Let’s talk about abortion.
The first time I saw abortion visually represented, it was in Dirty Dancing. It had been done illegally and incorrectly, and the woman was hurt and would have died, had Baby’s dad not stepped in.
The second time I saw abortion visually represented, it was in Sons of Anarchy. A woman was pregnant, but she already had four kids and knew she and her boyfriend wouldn’t be able to handle a fifth. She asked her friend, who was a doctor, to come with her to the clinic, and she went, got the procedure quickly and safely, and continued on with her life.
This weekend, I was watching Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, and in the episode a woman got an abortion—illegally—and is hospitalized. When Miss Fisher goes to the police, the detective is already aware of the doctor, calls him “Butcher George,” because of his high death rate, but is unable to do anything.
“The ones who die can’t talk and the ones who live won’t talk,” he tells Miss Fisher, and admitted that an abortion could lead to up to 15 years in prison for the woman.
Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is set in Australia in the 1920s, but in this episode, I saw a situation that could quiet possibly happen today in America.
I don’t want to talk about pro-choice or pro-life arguments. I want to talk about the reality of abortion—they have, and always will, exist, whether or not you agree with them. But whether they are safe or life-threatening is up to us.
Since Roe v. Wade passed in 1973, legislators have been fighting incessantly to reverse it, and, when they can’t, limit access to abortion in as many ways as they can. This means introducing laws that require inane waiting periods, unjustifiable and unnecessary additions to women’s health clinics, and, in the case of one proposed bill in Oklahoma, get the father’s approval before an abortion. Recently, Mississippi tried to ban abortion after 15 weeks with no exceptions for rape or incest, and Ohio tried to ban abortion, period.
The restrictions have affected states differently, according to a recent scientific study on abortions published by The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine. According to an article, written by Ariana Eunjung Cha for the Washington Post, this leads to health risks.
“In many states, regulations have created barriers to safe, effective, patient-centered, timely, efficient, and equitable abortion services,” [the scientists] write. “The regulations often prohibit qualified providers from providing services, misinform women of the risks of the procedures they are considering, overrule women’s and clinician’s medical decision-making, or require medically unnecessary services and delays in care.”
Six states, according to a Newsweek article, have only one abortion clinic for the entire state: Kentucky, West Virginia, Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota and Mississippi.
On an episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Oliver interviews health professions working in these environments where abortion isn’t accessible.
Andrea Ferrigno, a clinic administrator, recounts the lengths at which women have gone to in order to receive treatment despite restrictions.
“I said, ‘you could come to San Antonio and we could help you here,’ and she said ‘I can’t. I don’t have the means, there’s no way I can get to San Antonio. So what if I tell you what I have in my kitchen cabinet and you can tell me what I can do,’” Ferrigno said, remembering a phone call.
In a Washington Post article, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is quoted, saying:
““When a State severely limits access to safe and legal procedures,” she wrote in a concurring opinion, “women in desperate circumstances may resort to unlicensed rogue practitioners, faute de mieux, at great risk to their health and safety.”
It should be clear that restricting and making abortion unaccessible hurts women. It is forcing women to do unthinkable, traumatizing things when they can’t get a simple (legal) health procedure. These laws see women as wombs, they do not attempt to understand the difficult, dangerous situations a pregnancy could place a woman in, and they do so unapologetically and with a distinct lack of empathy. The reality is that it is not abortion that is the villain. Abortion, in these situations, isn’t the option that disregards human life. These laws are.
Roe v. Wade was a decision that gave women, who have too often had our choices made for us, a choice. It gave us a chance to be seen as something other than anatomy. It calmed fears. It gave hope for futures. It gave a choice. Women deserve to have a choice.
(And don’t even think about saying abstinence is a choice–we also deserve orgasms, and that argument is so sexist I cannot even.)
So I am scared, in the wake of this week’s Supreme Court decisions (and resignation), that that choice–that fundamental choice–that I deserve to have may be taken from me. I am scared at the thought of even more women seeking illegal, harmful treatments due to lack of options. I am scared to be told that an old white man (who probably gets uncomfortable discussing menstruation) knows what’s best for my body and soul. I am scared that women will devolve from “people” to just “wombs,” for them to be belittled and disrespected and told to bend to another’s will. I am scared for victims of reproductive coercion and those of domestic violence that face an increased risk of abuse while pregnant. I am scared for the women that will have children that the didn’t want to have, for how that will affect them and their kids. I’m scared for lost hope, lost opportunity, lost freedom, lost safety.
I am scared because people see abortion as the enemy when abortion is just a choice. A choice that we should have.