Eight months on from the overturning of Roe v Wade, Sharne Eliza Wood reckons with the continued fallout in the USA and beyond.
It’s taken some time to find the right words for this piece, but there’s things the Young Fabians Blog can’t leave unsaid.
As a young woman, watching in disbelief as what was probably the most landmark piece of legislation on reproductive rights in the world was overturned was like something out of a dystopian future story.
I didn’t believe it at first. I couldn’t quite comprehend how we had ended up in a position where law and policy that had protected the rights of anyone with a uterus - whether that be fertile women, trans men, nonbinary folks or anyone of what is generally considered childbearing age and ability in the USA - to autonomy over their own bodies, had been dissolved.
It’s truly frightening to think that individual states now have the ultimate decision on whether or not someone can have a say on what happens to their body - this is a matter of personal choice, and to have that taken away is something equivalent to nightmares.
It takes us back to a time where women were valued only on their ability to bear children - thought of by the state, church and general populous alike as nothing more than herb gardens for breeding the next generation, fulfilling a man’s family name further down the line and submissively bowing down to control like livestock.
In 2022, I didn’t think we’d be facing such a harrowing situation in terms of reproductive rights. And certainly not in a nation that claims to be so forward thinking and democratic, free and open to all.
Women in states like Texas, Kentucky and Louisiana, along with many more in the South, are without doubt in the most danger right now. These areas have always had large populations of evangelical Christians, right wing nationalists and other anti choice groups and individuals, but now Roe v. Wade is no longer in place to protect the national right to abortion, women and anyone who may need access to termination services are in grave danger of being ignored, humiliated, abandoned in their hour of need and ultimately forced to give birth to an unwanted child. Because that’s all this is, really. It’s forced birth. There is no ‘pro life’ movement - because these same people fail to show up at all for refugees and asylum seekers, the incarcerated, orphans and children in care, the homeless, the sick and dying or anyone else who would benefit from a movement that actually supported life. For me, this is all about exerting control over a marginalised group.
I can’t help but feel like Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, is slowly becoming less like fiction and more of a reality. There’s very little comfort in waking up to a world that’s slowly rescinding its freedoms - surely access to rights as important as these should only be expanding? Nations such as the US are often thought of as world leading and influential when it comes to the improvement of society, but here we see them falling far behind other countries. The 2020 Presidential election was thought to be a breath of fresh air for the States, but somehow we’ve managed to revert to a state worse for abortion care than before. The Democrats have failed to uphold the protections to reproductive health that we expected. Somehow, we are in a situation where it was easier to get an abortion under Donald Trump’s Republican administration - a statement I never thought I’d be typing.
The loss of the trailblazing feminist and reproductive rights campaigner, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in the same year presented a huge blow to the cause, especially following her replacement on the Supreme Court with Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative figure. It’s almost as though it’s been one thing after another, a tumbling boulder destroying the right to bodily autonomy, not just in the US, but around the world. Religious groups threaten abortion rights in swathes, and right wing politicians use this vital right to choose as a topic of debate as often as possible. The threat is coming from all angles.
‘Pro Life’ activists stood outside abortion clinics, shaming everyone from rape victims, the poor and unhoused, the sick and dying and even children for simply making the right decision for themselves is still not a thing of the past. Frankly, I find it terrifying how it's continually allowed - we shouldn’t be guilt tripped for our personal choices. An abortion is the business of no one but those who require it. No one should be forced to carry a pregnancy they don’t wish to. No explanations needed, no justifications, no criteria - if a woman, or anyone with a uterus - doesn’t wish to carry a child for nine months, they shouldn’t have to.
Some time has passed since the overturning of Roe. v Wade, and the effects have been undeniably devastating. 13 states have now completely banned abortion, including Texas, Oklahoma and Tennessee. The state of Georgia has a 6 week limit, and other states, such as Utah and Arizona, have between 15-20 week limits. There are of course states that had the ban blocked, including these two and others like Wisconsin and Montana, and states where abortion is thankfully still completely legal - like California and Oregon, but unfortunately, the overturning has led to limitations in states where previously abortion access was completely legal, such as in Nevada and Kansas. This is just a small eye opener into the consequences of what’s happened.
It’s my belief that if a cisgender man could give birth, they’d sell abortion pills on railway refreshment carts, offer the procedure on monthly mailing lists, even give time off from work for recovery, mandated mental health support and no backlash, shame or guilt to be seen. A war on women, and minorities, is being allowed to grow, and until we admit that’s what this is, we will never have a world where reproductive rights are safe and protected.
Tomorrow’s women deserve better.
Sharne Wood is a Labour Party activist, trade unionist & a Young Fabian from Stoke on Trent, and a Politics student at Manchester Metropolitan University. She is a co-host of the Left Whingers Podcast and tweets at @sharneewood_.