“Bans off our bodies”: The lack of logic in overturning Roe v Wade


Mia DiLorenzo

The historic Roe v. Wade case was contested throughout the late 20th century

Sage Jezierski

January 22 marked the 49th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade. On May 2, a draft of a Supreme Court majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito was leaked to the public, stating: “[The Supreme Court] holds that Roe must be overruled.” Later, Alito cites the lack of mention of abortion in the Constiution as a central reason for the overturn. However, this decision should not be up to a document written almost 250 years ago with only white, property-owning men in mind.

In 1973, Roe v. Wade set the legal precedent for federal protection of a woman’s right to seek an abortion. The case outlined limits for states on regulating abortion: in the first trimester, women have the right to have an abortion without interference; in the second trimester, states can impose restrictions “reasonably related” to maternal or infant health; and in the third trimester, states have the authority to ban abortions. 

The leaked majority opinion set to overturn Roe v Wade was signed by Republican-nominated justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett. 

Of the five justices who signed off on the document, all are over 50. Four out of five of them are men. These judges have little to no proximity to the issue, yet unilaterally made a decision on behalf of millions of women. In modern America, we should be well past the point where men are making decisions controlling women’s bodies. Whether or not to have a child should be a personal decision, not a government-controlled one. Forcing women to give birth reduces them to less than human. A lack of bodily autonomy and equitable health care dictated by men is a clear contrast to the American ideals of freedom and democracy. 

If Roe v Wade is overuled, the right of abortion will be in the hands of individual states. Alito writes: “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.” 

Last December, a Mississippi law that would make abortion illegal after 15 weeks of pregnancy was heard in front of the Supreme Court. This direct challenge to Roe v. Wade sparked what could be the most influential abortion rights ruling in this century.  

On the state level, 13 states have “trigger bans” that are set to immeditately ban abortion if Roe is struck down. Another five states have anti-abortion laws intact from the pre-Roe era that will be automatically implemented once the official ruling comes out. Four more states have strict regulations that will likely pass through the state legislature. These states are, no surprise, primarily Republican. 

Most Democratic states are predicted to continue to protect women’s right to abortion. Sixteen states have a law or amendment in their state constitution that will remain in place. Many of these states are also attempting to implement regulations that allow women to travel from conservative states for an abortion. 

But in at least 22 states, abortion will become either illegal or widely inaccessible. This statistic vastly contradicts the overall American opinion on abortion. According to Forbes, 40% of Americans want their states to either ban or restrict abortions, while the majority, 59%, want to keep abortion legal.

So it must be asked, with the majority of the public supporting the legality of abortion, and against the potential overturn of Roe v. Wade, is the decision indeed about protecting the American people or about maintaining party lines and control over underrepresented groups? 

Solicitor General Scott G. Stewart, who is currently representing Mississippi in deliberations in the Supreme Court, asserted that Roe v. Wade has cost America millions of human lives. However, when speaking of “human lives” lost to abortion, anti-abortionists are referring to fetuses, not mothers. 

Fetal personhood is a pillar argument in the pro-life approach, claiming that an unborn child, regardless of viability or stage of development, is a living being desiring of human rights. In the last decade, advocates against abortion have attempted to push forward over 200 legislative pieces to establish a fetus’s human rights. 

Several scientific studies have debunked fetal personhood up to a certain point. Among others, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists published a study stating that a human fetus cannot feel pain until the point of viability—when it can survive outside of the mother. The connections between nerves and the brain are not formed until 24 weeks into pregnancy, meaning the fetus has no capability of feeling pain, surviving on its own, or having feelings prior to this point. 

Countless sets of data prove that access to safe and legal abortion has increased the standard of living for many women are overlooked in the argument of fetal personhood. This logic only holds on the basis that a nonliving embryo has more rights and protections than a living woman, a statement that select members of the Supreme Court clearly support. 

Miscarriages end 15-20% of pregnancies in the United States. Under the doctrine of fetal personhood, these could be surveilled and criminalized. An intimate and tragic loss of a child could become a felony offense. 

