In June 2022, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, a precedent that constitutionally protected the rights of women in the case of an abortion. In the leaked initial majority draft opinion, Justice Samuel Alito argues on behalf of the court that abortion presents a “moral issue” against American “history and tradition.” He claimed that the Constitution makes no inferences regarding the right to an abortion and stressed that Roe v. Wade “must” be overruled.
Criminalizing abortions will not make it go away. Overruling this case will only make this procedure unsafe and put women at risk. Girls and women who do not have the privilege of traveling to a state that allows abortions are being discriminated against, and now that this country has once again restricted access to optimal, medically supervised abortions, women are being forced to turn to pre-Roe options. Methods such as underground abortions and self-induced abortions are taken out of desperation and are known to heavily increase the risk of maternal death and morbidity.
According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation,
Gerri Santoro made headlines, as she was on the cover page of a national magazine.
In 1964, 28-year-old Gerri Santoro died as a result of a failed self-induced abortion. A photo of her body lying over a blood-soaked towel was published by Ms. Magazine in 1973 with the headline “Never Again,” and became a symbol for the abortion-rights movement.
Santoro’s cruel death serves as a herald of what’s to come. The decision of the court to overrule laws set to protect the lives and privacy of girls and women takes away from the liberty and freedom that have been fought for for centuries. Not only does the overturning of Roe v. Wade result in more dangerous outcomes regarding healthcare for women, but it once again reaffirms the little value the court puts on women. Now women now seem to have to fear facing criminal liability just for being pregnant.
There is little to no regard for circumstances surrounding the need for an abortion, and 13 states enacted trigger laws that immediately came into place once Roe v. Wade was overturned, allowing no exceptions for abortions unless the fetus dies in utero or unless the woman gets very sick. In states such as Arkansas, Alabama, Utah, Mississippi, Ohio, and Texas, pregnancies that end in miscarriages can be investigated, and the mother can be charged with anything from chemical endangerment to first-degree murder.
WUSF, West Central Florida’s NPR station, told the story of 29-year-old Samantha Casiano who had to carry her pregnancy to term although the fetus had anencephaly, a birth defect in which a baby has a partially developed brain and skull.
With very limited options, women like Casiano are essentially forced to give birth to a baby, despite doctors being able to determine at 20 weeks that the baby would be “incompatible with life.”
Once the baby was born, she survived four hours, according to WUSF. If it hadn’t been for the overruling of Roe, Samantha and her family would not have had to go through all the emotional trauma and medical and funeral expenses because doctors would have advised Samantha to get an abortion immediately.
Cases like these shows the lack of concern for women’s mental and physical health.
According to TIME, a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio was required to travel out of state to access a safe abortion clinic in 2022. Under Ohio’s “fetal heartbeat” law, which went into place after the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the 10-year-old girl was not permitted an abortion in-state because she was nearly six and a half weeks pregnant.
Abortion opponents spoke out against this young girl traveling to receive an abortion. An Indiana lawyer and general counsel for the National Right to Life, Jim Bopp, believes the 10-year-old girl should have carried the pregnancy to term, he told Politico.
“We would hope that she would understand the reason and ultimately the benefit of having the child,” Bopp told Politico.
Although this case was one of the first to catch the attention of social media, increasingly, girls and women are being subjected to not only judgment and a lack of support, they are also facing arrest, prosecution, and incarceration for crimes related to pregnancy.
Women, especially women of color, are disproportionately affected by state criminal and anti-abortion statutes.
Some women have been jailed after enduring a miscarriage. The sufferer of a miscarriage may now feel at risk to receive the same treatment and sentencing as someone who is facing rape, robbery and murder charges.
With no two women being alike and no two pregnancies being alike, how can we have laws that disregard all circumstances and treat all pregnancies and abortions as the same?
Girls’ and women’s lives and reproductive fates are being determined by the state and their futures are ultimately being decided for them. The overruling of Roe v. Wade not only criminalizes abortions, but it also reaffirms the little respect this country has for the privacy, safety, and emotional health of women.