On March 15, the Kentucky government passed two bills: One bans abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, and the other bans abortion if a woman is seeking it after a fetal diagnosis.
This is problematic for a few reasons. For one, most women don't even find out they're pregnant until after six weeks in. And two, in states with the most abortion restrictions, one of the only ways it's allowed is if the fetus is diagnosed with a disease or other condition.
It's pretty safe to say that Kentucky is making steps to get as constitutionally close to banning abortion as possible.
This ongoing struggle for reproductive rights is exactly the reason we need feminism. Until everyone has full self-determination for their bodies, we need to fight for our rights. Laws restricting abortion rights like the one Kentucky just passed is a clear example of institutionalized sexism.
"What oppresses us is living in a system which disregards us, is violent toward us, and essentially wants to subjugate our bodies or kill us," says Patty Byrne, director of Sins Invalid. While Byrne says this in terms of people with disabilities, the same sentiment can be shared in terms of reproductive rights.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that making abortions illegal won't stop them from happening. Making abortions illegal just makes them, well, illegal. It'd also make them more unsafe. Instead of going to a regulated professional clinic, women would be forced to go underground where conditions are unsanitary, harmful, and sometimes fatal. The World Health Organization reports that every year, anywhere from 4.7 to 13.2 percent of maternal deaths can be attributed to unsafe abortions.
This one's going out to anyone who thinks restricting women's rights like this is fine and even desired. If you really want to stop abortions, here's how to do it.
For starters, comprehensive sex education leads to less unplanned pregnancies. According to the Future Of Sex Education, comprehensive sex education is "age-appropriate physical, mental, emotional and social dimensions of human sexuality." Abstinence-only education doesn't work, but sex-ed that addresses how and where to get birth control, healthy expression of sexuality, and above all, maintaining proper health does.
Many critics of comprehensive sex-ed fear that it would increase the amount of teens who are sexually active, but actually, Planned Parenthood reports it increases the use of contraception among sexually active teens and is effective at delaying sexual intercourse for teens who haven't done it yet. It does not initiate sexual activity, increase the amount of teens engaging in sexual activity, or increase the number of partners sexually active youth have.
It's not enough to pretend teenagers won't explore their sexuality. Shunning sexual urges backfires. Not only does it backfire, it creates sneaky kids. They'll find ways to do what they want to do. Why not make sure they're informed and protected?
Protection brings us to point number two. The rate of abortions will only fall if everyone has widespread, easy access to reliable forms of birth control. After all, prevention is key. Birth control should be covered by insurance, and emergency contraception needs to be available over the counter as well.
People also need to be able to access birth control and health services at clinics too. Yes, that means Planned Parenthood. And no, they don't only do abortions. Most of the services they provide are actually things like STD screening, gynecological exams, and counseling. The majority of their client base are also people of low income who wouldn't be able to get these services otherwise.
Finally, it's not enough to pour all resources into just preventing unwanted pregnancies. We need to fix the foster care system as well. The "just put the baby up for adoption if you really don't want it" argument might be viable if our foster care system wasn't broken. Children and youths in foster care are more prone to high risk behaviors, and their physical, mental, and emotional health often suffer. A study by the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform showed that nearly one-third of foster children in Oregon and Washington state reported being abused by foster parents.
It seems awfully unfair to force women to go through with pregnancies they don't even want to ensure the survival of a child who is almost guaranteed to have a tough life anyway. If you're going to be pro-life, then be pro-life. Not just pro-fetus life. Not just pro-childbirth. All life.
That means allocating some tax money to go towards government assistance for low-income families. It also means making an effort to end poverty and homelessness. It means improving quality of life for kids in foster care. I'd even argue that it also means fixing the healthcare system and placing more value on taking care of mental and emotional health.
If you're going to say you're pro-life, then own it. Love and forgive one another. Care for one another. Try to understand one another.
I'm not going to pretend that some women don't use abortion as a form of birth control, which even I think is unethical. But for every woman who does this, there's a two, three, four dozen more who just made the hardest decision of her life.
Because the reality is, most women who go through with an abortion probably don't want to do it. Maybe they want to be a mother at some point, but for whatever reason, the timing wasn't right. Accidents happen. Maybe the child would've been born with a disease that would drastically alter their quality of life. Maybe her body couldn't handle childbirth and going through with the pregnancy puts her a high risk for death.
But the thing is, even if she did want to do it, which is also a real and valid possibility, it's no one's business but her own. Try to understand why she made this decision and trust that she made the right choice.
"Anti-abortion people talk about how abortion harms women, without acknowledging their mean and cruel perspectives, tactics and other perpetuation of stigma is the actual harm," says Monica McLemore, a reproductive rights activist in an interview with the Lady Parts Justice League.
Abortion may not be illegal anywhere in the U.S., but let's not pretend conservative lawmakers aren't actively trying to make it harder for women to exercise body autonomy. Laws that restrict abortion rights to the point that they're basically just legal on paper are shoddy attempts to oppress women.
Apparently, that's not enough either. Some states, such as Texas, have a mandatory sonogram law that forces women to see the ultrasound and hear the fetus' heartbeat before having an abortion. It's clearly not enough to restrict women's right to choose. No, they have to make sure she knows she's guilty as well.
That is simply unacceptable.
I'm not sure what's worse, the fact that it's 2019 and we still have lawmakers who try to restrict reproductive rights, or the fact that it's 2019 and they still think we won't fight back.
At the time of publication, a judge has blocked both abortion laws mentioned in this article.