I Stand Against the Barbaric Abortion Bills

Pro-choice protesters during Row vs Wade, 1973

You heard it on the news. You maybe scrolled past it on Twitter. But you certainly didn’t hope it was going to spark such a devastatingly regressive trend. First it was Georgia. “Six weeks?” I stammered to my mum. “That’s like realising you’re two weeks late for your period.” Today, it was Alabama. Six weeks, and now no weeks. That’s right. Today, in May of 2019, it has been legislated that should you need to have an abortion in Alabama, there’s no possible way for the act to be performed legally. Whilst the mother would face no criminal action for getting an illegal abortion, the doctor in question would be liable for committing a ‘class A felony’, a conviction punishable by a sentence of up to 99 years in prison. 

The only possible way for a woman to have an abortion legally would be if the woman in question’s life were deemed to be in significant medical risk. The sad irony of this fact is that women will always be in danger as long as abortion is illegal.


Queue utter shock and condemnation from liberals around the world as political correspondents, news pundits and commentators alike revert to asking what could be considered utterly ridiculous questions concerning the most basic considerations of women’s rights and bodily autonomy in order to perhaps mitigate the harshness of Alabama’s decision:

What if the woman in question was raped? Still illegal to terminate the foetus.

What about in the case of incest, where victims can be underage and have therefore suffered abuse? Illegal.

What if the baby were to be born severely handicapped, or born with a terminal or degenerative condition? Illegal. 

The only possible way for a woman to have an abortion legally would be if the woman in question’s life were deemed to be in significant medical risk. The sad irony of this fact is that women will always be in danger as long as abortion is illegal. Not only does this legislation set a dangerous precedent surrounding the policing of women’s bodies and rights, it will drive illegal practice of abortion underground. Without medical regulation, such a risky procedure has been shown to increase the risk of infection, permanent internal damage, and even death (not too mention the obvious mental health ramifications.)

We all know the debate. It’s been re-hashed, re-phrased and re-presented to the American public every time a presidential election comes around as it continues to be one of the most divisive partisan issues for the legislature, where Democrats are (generally) in favour and Republicans staunchly against. It’s one of those polemical issues that probably everyone you know has an opinion on. Pro-life, pro-choice. We know the situation, we’ve heard the arguments. If you’re a woman, chances are you’ve been yelled at and harassed by pro-life campaigners outside of sexual health and abortion clinics on what could already be the worst day of any woman’s life. 

In the Republic of Ireland, a cultural shift was catalysed in the wake of the 2018 ‘Repeal the Eighth’ campaign which resulted in an historic referendum where the people overwhelmingly voted for a change to the constitution in order to allow the government to legislate for abortion. We were forced to have a strong, hard look at a neighbouring political system which forced young women travel across the Irish sea to the UK in order to have safe, legal abortions during what may be the most stressful or upsetting period of their lives, often without a modicum of support and only to be shoved back on the plane with risk of facing significant stigma at home. 

However, this continues to happen in Northern Ireland, where abortion is still illegal in a similar vein to what has been legislated in Alabama (where the only possibility for an abortion to be legal is when the mother’s life is deemed at risk). Happening right next to us in a country with devolved powers, where tensions have recently been elevated due to the issue of the Irish backstop in an attempt to finalise all aspects of Brexit, British citizens have been made to see how the bodily autonomy some of us perhaps take for granted as a legal or human right is still being vehemently fought for in the UK as well as countries across the world.

It’s not altogether shocking to me that under a Trump administration, conservatives and Republicans alike have been campaigning to roll back progressive policies that have been hard fought for even under past Democratic governments. The right to basic bodily autonomy for women across the US has been protected by grass-root campaigners, sympathetic politicians and institutions such as the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, something that Roe vs. Wade set in motion in the 1970s when it was decided—constitutionally—that a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion was ‘fundamental’ and her right to privacy protected under the Fourteenth Amendment. However, what is shocking to me is the insidious trend that has now been established by Alabama’s Republican-controlled state senate. 

In a world where 25 white Republican men are the authority on making definitive and life-changing decisions about women’s bodies, when do we, as citizens, begin to mobilise against legislature that we believe to be immoral, unsafe, or conceived by an entirely unrepresentative board? How is it that a group of men who will never have to experience pregnancy or any of the (sometimes hideous) factors that may contribute to it get to have the final say on a woman’s experience? 


The Today programme on BBC Radio 4 addressed the fact that this decision sets out a legal precedent which will lead pro-life politicians and campaigners to put pressure on the Supreme Court to overturn its decision that originally legalised abortion nationally. The fact that the Supreme Court justices are now overwhelmingly Republican is an even scarier indictment of the situation as it escalates, making a decision all the more likely in favour of the Republican pro-life argument when it inevitably comes back onto to the national stage.

In a world where 25 white Republican men are the authority on making definitive and life-changing decisions about women’s bodies, when do we, as citizens, begin to mobilise against legislature that we believe to be immoral, unsafe, or conceived by an entirely unrepresentative board? How is it that a group of men who will never have to experience pregnancy or any of the (sometimes hideous) factors that may contribute to it get to have the final say on a woman’s experience?

Just as we have caucuses for women in societies and political groups, perhaps it is time to introduce the idea of a women-ran committee on issues that singularly affect the wellbeing of a woman. No matter your stance on the issue, it is certainly a fact that a mother being forced to bring a child into this world where her socioeconomic position is dire—unable to provide even for herself—is not a fair condition for any child to be brought up in. 

Subsequently, these same women can be subject to having their babies taken off them and put into state care if they are not able to meet basic standards of childcare; this is a very real reality for women who are abused, have drug and/or alcohol issues or mental health diagnoses. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when women are forced to bring children into the world whilst being unable to care for them, resulting in significantly negative impacts on both the mother and child (not just on a personal level, but in the community as well as nationally). This proposed national legislation increases the risk that a generation of children will be born to mothers who do not want them and, as a result of being unable to care for them, will cause detriment to the health of these children, increasing their risk of developing mental health disorders, anti-social behaviours and subsequently perpetuating a cycle of poverty and crime.

I really wish I could stop seeing people presenting women’s rights as a hypothetical situation: “What if it was your mum, or your sister?” Why do you have to imagine these things happening to someone you share blood with in order to sympathise with them?


Perhaps the most chilling aspect of this all for me is the American conservative belief in the right to life (as beginning at conception) where it is totally incongruous with their defence of Second Amendment rights. Yeah, it’s completely logical to protect the interests of a bunch of cells over the lives of actual teenagers who have been subjected to over 26 school shootings already, not 6 months into 2019. If you believe in the protection of life so avidly, why do you not what to protect the lives of actual sentient beings? If that’s logic, then I’d happily take on Ben Shapiro tomorrow; a toddler would be able to call out the utter hypocrisy in American conservative politics at the moment.

Please take a moment to think whether women who need an abortion are making the decision light-heartedly. It’s been suggested that over 1 in 3 women in the UK will have an abortion in their lifetime, so please be mindful of the fact that it can be a hugely scary and distressing experience for someone to have to go through. I really wish I could stop seeing people presenting women’s rights as a hypothetical situation: “What if it was your mum, or your sister?” Why do you have to imagine these things happening to someone you share blood with in order to sympathise with them, rather than have the respect for a woman simply because of the fact that she is a human being who just happens to be a woman? 

I urge anyone who reads this to stand against the decisions in Georgia and Alabama for the wellbeing of women everywhere. Precedent is so important here; there can be no hope for women’s rights if we are deprived of being able to make the most important decisions about our own bodies.