Opinion | Banning Abortion is About Power, Not Life

Alex Jobin, Staff Columnist

The recent overturning of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court of the United States is catastrophic, if unsurprising. In early May, an original draft opinion was leaked suggesting that abortion rights were soon to come crashing down. Soon after, Roe v. Wade was overturned along party lines, with Chief Justice John Roberts concurring

The Supreme Court’s ruling allows states to determine the legal status of abortion, reversing the federal protection of abortion under the Fourteenth Amendment that Roe v. Wade established in 1973. The overturning resulted in the immediate ban of abortions in multiple states through so-called “trigger laws” which were passed in anticipation of this very scenario.

So far, eight states – Alabama among them – have completely banned abortion. Several other states are merely waiting until bans go into effect or become unblocked by the judicial system. 

The Supreme Court’s decision has already spelled massive consequences for the right to privacy, bodily autonomy and access to healthcare across the nation. The situation is just as dire for mothers’ lives in cases of failed pregnancies and the undue burden which pregnancy reaps on a survivor of rape or incest.  

Indeed, so many arguments exist in support of this position that 55% of Americans currenttly identify as “pro-choice” while only 39% are in favor of banning abortions.

However, the popularity of defending a person’s right to choose, a person’s right to end a life-threatening pregnancy, and a person’s right to survive sexual trauma without the burden of raising a child has not been enough to stop six non-elected justices who sit on our nation’s highest court from overturning Roe v. Wade. 

Beyond ignoring the will of the American people, these justices have also gone against Supreme Court precedent, marking the first time in American history that a civil liberty granted by the court has been revoked. 

This has stoked reasonable fears among many that other landmark cases like Obergefell v. Hodges,which protects same-sex marriage, and Griswold v. Connecticut, which protects access to contraceptive products, could soon be overturned as well. 

Indeed, Justice Clarence Thomas argued similarly in his concurring opinion. “In future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell,” the opinion reads. 

As MSNBC’s Jesse Holland interestingly noted, Thomas failed to include Loving v. Virginia in this list of threatened cases – Loving was also decided under the due process clause and guarantees interracial marriage, the very type of marriage which Thomas himself is a part of. It seems as though the Fourteenth Amendment only protects the rights which are personally relevant to the court’s conservative justices. 

So, what does all of this mean for Alabamians? Of course, all people with uteruses in the state are now faced with the reality that they have been greatly deprived of bodily autonomy, even when compared to the numerous partial bans and limitations placed on abortions in Alabama before this most recent SCOTUS decision. 

The decision also means that all pregnant Alabamians are now underprivileged with regards to healthcare, as they will not have access to the same prenatal services as in other states that uphold the right to an abortion. This only furthers healthcare inequity for Alabamians, who already live in a state ranked among the worst for healthcare in the nation.

The absence of abortion access will also lead to internal inequities, as 49% of people seeking abortions are facing poverty. The Supreme Court’s dissenting opinion notes that “women living below the federal poverty line experience unintended pregnancies at rates five times higher than higher income women do,” acknowledging the disproportional effects the decision will bring. 

Economists have noted that access to abortions not only correlates with, but causes a decrease in child poverty rates. Banning abortions in Alabama will disproportionately harm the poor while indirectly perpetuating poverty. This creates a vicious cycle that will ironically only lead to increased demand for abortions in the state. 

Just because abortions will no longer be legal in Alabama does not mean they will no longer occur. Restrictive abortion laws and inaccess to contraception are two driving factors which lead to upticks in unsafe abortions. 

Unsafe abortions are a leading cause of maternal fatalities, causing 4.7-13.2% of maternal deaths each year. Without access to safe abortions in Alabama, more people will turn to unsafe methods, leading to increased rates of maternal mortality. Alabama’s abortion ban, while claiming to be “pro-life,” will undoubtedly cause needless deaths.

Actively belittling this reality in the name of “protecting life” is dishonest, manipulative and barbaric. Why does life only matter at conception? Why doesn’t it matter outside of the womb? How good is a life that you have no control over? Of course, those who attack abortion do not ask, nor adequately answer, these questions.

Consider this hypothetical scenario: a girl is born in Alabama because her mother could not abort her. This same girl could later die from an ectopic pregnancy which Alabama will not allow her to terminate. Why did her life matter as an unborn fetus, and not as a woman? 

Such a scenario highlights the reality of this issue. Those who use “life” as an anti-abortion argument are being utterly disingenuous and mislead many Americans through vacant emotional appeals. 

The political issue of abortion is not an issue of life, it is an issue of power. Those who oppose abortion wish to exert power and control over those with uteruses, and if an unplanned child happens to die in a mass shooting after it is born then they can simply address it with “thoughts and prayers.” 

It is also particularly relevant to note how college students are disproportionately affected by this ban. As of 2019, individuals between the ages of 20 and 24 have the highest rate of reported legal abortions, indicating that access to abortion is an issue that largely affects college-aged individuals. 

The pursuit of education is an oft-cited reason for why individuals choose to terminate a pregnancy. Inaccess to abortion will limit individuals from accessing higher education — a student may be forced to drop out of school to manage an unexpected pregnancy, stripping them of their future and the increasingly necessary benefits of a college degree.

This will also disproportionately impact students who are less wealthy, as they may not be able to afford to both attend school and deal with the costs of childbirth and childrearing, nor may they be able to afford traveling out of state to seek a legal abortion. Meanwhile, a student from a wealthier background may have the resources to manage such a circumstance without forfeiting their education. The very same students who are already disadvantaged by their economic background will now have yet another obstacle in their path towards a successful future. 

Large college campuses that attract a wide variety of students like the Capstone further reveal the absurdity of this situation. Nearly 60% of UA students come from outside of Alabama. Why should students who may be able to access an abortion back home be deprived of those rights as soon as they set foot on campus?

The University of Alabama should certainly consider addressing these issues in whatever capacity it can. From creating emergency funds that can aid students in purchasing necessary medications, to adapting housing policies to provide for parenting students, to subsidizing childcare, to simply disseminating relevant information and materials, there is a lot that the University can do.

Living in a post-Roe society will be difficult, but there are groups fighting to protect abortion rights. Groups like the Yellowhammer Fund, ARC Southeast, Alabama Cohosh Collaborative and the West Alabama Women’s Center continue to fight for abortion rights and provide what legal care they can. Students also have access to campus pregnancy resources and the Condom Distribution Program to ease the brunt of the impact.

However, it necessary to continue fighting for abortion rights. Republicans reaped the benefit of decades of court packing and planning to overturn Roe v. Wade. They also prevented attempts to codify Roe into law, although Democrats never believed it was necessary.

Now, a Republican majority holds the same power to codify abortion bans. House Republicans are already considering a nationwide 15-week abortion ban. Fighting those attempts on the grassroots level and through midterms will take time, but this is how we can win back our rights, for good. 

Vote for the young progressive voices who wish to protect the right to choose instead of merely using this moment to fundraise and remain complacent (which remains the go-to move for many establishment Democrats). With our democracy in an increasingly-dire state, we — the future —  must act and make our voices heard.