Anti-abortion laws strip women of rights

By Maria Castellucci

Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling that women have the right to an abortion in the landmark Roe v. Wade case in 1973, many women still struggle to exercise this right.

In Texas, a law passed in 2013 caused 32 clinics to close in October under additional abortion restrictions, leaving only eight abortion centers accessible to the more than four million women in the state, according to an Oct. 5 New Yorker report.

Texas is one of several conservative states in the country that have drafted legislation making it difficult for women to pursue an abortion procedure.

Adding to that, school board officials in Gilbert, Arizona, decided Oct. 30 that the school district would remove any mention of abortion from a biology textbook to better align with a change in the state’s abortion law, according to an Oct. 30 Arizona Republic report. The change in the law, passed two years ago, requires public schools to provide education about birth control, adoption and childbirth options rather than abortion.

The school board’s decision and the state’s law do not effectively educate young women about their rights. Without mentioning abortion in public school education, Arizona’s school board is doing a disservice to a generation of women who could possibly grow up with wrong ideas about the rights they have to make decisions about their own bodies.

The frustrating decision by the Gilbert school board represents a trend in our society. Abortion is still stigmatized in many states, ultimately preventing women from making informed choices about their bodies or causing a feeling of shame among women who have decided to have an abortion. This attitude was seen on Nov. 4 when Tennessee, North Dakota and Colorado put some form of personhood law on the Midterm Election ballot (it only passed in Tennessee). Personhood argues that life begins upon conception and justifies limiting abortion rights. The Tennessee personhood law removes state funding for abortions.

When Roe v. Wade was decided, it faced harsh backlash from several groups, most notably from religious groups, but that was more than 40 years ago. One would think that this point of contention would disappear, but that is clearly not the case. In 2012, Texas law required pregnant women to listen to the heartbeat of the fetus at least 24 hours before an abortion procedure. The decision has been highly controversial, and some have even deemed it cruel to women. Six states passed laws in 2013 preventing an abortion after the 20th week of conception based on the idea that the fetus can feel pain. North Dakota became the most strict state when its governor signed a law in 2013 restricting an abortion after a heartbeat could be heard, which can be as early as six weeks, according to a March 26, 2013, New York Times report. Thirty-eight states prevent minors from receiving an abortion without signed consent from a parent or legal guardian. This makes it difficult for young girls to get an abortion. Although one can argue this inhibits girls from having early sex, it also takes away control over their bodies.

All of these laws leave women powerless over their bodies and discourage exercising the choice to abort. Statistics prove that despite abortion’s negative connotation, it is a decision a significant number of American women make. Nearly one-third of American women have an abortion by the age of 45, according to Planned Parenthood’s website. The disapproval these women experience has been so prevalent that the 1 in 3 Campaign was initiated to combat it. The campaign encourages women who have had abortions to tell their stories in reaction to the harsh criticism women feel they undergo and the laws enacted to limit abortion rights.

There have been many studies conducted in an attempt to understand who receives abortions. Most find that women provide various reasons for having an abortion. A July 2013 study from the University of California, San Francisco surveyed 956 women who have received or applied for an abortion. The study found that 40 percent expressed a financial reason that influenced their decision abortion and 36 percent expressed “bad timing” as the reason. These reasons hold substantial meaning.

Women are critically analyzing the consequences of having a child and are deciding not to based on their circumstances. It is a responsible decision on the part of the woman. These studies also help illuminate the complexity of such a decision, and it reemphasizes to critics that it is a woman’s right to decide why she wants an abortion—no matter the reason she gives.

The attack on abortion rights is insulting to women—they have the right to decide what they want to do with their bodies. As states continue to take action against these rights, women are continually belittled. Aside from being a violation of the Supreme Court decision, these laws are also a violation of basic rights, and legislators should veto all such laws.