Norma McCorvey’s daughter is now 51 years old. McCorvey, better known as Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade infamy, sought an abortion in 1970 but was denied due to Texas’s abortion code. The law included an exception for rape, which was why she tried to claim that she had been assaulted, but the case was dismissed due to lack of evidence. By the time Roe v. Wade was codified, the “Roe baby” was long born and given up for adoption.
Under Texas’s new abortion law, Senate Bill 8, McCorvey would never have tried to lie; there are no exceptions for rape or incest. The bill, which went into effect on Sept. 1, bans all abortions after a fetal “heartbeat” is detected, approximately six weeks after conception. This extraordinarily short period of time is not even enough for a woman to realize she is pregnant, let alone consult her healthcare providers in a bid to understand her options. Additionally, private citizens can sue anyone who helps someone get an abortion, such as abortion providers, if they suspect that an abortion has been carried out after the six-week deadline. The law marks one of the strictest restrictions on abortion in the last 50 years and has inspired a slew of anti-abortion bills being proposed in seven other states. Women’s rights are once again under attack in many states, encouraged by a conservative-leaning Supreme Court.
A common fallacy is that restricting reproductive rights will stop all abortions from occurring. However, the World Health Organization estimates that over 25 million unsafe abortions are performed every year, usually in developing countries. Abortions will still take place in the United States regardless of anti-abortion laws, just as they were performed prior to Roe v. Wade. However, they will take place much later than the six weeks prescribed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott, causing inhumane pain to the fetus and grave injury to its mother. Wire hangers and noxious poisons create a grisly reality; unsafe abortions account for the third-largest portion of maternal deaths worldwide and cause over 5 million avoidable disabilities every year. Pro-life laws will not protect unborn children; instead, they will ruin the lives of their mothers.
Although it takes two to create a child, women bear the burden of raising it, both financially and temporally. When asked in the peer-reviewed journal “Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health” why they had had an abortion, 73% of respondents said that they did not have the financial resources to raise a baby, while 38% answered that it would interfere with their education and/or career. Efforts to implement equality for women will always be incomplete without handing them control of their own bodies, financial futures and educational goals.
While the rest of the world continues to march forward in the progression towards reproductive rights, the United States runs erratically in circles, pulling back and forth on the same issues. On Sept. 7, Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled that laws criminalizing abortion are unconstitutional. Ireland’s landmark 2018 Health Act, which was passed in a landslide vote, allows abortions at up to 12 weeks’ gestation or when there is a risk to the life of the mother. In 2020, Argentina’s Congress legalized abortions up to the 14th week. All are predominantly Catholic nations. Abortion was legalized decades ago in the United States, yet access to reproductive care is still limited. When 57% of Americans identify as “pro-choice”, according to National Public Radio, it is time for the United States to lead the world in allowing everyone to honor their wishes.
Ultimately, reproductive rights are a final test of the United States’ professed commitment to liberalism, democracy and individual rights. Women deserve to be equally in control of their own destinies as every other American citizen, a pillar of which is their rights over their own bodies.