Tuesday, August 9

“I don’t recognise my country”: Orbital Reacts to Roe v Wade

“We are better than this”, my mother says. “I don’t recognise my country.” I can’t help but agree. Because this isn’t what the United States of America should be. This is not what it was founded on. This is not a reflection of its population’s views.

This is an act of ostracisation in the pursuit of control. This is not democracy.

There have been many times in recent years that I’ve been embarrassed by my country, by my accent and by my passport. Friday’s overturn of the Roe v Wade ruling topped everything else (a high boundary to break after the election of our last president).

Equality, that often-distant dream, felt obtainable. We could see it off in the distance, and if we could just get a bit closer, keep moving forward, then maybe we could reach it, touch it, smell it, lick it. With this ruling, we have been blindfolded, thrown in a van, and driven at top speed in the opposite direction. This ruling has brought us back in time, precisely 48 years, 5 months and 4 days back in time.

48 years, 5 months and 4 days ago, the US Supreme Court ruled that abortion laws went against the US Constitution because they infringed on a woman’s right to privacy. Friday, that same US Supreme Court overturned that right. We decided one voice on this topic wasn’t enough. Here are our views on the matter.

Emma Holly

The more time progresses, the more I become unsure that the world didn’t end in 2012. That we aren’t in some kind of post-apocalyptic version of Earth that shuns human rights for the sake of control. In all honesty, I wonder how much more we can all take. Are we not already on our hands and knees? Today’s news that the Roe v Wade policy has been overturned by a sickening 6-3 majority within the Supreme Court has rendered me, along with millions of my fellow women, with the kind of exhaustion that settles into your bones. It laughs at you for hoping for something bright, something tentative, and reminds you that this is one of countless tragedies we have already borne witness to in 2022.

I am devastated that we are facing a future that will force women in at least twenty-five American states to resort to desperate measures in order to have a say about their bodies. It is going to highlight the divide once more between the privileged and those less fortunate; the lucky ones will be able to cross state lines in order to receive their abortion, whilst others will be left with a horrific set of options. They will be evaluating what it means to raise a baby that may have been the product of rape, or desperately trying to remove the embryo in their ectopic pregnancies. They will have to navigate the life-long consequences of as something as simple as broken condom. The horror stories of the past, where backstreet abortions were commonplace, have somehow become news stories of today.

We are not overreacting. We are not ‘hysterical’, as our stereotype so often depicts us; we are watching our very autonomy being removed. Perhaps it would be different if all women stood on the same side of the battlefield together, perhaps it would soften the blow. However, the first image I saw relating to the news was a group of young women cheering, tears of joy streaming down their faces, with signs saying that “the future is anti-abortion.” These are women who must be no older than myself, stumbling their way through their early twenties; yet I do not recognise them. As Michelle Obama said in her statement regarding the situation, we are “{inheriting] a country that does not resemble [us] or any of the values [we] believe in.”

My friend expressed their view earlier, saying that it feels as though we make one step forward and at least five steps back. I don’t know how much longer we have the strength, nor the hope, to continue fighting for rights that we should be able to take to granted.

Courtney Bridges

It is with such a disbelief and anger to even be writing about this overturning of a constitutional right. But we must. And so, I begin with The Comstock Act of 1873. The act that determined America’s future path, and seemingly does once again…

This act viewed contraception and abortion as promoters of lust and lewdness. It made contraceptives illegal. This included the banning of information relating to and the prohibition of abortion. Its introduction in New York was a catalyst for such laws that existed across America in the twentieth century. An often-forgotten history lies in how previous to 1873, abortion and contraception were both legal services accessible to women, although in very different forms to modern medicine. Roe v. Wade was the re-institution of laws that existed one-hundred years prior to the court ruling.

It is therefore apparent that we are not experiencing a re-lapse of outdated conservative attitudes; we are experiencing their revival at an exponential rate. For, in echoing Michelle Obama’s words, “when we don’t understand our history, we are doomed to repeat its mistakes”. It is with this that I fear Margaret Atwood’s dystopia, The Handmaid’s Tale, one she believed was “too far-fetched”, although grounded in evidence of concerns regarding the American New Right at the time of writing, is beginning to run worryingly parallel to our reality.

