Let abortion decision radicalize you
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Well, it’s happened.
The thing so many people told us we were hysterical feminists for worrying about. The thing we were told would never happen.
On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, killing the constitutional right to abortion in America. The impact of this decision will be immediately felt, especially in the 13 states with “trigger laws” that ban abortion in the event Roe is overturned.
Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade; states can ban abortion
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Friday stripped away women’s constitutional protections for abortion, a fundamental and deeply personal change for Americans' lives after nearly a half-century under Roe v. Wade. The court’s overturning of the landmark court ruling is likely to lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states.
The ruling, unthinkable just a few years ago, was the culmination of decades of efforts by abortion opponents, made possible by an emboldened right side of the court fortified by three appointees of former President Donald Trump.
Both sides predicted the fight over abortion would continue, in state capitals, in Washington and at the ballot box. Justice Clarence Thomas, part of Friday's majority, urged colleagues to overturn other high court rulings protecting same-sex marriage, gay sex and the use of contraceptives.
Pregnant women considering abortions already had been dealing with a near-complete ban in Oklahoma and a prohibition after roughly six weeks in Texas. Clinics in at least eight other states — Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, South Dakota, Wisconsin and West Virginia — stopped performing abortions after Friday's decision.
The Associated Press reported Friday that Planned Parenthood halted all scheduled abortions at its clinics in Madison and Milwaukee.
In the 49 years it stood, Roe changed the lives of generations of American women.
The right to safe, legal abortion gave women agency over their bodies and lives. The right to safe, legal abortion meant women could decide when — or if — they wanted to have children. The right to safe, legal abortion meant women could pursue higher education and careers. The right to safe, legal abortion meant women wouldn’t have to risk infection or death trying to obtain an illegal abortion, because banning abortion doesn’t lead to fewer abortions. It simply drives them underground.
But, I’ve written these words before.
I’ve written that abortion is health care, that abortion rights are human rights.
I’ve written that the reasons people who can get pregnant get abortions are myriad and, actually, none of your business.
I’ve written that no one should need to have undergone a traumatic experience, such as rape or incest, to access what is, again, a medical procedure.
I’ve written that, statistically, many of the people who get abortions are already parents.
It is grotesque that there is more legislation for America’s uteri than there is for America’s guns. It’s also grotesque that many states will essentially force people to give birth, only to offer them no maternity leave, no child care and, in what is truly a fresh hell, no baby formula.
I can’t think of more compelling evidence that this was never, ever about babies or children but rather about control. How is this, any of this, “pro-life?”
But, you know. No one wanted to reopen the abortion debate. Abortion was treated like a non-issue, a case closed.
I don’t know what to say that hasn’t been said — that I haven’t said — but I know that now is the time to be vigilant and vocal, to turn our reactions into meaningful action — yes, even here in Canada, where we can’t take our access to abortion for granted, since it’s clear it can be taken away.
When the news broke on Friday, I was reminded of a powerful quote from Mariame Kaba, an American activist, grassroots organizer, and educator who advocates for the dismantling of the prison industrial complex: “Let this radicalize you rather than lead you to despair.”
Then I thought about Dr. Suzanne Newman at Women’s Health Clinic — among the few abortion providers in Winnipeg — who I interviewed last year. An anti-choice protest outside of the Morgentaler Clinic in the 1980s was what radicalized her. She just happened to be walking by, taking her small children for an ice-cream cone.
“I hadn’t really thought much about the issue before because, to me, it was a non-issue — like yeah, of course, who is going to make that decision for somebody else?” she told me at the time.
“But at that moment, when I saw all those ugly faces — and they were ugly, they were distorted with rage and anger — I grabbed my poor kids and walked up the steps and argued with those protesters.”
That moment didn’t just inspire Newman to become a volunteer at the Morgentaler Clinic, it inspired her to become a doctor at the age of 41. She has been a physician provider of abortion services at WHC since 2007.
I’m not saying everyone has to go to med school, but there’s still so much we can do, right now. We can speak up. We can protest. We can volunteer. We can donate money.
As Women’s Health Clinic said in its official response to the ruling: “This is another reminder that we cannot ever take for granted the right to bodily autonomy we have in Canada. As it stands, WHC performs anywhere from 25 to 30 per cent more abortions per year then we are funded for. Our free/low-cost birth control program does not receive any health-care funding, and we provide that service using generous donations from our community.”
Friday was a dark day for reproductive rights, no question. Feel the disgust, the sorrow and the rage, but let it light a fire in you, especially if you are a millennial or member of Gen Z who has always had access to abortion.
To evoke Kaba again: may the SCOTUS decision radicalize you.
Jen Zoratti is a Winnipeg Free Press columnist and co-host of the paper's local culture podcast, Bury the Lede.
Updated on Friday, June 24, 2022 7:52 PM CDT: Fixes typo.