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For the sake of women’s rights everywhere, it’s time to speak up against men taking decisions about women’s bodies. It is Alabama and abortion today. It is all of our rights tomorrow. Our silence can be fatal.
Last week in the US, 25 all white male senators voted to advance the most restrictive abortion ban in the country and the Governor of Alabama, Kay Ivey, a woman, signed it into law. If enacted, the law would permit abortions only if the mother’s life is at risk or if the fetus cannot survive, but does not permit abortions in cases of rape or incest.
Earlier this month, the bill had been passed in the Alabama House. All except for two of the 76 Republican male lawmakers voted in favour of the bill. What is shocking is that the Bill’s sponsor in the House is a woman, Republican state representative Terri Collins. What is even more shocking is that she cautioned that she would kill the bill if it included any exceptions for rape and incest. Along with six other Republican women in the House, Terri Collins voted to pass the bill. Nearly all Democratic House members decided not to vote and walked out of the House in protest.
I cannot help but wonder, when did women’s reproductive and fundamental rights become a political battle? Why do some women in powerful positions, instead of advocating for women’s rights, tend to support misogynist men who are bent on forcing their conservative agenda? And finally, how did we get here?
To provide some additional context, abortion is currently legal under Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision in 1973 that legalized abortion in all 50 states in the US, and provided a fundamental “right to privacy” that protects a pregnant woman’s liberty to choose whether or not to have an abortion. But nearly all states have set certain limits.
After a series of recent conservative appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court, a growing number of states, including Alabama have now moved to drastically restrict access to abortion this year. The ban that was passed in Alabama last week makes abortion illegal in all cases, including cases of rape and incest, which is atrocious. In addition, the ban penalizes the doctors who perform abortions with a possible life imprisonment.
And then there are lawmakers in Georgia, Ohio, Kentucky and Mississippi who also proposed “heartbeat” bills this year and got them signed into law. The so called “Heartbeat” bills ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy when a large number of women do not even know they are pregnant.
The ban in Alabama is so ruthless that even some of the right wing conservatives like Tomi Lahren have slammed the abortion ban as too restrictive. Furthermore, Tele-evangelist Pat Robertson has also criticized that the Abortion law has gone too far.
Note that none of these new laws have yet gone into effect, and abortion is still legal in every state. However, these bills are designed to instigate the Supreme Court to even overturn the landmark ruling.
I am not a proponent of abortions. Nor am I ignorant of ruthless human traffickers abusing abortion clinics. However, imposing restrictive abortion ban is not the solution to any problem, just like building a wall is not the solution to the immigration problem in the US. While the actual perpetrators get off scot-free and are not penalized, innocent girls and women end up bearing the brunt of the ban, and all because of politicians who are misusing their power and pushing their own conservative agenda.
These politicians and lawmakers should step back and analyze the impact of their actions for once. What happens to a child that is brought into this world in a case where it was an unwanted pregnancy caused by rape or incest? In all likelihood, the child is apparently not wanted and is either placed in a similar circumstance as the mother or put up for adoption. As a result, there is a high probability that the child may end up in a dysfunctional family or in a foster home or may end up, even homeless. Some of these children may beat the odds to survive and even succeed due to their grit and determination and due to a few good mentors, they were fortunate enough to meet along the way, but we cannot deny the fact that a few of them may end up becoming the next Parkland or Sandy hook shooters or the next serial rapists or killers.
Unfortunately, this is a cycle that never ends. Pro lifers need to take a minute and try to understand that not all humans should be parents, and not all children who are born out of unwanted pregnancies are brought into a safe haven.
I am appalled that these restrictive bans and heartbeat bills are happening in a developed country like the US which boasts of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of “you name it”, and yet a woman does not have the freedom of her reproductive rights. Come to think of it, when some of the developing countries in the world like India have had a female President at least once, US, a developed nation never had one. If that doesn’t tell us about women and equality in a country, I am not sure what does.
Again, let us take the example of India, where the Medical Termination of Pregnancy bill was passed on August 1971 as the Medical Termination of the Pregnancy Act. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971 makes the Comprehensive Abortion Care (CAC) services available to women in India. Termination of pregnancy is not restrictive, but permitted for a broad range of conditions. You can find further details at this link if you are interested.
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy bill has not changed significantly since it was passed in August 1971. There were a few amendments that were introduced as recently as 2014, but nearly all of them focused on providing safe and legal abortion services to women in India. India might be a developing country and it may have it’s own set of human rights issues, but the women in India still have their reproductive rights intact at least for now. Touch wood!
For the sake of the women in the US as well as the women around the world, it is time to stop thinking like everything is normal, stop going about the day like nothing happened, start realizing that this is a warning. It is Alabama and abortion today. It is all of our rights tomorrow. Our silence will not save us. Therefore, we will need to come together and we will need to speak up. Alone a woman may be a snowflake that can be blown away in the wind, but together women can cause a snowstorm that can wreak havoc.
As women, we must stand up for ourselves, we must stand up for each other, we must stand up for justice for all – Michelle Obama
Image source: Women’s Health Initiative [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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