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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 an abortion. By Shivani Gopal published by The Sydney Morning Herald June 2022.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 an abortion.
It was, in fact, that very constitution – written almost 250 years ago, by all white men – that was referenced in the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade, stating that the document made no reference to abortion and therefore it 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 fraught 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 access abortion care.
Hundreds of thousands of women will fall through the cracks. Women who come from poor 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 in the gender pay gap, fewer women in leadership and a generation of children stuck in cycles of helplessness. Lives will be risked or lost to illegal abortions.
At the last count by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 620,000 women in the US had an abortion in 2019, while research conducted by Pew Research Centre found that more than 61 per cent 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 versus gun control, there is the deeper issue of the regulation of the autonomy of women versus that of men. Gun violence is, after all, committed by mostly men. According to The Violence Project, men are responsible for 98 per cent of mass shootings over the past 50 years and 63 per cent 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 the Supreme Court 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 it does so, what precedent does this set and what is next? If abortion creates a moral problem then doesn’t adultery also present one? Are we to expect court rulings stating that adultery is illegal? I suspect not.
While US President Joe Biden has stated that the ruling represented a sad day for the country, and congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez 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. Judging the lives and needs of women from a document written by men only is also redundant. There have been 27 amendments to the constitution and there needs to be a 28th. The right to personal freedoms in the so-called “land of the free” should be enjoyed by all.