minorities, who are also more likely to live near or below the poverty line.
Lack of access to healthcare, health insurance, and contraceptives all play a role in abortion rates. There is an abundance of evidence to prove that easy access to birth control is directly correlated with lower abortion rates. On a side note, abstinence-only curriculums are often positively correlated with higher teenage pregnancy and birth rates.
There is no definitive proof that banning abortions reduces abortion rates. It is extremely difficult to track unsafe and illegal abortions, which occur at higher rates in countries or states where abortion is severely restricted. On the flip side, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that banning abortion does not reduce abortion rates.
So when it is clear that easy access to birth control and affordable healthcare is the best way to reduce the number of abortions, why do Republicans, who make up the vast majority of pro-life Americans, continue to vote for policies that reduce access to those things? If you really cared about reducing abortions, you would do everything in your power to prevent as many abortions as possible, including the unsafe ones.
The Real Arguments Against Banning Abortion
While everything I’ve said so far is enough to convince me to be pro-choice, I’m aware that a lot of people don’t care about any of that. So I’d like to finish by talking about two of the most compelling arguments I’ve heard about why we should not limit access to abortions.
First: bodily autonomy. If you are applauding the overturning of Roe v Wade, you are also applauding the government’s ability to force a woman to undergo an invasive and dangerous medical procedure (giving birth) because by doing so, she is “saving” the life of someone else.
Bodily autonomy is a basic human right. We cannot force people under the threat of legal punishment to have any medical procedure done. If someone approached you and told you that they needed a kidney transplant and you were the only potential donor, you have a right to say no, even if it is certain that person will die without the transplant.
Unless someone chooses to be an organ donor, their organs legally cannot be harvested to save another human life. We can’t even force people to give blood!
You can have your own thoughts about whether someone should do those things or not, but legally you cannot force them to. And that makes sense, right? Can you imagine what the world would be like if the police came knocking at your door and told you that you had to donate bone marrow to a stranger or you’d go to jail?
A pregnant woman deserves the right to bodily autonomy, which means that she gets to decide if she will sacrifice her body to “save” someone else, or if she will get an abortion to make sure that her body remains unharmed. Denying someone their bodily autonomy when it comes to pregnancy sets an extremely dangerous precedent.
Second: abortion is a moral issue that revolves around religious values. The way abortion is being discussed and regulated in the United States, it is specifically a moral issue within Christianity and Christian sects. Abortion is approached differently in many other religions. Under Jewish law, for example, life is not believed to begin at conception, and abortion is explicitly stated as a healthcare right. Except for some stricter schools of thought, abortion is acceptable within Islam before 120 days of gestation. Almost 90% of atheists believe that abortion should be legal in all cases.
Why are we making laws that primarily cater to one religion’s beliefs? The First Amendment’s Establishment Clause (aka the separation of church and state) prohibits the government from creating a law “respecting an establishment of religion,” meaning the government is not allowed to establish an official religion or prefer one religion (or lack of religion) over another.
Allowing states to ban all forms of abortion because of the belief in life at conception is forcing those citizens to abide by the beliefs of that religion. I cannot believe that this is not seen as a violation of the Constitution. Can you imagine what would happen if the Supreme Court allowed states to ban pork for all citizens in accordance with Islam? It’s laughable to consider forcing people to abide by religious beliefs when they don’t practice that religion…except, of course, when it comes to Christianity.
Creating laws based on spiritual views and forcing those opinions onto other people is unbelievably unjust. It forces those people to practice religious beliefs they have every right to not follow and violates the First Amendment of the Constitution. I am a proud Christian, but I would never expect someone to live their life in the same way that I do.
Every human being in the United States has the right to safe healthcare, bodily autonomy, and religious freedom. By overturning Roe v Wade, the Supreme Court is stripping millions of women of those rights. And if you’re applauding this decision while simultaneously advocating against comprehensive sex-ed, easy access to birth control, and affordable healthcare policies, you are showing your hand when it comes to what you really care about: controlling women’s bodies in the name of a fetus you want nothing to do with after it’s born.