In the USA, women’s bodies are now more regulated than guns thanks to a decision by the Supreme Court that has ended the constitutional right to abortion.
It was in fact that very constitution that was referenced in SCOTUS’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade, stating that the document (written almost 250 years ago by all white men) made no reference to abortion, and therefore wasn’t a federal issue.
The decision will see women's rights go back almost half a century, with the power to allow, heavily regulate or ban abortion altogether left to the states.
As a result, more than 20 states are likely to immediately restrict abortion access or ban it altogether. In a time that is already frought with emotion, uncertainty, discomfort, pain and now, thanks to this ruling, unnecessary shame, women (who can afford it) will have to travel for hours, away from the comfort of their homes and support networks, to simply access abortion care.
Hundreds of thousands of women will fall through the cracks. Women who come from poverty or marginalised communities will simply not be able to access abortion and the care they need. We’re looking down the barrel of a future generation of forced mothers, unwanted children, generational cycles of poverty, an increase of the gender pay gap, less women in leadership and a generation of children stuck in cycles of helplessness. Lives will be risked or lost to illegal abortions.
As at the last count by the CDC, more than 620,000 women had an abortion in 2019, while research conducted by PEW found that over 61% of Americans thought that abortion should be legal. A strong majority. Yet, at the end of the day, that number shouldn’t matter. What should matter is the opinions of women individually, and their right to make decisions about their own body. Women have now lost that right.
Beyond the comparison of the regulation of women's bodies face versus gun control, the deeper issue is the regulation of the autonomy of women vs that of men. Gun violence, is after all, by majority committed by men. According to The Violence Project, men are responsible for 98% of mass shootings and 63% of men were responsible for active shooter incidents according to the FBI. Taking away gun rights is taking away the rights of men. The court's decisions are a gendered issue, when they should be anything but.
For a country that prides itself on separation of church and state, the justification of SCOTUS has strangely religious connotations. “Abortion presents a profound moral question” the ruling states. We all know that the issue is more complex than this, depending on the person going through it. Some may simply deal with it pragmatically. I’m pregnant and not ready. For others it may be morally conflicting, even if they are the victim of incest or rape. But to be clear, a court has no business ruling over morals. If there are to do so, what precedent does this set and what is next? If abortion creates a moral problem then doesn’t adultry? Are we to expect court rulings stating that adultery is illegal? I suspect not.
While President Biden has stated that the ruling represented a sad day for the country, and Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortex has urged people to take to the streets, I feel the only real action now is to enshrine the rights of women into law. It’s time to amend the constitution. Times have changed, a lot, since 1787. Comparing the lives and needs of women from a document written by all men is also redundant. There have been 27 amendments to the constitution and now there needs to be a 28th. The right to personal freedoms in the so-called ‘land of the free’ should be enjoyed by all.