The Supreme Court, in 1973, upheld a woman’s right to terminate pregnancies in the first trimester — weeks 1 to 12 — and deferred power back to the states regarding the legality of abortions in the second and third trimesters. This landmark decision in Roe v. Wade protected women against the criminalization of abortions based on their constitutional right to privacy. However, many legislators are currently trying to challenge that decision with the introduction of new abortion bills across much of the southern region of the United States. Several of these bills are referred to as “heartbeat bills,” meaning abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat — which happens around six weeks — are illegal in most cases. Yet, some states are going as far as considering to criminalize abortions, threatening jail time and the death penalty to women seeking to terminate their pregnancies. The unnecessary restriction of abortions is interfering with a woman’s fundamental right to privacy, established in Roe v. Wade, and with her natural right to autonomy as a human being.
With the recent proposal of bills in Texas, Alabama and Louisiana seeking to criminalize abortions possibly as far as a felony charge, lawmakers, doctors, protestors and women have began standing in solidarity to resist said bills. They are fighting for a justice grander than abortion rights, and it is our responsibility to ensure lawmakers continue blocking these bills for the future of all women in America.
Despite many of the bills aiming to criminalize abortions, such as those in Texas, currently being shut down either by lawmakers or by the Supreme Court, their introduction in the first place communicates a clear message to women in this nation — lawmakers have more control over the female body than the woman herself does. Women facing any legal charges, jail time or even the death penalty for engaging in a safe medical procedure within her rights should not be tolerated. It is moving back in the women’s movement to a time when unsafe abortions, unnecessary fear and unjustified control was the reality of being a woman in America. Not to mention, every time a bill regarding the criminalization of abortion makes it to the docket of the Supreme Court, there is potential to set a new and harmful precedent, which should be a warning sign to put an end to this legislation immediately.
In addition, the introduction and passage of heartbeat bills, such as those in Ohio, not only go against the spirit of the Roe v. Wade decision that granted women a 12-week leniency, they also impose severe limitations on receiving an abortion. Six weeks into a pregnancy can be as little as two weeks after a missed period. For a woman with irregular cycles, missing a period by a couple of weeks may not be cause for concern or even hint at the possibility of pregnancy, meaning it would be too late to legally seek an abortion if she desired. Thus, the legalization of heartbeat bills not only implements strict time limits, it also further allows lawmakers to control a woman’s body, simultaneously decreasing the autonomy she has in this country as well.
Much more is at stake than the future of abortions in this country — lawmakers are jeopardizing fundamental human rights. This legislation is essentially threatening the bodily autonomy of American women, and with or without passage, the ideology behind the proposed laws is outdated and unacceptable. A woman’s well-being, safety and fundamental rights are being tested, and whether or not one is pro-life or pro-choice, basic human rights should always be put first.
As citizens of one of the freest nations in the world, it is our job to protect the rights granted in the Constitution, as well as those set forth as natural rights. In order to do this, we must continue to remind lawmakers of their duty to the humanity of this nation and urge them to abandon their political agenda in order to protect something of far more importance than a left and right debate. This is neither a Democratic issue nor a Republican issue — this is an issue of the humanity and livelihood of over half of the population. In protesting, calling legislators and voicing our opinions, we have the power to protect women across the nation from intrusive, unjust laws regarding their own body. We cannot let these bills become law, because we owe it to both this nation and the women in it to protect reproductive rights.
Hailey Yowell is the Senior Associate Opinion Editor for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at email@example.com.