This level of Conservative control exerted unto American women is a reversal of women’s rights. By removing their free will, America removes its female population of their full citizenship. As Ruth Bader Ginsberg points out: “when government controls that decision for her, she’s being treated as less than a fully adult human.”

The Fourteenth Amendment remains at risk, and so does democracy. Not just in America, but across the world. It is more frightening each day, as a History, Politics and International Relations student, to see the theory of Huntington’s estimated democratic backslide becoming less of a prediction.

Elena-Teodora Chiujdea

The legalisation of abortions in the US came about back in 1973. Not even 50 years from such an immense social movement forward and the Supreme Court is backtracking into a past governed by patriarchy. Eight men, four women. Those are the members of the Supreme Court today. Over half of them are not female, so how hypocritical is it to let them take decisions about the female body? Let’s be honest here. You’re not stopping anyone from having an abortion. You’re just forcing women to get them done unsafely, without medical assistance. At the point of aborting it, we aren’t talking about a baby, we’re talking about cells in a woman’s body. Thus her choice. Why should we be surprised? After Trump, Covid and now women having a constitutional right ripped away from them. If people don’t laugh at this idiocy, they’ll cry. Don’t let them fool us again. Protest your way through the streets and make abortion legal again. This could just as easily happen in the UK.

Madelaine Gray

Like many British children, I’m sure, I grew up with a secret wish to have been born American. What with the saturation of American television programmes dominating our screens (I was partial to Hannah Montana and iCarly, myself), and the grand nature of US politics, the country seemed more exciting than this one; I loved the concept of the American Dream, the magnificent National Parks, and the sprawling, cosmopolitan cities. Maybe that’s why I feel such a sharp disappointment watching the current political landscape.

Roe v Wade was close to its fiftieth anniversary. It was, as many of the current Supreme Court Justices who subsequently voted to overturn it, “settled law”.

The rhetoric around discussions of abortion often makes me want to tear my hair out. No, it is not murder – it is a medical decision. If I were dying, needing a kidney transplant, there is no court in the land that could compel another person to donate their kidney to me, even if that would save my life – in other words, if I could not survive without violating your bodily autonomy, much as a foetus cannot survive outside a uterus. Some abortions occur due to horrific, unspeakable circumstances, many more occur due the unviability of the foetus due to developmental defects or a health risk to the mother, and more still because women are simply not ready, or not willing, to have a child. None of these reasons are more valid, more acceptable, than another, because abortion is not an act that needs to be justified. It is a morally neutral act.

The hypocrisy of Republicans, and conservatives in general, is plain to see. They want “small government”, handing power to the individual states, until federal overreach allows them to strike down state laws which would go some way to preventing gun violence (New York State Rifle & Pistol Assn., Inc. v. Bruen). How any court which aggressively protects the right to bear arms in any circumstances can call themselves “pro-life”, I will genuinely never understand.

There’s another important point to mention – this decision is unlikely to remain isolated to the United States. After all, the nation still has outsized influence in global leadership. On a smaller scale, anti-abortion activists will be galvanised. I have no doubt that we will see an uptick of violence against abortion practitioners, and more women will be driven to shame over a decision which is entirely their own to make.

Photo by Gayatri Malhotra on Unsplash

References:

Huntington, Samuel P 1991, The Third Wave: Democratisation in the Late Twentieth Century, University of Oklahoma Press.

Obama, M, 2022. My thoughts on the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. [Instagram]. 24 June. [Accessed 26 June 2022].

The Atlantic, 2022. Margaret Atwood invented Gilead. The Supreme Court, she argues, is making it real. [Instagram]. 13 May. [Accessed 26 June 2022].

Waxman, Olivia B. (2022) Ruth Bader Ginsburg Wishes This Case Had Legalized Abortion Instead of Roe v. Wade, Time, updated 24 Jun. https://time.com/5354490/ruth-bader-ginsburg-roe-v-wade/.

https://news.sky.com/story/right-to-abortion-overturned-by-us-supreme-court-after-nearly-50-years-in-roe-v-wade-ruling-12628801