If you haven’t heard the news: on Tuesday, Alabama’s Republican-controlled state senate passed a bill to outlaw abortion, challenging the Supreme Court’s ruling that legalised abortion across the country in the 1970s.
Since then, other states have discussed bringing in the same ban, with Missouri joining Alabama by passing a bill banning abortions after eight weeks. According to Sky News, Alabama’s legislation was approved by twenty-five votes (all cast by white, upper-class males), making it a crime to perform an abortion at any stage of pregnancy, punishable by up to ninety-nine years- or life- in prison. In this case, this means that doctors would get a worse prison sentence than a rapist would. (In Alabama, second-degree rape is a Class B felony, with a maximum sentence of 20 years.) The bill contains no exception for rape, or incest.
I’m sorry, what?!
To point out the, what I thought was, obvious: making abortions illegal does not stop them from happening. It only means that women go to the most extreme, often unsafe methods to be able to have an abortion. I am upset, I am frustrated, and honestly, I am baffled. We live in 2019, and yet women still seem to have a restricted access to basic, fundamental human rights. The Handmaid’s Tale is coming to life, and quite frankly, it’s both disgusting and terrifying. I have so many questions.
Why are so many men still able to make decisions about so many other women’s bodies?
Let women have control of their bodies in the same way that men do. That’s it! It is nothing profound, in fact it is really quite simple. This endless sexism is getting old, and yet post-feminists still ask why feminism needs to exist. It is not to hate men, it is not to be anti-men. It honestly has nothing to do with men, actually. Feminism has to exist because women, to this day, in 2019, still struggle to claim their own bodies. The fact of the matter is, if we forced every man to have a vasectomy to prevent abortion from happening, there would be outrage. “Why?”, I hear you cry. Because, rightly, they believe that they should have the choice to control their bodies; women should obviously get this same choice.
Does nobody know about the devastating effects of illegal abortions?
American actress, Busy Phillips, tweeted amongst the rage that exploded on Tuesday:
“1 in 4 women have had an abortion. Many people think they don’t know someone who has, but #youknowme. So let’s do this: if you are also the 1 in 4, let’s share it and start to end the shame. Use #youknowme and share your truth.”
Since then, women from all over the world have been sharing their stories, and the movement is undoubtedly empowering. Reading people’s honest, un-romanticised tweets made me light up with hope for a couple of moments. However, amongst those who spoke of unapologetic, safe abortions, the stories of illegal abortions, when women felt as though they had no other option, are absolutely heart-wrenching. I can’t help but think about the fact that we are turning into a society where those stories will soon become the norm. Actress Cynthia Nixon wrote:
“Almost 60 years ago, my mother had an illegal abortion. It was too harrowing for her to discuss, but she made sure I knew it had happened… We cannot and will not go back. #YouKnowMe #YouKnowUs.”
Why does someone’s religious beliefs take priority over my basic rights?
During the Alabama senate debate, Republican Senator Clyde Chambliss said: “When God creates the miracle of life inside a woman’s womb, it is not our place as human beings to extinguish that life.” The state of today’s “pro-life” movement is just appalling: pre-teen girls who are raped and impregnated must be legally forced to have a baby, because “God wanted it that way”. Now, correct, me if I am wrong, but I am pretty sure that your religious beliefs don’t have to necessarily align with abortion, but by the same token, religious beliefs do not have to interfere with other people’s life choices. If they did, why haven’t we banned alcohol and pork yet? It’s hypocrisy in its best form, and it just goes to show that it obviously is not about religion, or the foetus, but about removing women’s ability to have basic choice over what happens with their body, and social order.
How has Alabama justified banning abortions before they have banned guns?
I know that the banning of guns is a touchy subject, especially with Americans, but I would just really like to know how twenty, fully-formed children were shot dead in their classroom at Sandy Hook, and the “pro-life” crowd in Alabama have still banned abortion before they have banned guns. Are you seriously telling me that something that isn’t even a foetus yet takes priority over full, living children? Where has this backwards logic come from? The very Republicans in favour of banning abortion are actually quoted as being against banning guns because, by their own logic, “banning things doesn’t work”. It is so disheartening that these people recognise the fault that lies in banning things, and have still gone ahead with this bill anyway.
How does nobody realise that abortion does not save lives?
To make matters worse, in Alabama’s bill, because they believe that abortion is murder, and have therefore tried to cut back the time in which you can legally get an abortion, pregnancy is not measured from when a pregnancy actually begins. (When a fertilized egg implants in the uterus.) In fact, it’s measured from a woman’s last menstrual period. So, if your period is a week late, you could be considered as five weeks pregnant. Oh yes, you read that right. So, if you don’t realize you’re late until two weeks later, you have just missed your chance for a legal abortion. In Alabama’s eyes, by doing this, they’ve saved a life. In mine, they have potentially just ruined multiple people’s lives. There are current statistics to show that there are over 443,000 children in foster care in the United States. Banning abortion does not save lives. Adoption has the potential to save lives. Alabama has the potential to be pushing for an increase in adoption, but instead they are forcing women to have children.
The sad thing is that all of these little arguments should not even matter. We should not be comparing abortion to the US’s gun problems. A woman should be able to walk into a room and say “my body, my choice”, and have all of her wishes obeyed.
Unfortunately, the world we live in does not adhere to common courtesy or human rights, seemingly. I am trying to take immense hope from the fact that, in the words of Greta Thunberg, people are starting to act as if their “house is on fire”, because it is; despite the horrific upset caused in the past few days, it has been somewhat soothing to see so much protest and women standing up for what is theirs. Hopefully, our world’s politicians will realise that it is time to act.
Words by Morgan Hartley.