I first read The Handmaid’s Tale in 1989, four years after it was published. I was 15.
Damn! That’s nuts! I thought. That can’t ever happen…
Fast forward more than 30 years.
I’ve worked on violations of women’s rights around the world for decades, often to hear “but this doesn’t happen here” when in the US. Well, maybe now we’re reminded that yes, it’s been happening here all along.
Last night, while America gawked at the gowns in the Met Gala’s “gilded age”, American women were being thrown back to another era: the dark ages.
In an unprecedented breach of proceedings, a leaked document from the US Supreme Court exposed a sinister plan: to overrule Roe v. Wade, the 1973 constitutional ruling granting reproductive protections in the form of legalized abortions.
Put simply, Roe meant that women could choose to have an abortion and not be thrown in jail for it. That women could choose what happens to their own bodies.
This new ruling would mean an end to federal protection of abortion rights, allowing each state to decide whether to ban abortion or not, undoing nearly 50 years of guaranteed reproductive rights. It is likely every state that supports abortion now will continue to and every state that is restricting it will continue to.
Look at the media frenzy. Are we mad about the leak, or about women’s lives?!
We’ve just experienced the most consequential abortion decision of our lifetime. And a total transformation — destruction — of women’s bodily autonomy in America.
Abortion has always been a particularly divisive issue in the US, and once again, women’s bodies have become a political playground. There are religious and conservative undertones to all this, surely. But this ruling is about power — control over women’s bodies and choices.
Bodily autonomy and reproductive rights are fundamental rights. A fact that slips through the cracks during the flip-flopping of Democrat versus Republican politics. This has been brewing for a while.
There’s no doubt of the danger ahead for women. No, we’re not being dramatic. Gradually deteriorating rights is one thing (one very, very bad thing that we should have paid more attention to) but this is a catastrophic setback. Will our access to contraception be next?!
Unfortunately, we saw this coming. And I wrote about this only recently. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, 26 states could ban abortion. That means more than 25 million women of reproductive age losing access to an abortion. Losing access to basic health care. Losing their right to choose.
Let’s be clear — abortions won’t stop. Safe abortions will stop, putting women’s lives at risk.
We’ve all seen the coat-hanger image. I’m not trying to be alarmist. This stuff is real.
Some states that have banned abortion make exceptions for medical emergencies. However, Texas, for example, permits abortions in medical emergencies but physicians are unsure what constitutes an emergency. The language is unclear, and penalties are severe.
Medication abortions — abortion pills — account for over half of all US abortions. These pills are safe, legal, effective, and filling an ever-widening abortion access gap. It doesn’t make them easy to get, though. But it makes them lifesaving.
Regardless of what states allow, we will be faced with a humanitarian crisis where millions of people will be forced to travel hundreds of miles — 279 miles on average — for an abortion. If they can. This becomes less likely for those in poorer communities, black communities, minority communities.
Wondering what a post-Roe world would look like?
Head to the full blog to read this rant: https://linaabirafeh.medium.com/the-not-so-united-states-of-abortion-984da0a85dc1
“The highest court in the land has reached its lowest point,” Dr Alvaro Bermejo, Director-General of the International Planned Parenthood Federation stated.
This means that millions will be robbed of liberty, bodily autonomy, freedom — the stuff that America claims to be built upon. And, this isn’t just America. This decision will have a global impact, further fueling conservative misogynist movements already taking hold around the world.
This is a big deal.
Meanwhile, this big-deal bad-news isn’t a done deal — yet. There is time to apply pressure, even if it is unlikely to change minds. I write this blog because this is where I howl — and growl. But now is also the time to collectively channel our rage.
The blog lists organizations, demonstrations, and other ways to support. Go here: https://linaabirafeh.medium.com/the-not-so-united-states-of-abortion-984da0a85dc1
I clench my fists as I write this.
What are we supposed to tell the next generation, the 15-year old girl — just like I was — who was raised to believe that she has agency and opportunities, voice and choice, rights and freedoms? What do we tell that girl?!
We’ll tell her that we almost lost our right to choose, but then we fought like hell.