May 31, 2021
My body, my choice: the anti-feminist threat to Roe v. Wade
Happy Memorial Day, Feministas! Hopefully many of you are off work today, enjoying the last day of a long weekend and getting into some red, white, and blue BBQ vibes :)
Here at The Feminista, we’re taking the day to reflect on what it means to be American and feminist, and to be grateful for the men and women who sacrificed their lives for our country and our rights. After all, it can be easy to forget in the midst of our feminist resistance that we’re very lucky to live in a country with as much freedom and equality as we have here in in the U.S.
But in true Feminista fashion, we stay vigilant even as we celebrate the victories, so today we wanted to give you a quick update on the current state of reproductive rights and abortion access in America and what might be the most pressing feminist issue in the news, as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear a case that directly challenges Roe v. Wade.
Reproductive rights are at risk
Abortion rights advocates are warning that this could be the most dire challenge to Roe v. Wade that we've seen in decades, and that it isn't getting enough media attention.
Since 1973, when the historic decision was made, there have been plenty of attempts to overturn it and so far, it's managed to stand the test of time... so what makes this situation any different? A few factors.
For one, the court looks a lot more conservative after the Trump presidency than it did even just a few years ago. The swearing in of Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, who have historically represented anti-choice ideals, as replacements for Justices Anthony Kennedy and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who were moderate and liberal respectively (and who famously upheld Roe v. Wade) is a major component.
“It is essential to woman’s equality with man that she be the decision-maker, that her choice be controlling… if you impose restraints that impede her choice, you are disadvantaging her because of her sex.” -- RBG, during her Senate Confirmation Hearing
A court with a 6-3 breakdown between liberals and conservatives is far more likely to overturn Roe v. Wade given the opportunity. Which brings us to the next factor, which is that the Mississippi case the Supreme Court has decided to hear this year is the first real opportunity to do that.
The Mississippi case that threatens choice
The case in question is Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, and it's expected to be heard starting in October this year and wrap up in June 2022. It effectively bans abortions after 15 weeks of gestation, and does not include exceptions for cases of incest and rape.
It was originally passed in Mississippi in 2018, after which the state's only (yes, only) abortion clinic sued because it violates the existing Surpreme Court precedent. If it were to be overturned in this hearing, a new precedent would be established allowing Roe v. Wade to be overruled entirely, permitting bans on abortion on a state-by-state basis.
Plenty of states are already passing extremely aggressive laws on access to reproductive health care--take Texas' recently signed so-called "heartbeat bill," which prohibits women from seeking elective procedures after just six weeks gestation, which effectively bans abortions altogether since most women haven't even had their pregnancies officially detected by then. It would impose large fines and even prison time on health care providers who offer abortions after that six-week period.
This is the kind of law which is often struck down thanks to Roe v. Wade, but with that precedent hanging in the balance, laws like these would go into effect.
“If Roe is weakened or overturned, it poses a threat to a host of intertwined rights and would impact people seeking to exercise a range of liberty rights, including the fundamental right to marry, to use contraception, or to have children,” according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.
These kinds of laws have been in place for years in as many 21 states, and are referred to as "trigger bans." If Roe v. Wade were to be overturned today, 10 of those states would be able to ban abortion completely and immediately. So when it comes to a woman's right to choose in this country, things are looking ominous to say the least.
What pro-choice feminists can do about it
It’s true: feminists are often cast as killjoys and some people might be wondering why even on a major American holiday, we’re talking about what’s wrong in our country. But the brilliant feminist sci-fi writer and essayist Ursula K. Le Guin once said, “to oppose something is to maintain it.”
In other words, the fight for and insistence on something better feels like our patriotic duty, and speaks to the hope and faith that the institutions in power can do better. It’s a labor of love.
“When people can make decisions that are best for their lives, however much money they have, families thrive and we build healthier communities where each of us can participate with dignity. 48 years after Roe v. Wade, THAT is the future we’re fighting for.” -- Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a.k.a. AOC
So let's do the feminist version of show & tell, shall we? First, show your opposition by rocking your beliefs in your day-to-day--at home on the couch and out on the streets. We’ve got feminist t-shirts that say My Body, My Choice, All Rights Reserved, and Girls Just Wanna Have Fundamental Human Rights. Or show really mean business by flipping the bird, uterus-style ;)
Then, tell your reps you want them to push for real legislation that upholds a woman's right to choose, so we're not always counting on the Supreme Court to do the right thing. No matter what happens with this particular case, a law protecting our rights should be the end goal.
“Three out of every four people in America believe right now that the rule of Roe v. Wade should be the law... that means we should be pushing for a congressional solution as well. It is time to have a national law to protect the right of a woman’s choice.” -- Senator Elizabeth Warren