Although placental or chromosomal abnormalities cause most miscarriages, the legal system would blame the individual actions of expectant mothers. Environmental conditions, stress, activity level, and poor nutrition are additional common causes of miscarriage. The criminalization of miscarriages, again, would place fetal safety as a priority, targetting women for factors out of their control. 

Many of these circumstances affect disproportionate numbers of impoverished women of color. A lack of accessible healthcare and racism in medicine proves to be an increasing threat to underrepresented groups, increasing their chance of a miscarriage while simultaneously decreasing their aid from the healthcare system. 

The overturning of Roe v. Wade doesn’t necessarily mean a nationwide abortion ban, but it does guarantee inequality in access to abortion. 

As the number of clinics decreases and state-wide abortion bans come into effect, prices will undoubtedly increase due to a rise in demand. Low-income women will not have the luxury of traveling to another state, taking leave from their job, or paying for a pricey operation. Most women who get abortions are either already mothers or living below the federal poverty line.

Despite public opinion, increased targeting of marginalized groups will ease the pressure off of state governments because advantaged groups won’t feel the adverse effects as much. Take prohibition or the criminalization of marijuana, for example. Though members of any race are equally likely to commit crimes, minorities are expressly and disproportionately targeted by law enforcement and the legal system. Underrepresented groups will be denied reproductive rights on a larger scale while facing harsher punishment if they violate the law.

Though privileged pro-life politicians refuse to acknowledge the positives of abortion, countless data highlight the benefits for women. A vital example of this is the Turnaway Study which strongly debunks most anti-abortion arguments. Women who were able to receive an abortion were four times more likely to live above the federal poverty line than those who were denied a termination. 

Those who claim they are “pro-life” commonly contradict their own beliefs. Children of mothers who were denied an abortion are more likely to grow up in poverty or in an abusive household. Anti-abortionists value the life of a fetus enough to lobby for a federal law protecting them but fail to recognize the effects on actual living children. Once the fetus is a living, breathing human, its protection from far-right Republicans vanishes. If they were really “pro-life,” they would advocate for better education, paid maternity leave, or reforms to the foster care system. The lack of protection for pregnant women and children leads to the question: do anti-abortion activists value human life or only pre-born children?

In addition, access to preventive measures to decrease the chance of an accidental pregnancy could disappear along with Roe. Contraceptives, condoms and emergency birth control, like Plan B, could be targeted by specific state laws. Yet the logic that decreasing access to preventive measures for pregnancy will result in an increasing need for abortions seems to be lost on many. Essentially, certain pro-life advocates are promoting abstinence as the only solution to unwanted preganancy. A concept that should’ve been abandoned decades ago. 

Roe v. Wade isn’t just about abortion. The government is designed to protect individual rights, but the harsh reality is that we must now protect our rights from the government. The ruling in Roe v. Wade was based on an implied right to privacy found in the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The potential overturning of Roe puts other landmark cases that use the same constitutional basis in question, proving a threat to other personal rights. Same-sex marriage and the right to privacy in sexual activity are just a few examples. 

The overturn of this case sets a dangerous precedent for the future of our country. The concept of fundamental rights is on the line: choice, privacy, and bodily autonomy. If these rights are undermined, everyone risks a reality in which the government has the power to intervene in your personal life decisions. Far-right conservatives will have the grounds to implement their moral and religious beliefs into law.

But it’s not too late. The court’s holding will not be final until the official publication of the document. It’s possible for justices to withdraw their signature or majorly alter the draft. There is guaranteed mass resistance within the next few weeks. With the president and majority of Congress willing to fight to protect the right to abortion and many states passing protective laws, there is a glimmer of hope. 

Regardless of background or beliefs, it’s crucial to protect our fundamental rights. The public’s voices must be heard and turned into action in the next few weeks. Consider attending marches, signing petitions, or donating to pro-choice campaigns. Abortion is still legal, and still, in your right—it’s not too late.