For the past few years, abortion laws in the United States of America have been highly debated among policymakers, politicians, and the United States citizens. Some argue that to have an abortion is to kill a child, whereas others argue that the ability for women to protect their bodily autonomy by reserving the right to choose is the most important thing to focus on. Despite widespread outrage to the initial discussions around the change in the abortion law, many, primarily southern states, in the United States have passed laws banning abortion.
Alabama was the first state to introduce the controversial “Heartbeat Bill,” which states that abortion is illegal once a heartbeat can be detected. The new law “bans abortions at every stage of pregnancy and criminalizes the procedure for doctors.” Alabama does not contain any exceptions to the law, meaning victims of rape and of incest, and children, are all forced to carry the pregnancy to full term, despite any consequences to their physical and emotional health. Throughout April and May, many states have followed suit, including Georgia, Mississippi, and Ohio, while states such as Texas, West Virginia, Louisiana, Maryland, and Minnesota, have introduced similar laws that are still being debated. In Texas, part of this law may include abortion being punished equally to murder, resulting in the death penalty. In most of these states, the punishment for aborting a fetus created out of rape will be more severe than the punishment received by the rapist. We are yet to see whether these bills will successfully be passed.
We must discuss the vitality of fighting for peace, in whatever way that takes shape. To take these choices away from an individual is to take away their freedom, and therefore a fundamental human right. Some will argue that the fight for peace entails protecting the most vulnerable. To some, this may refer to the unborn foetus. For others, this simply isn’t the case. Regardless, the constitution in America states that the duty of the law is to protect American citizens, which clearly refers to the living, breathing women, and children forced to abide by this law that, in some cases, would prioritize the development of a sack of cells (which is what a foetus consists of until 6 weeks) over those pregnant women. Therefore, the Heartbeat Bill does not create a more peaceful world or save lives as it claims to. Instead, it is making a claim that some lives are more important than others, without adequate reason as to why.
The argument as to whether or not a foetus is a child is highly contested, which the current outline of the law in Alabama does not take into consideration. It takes an underdeveloped view and has attempted to enforce this law as a universal measure to judge endless complex situations. It sees all foetuses as not only people but as more important than those already living. The Alabama law does not hold any exceptions to the ban on abortion. This means there has been a multitude of stories circulating from those who have had abortions, and the circumstances they suffered through that would now no longer be taken into account. This includes victims of rape, incest, teenagers who had no support from families or partners, and children, who did not understand what was happening to them, and were blamed by parents, despite also often being victims of rape or incest. Despite what is personally believed about a foetus, these stories come from people who are living and are forced to suffer through a decision that is being taken out of their hands. Raising a child under circumstances such as these is not safe, healthy, or positive for either the mother or the prolonged life of the child. The Heartbeat law states that the foetus is the most important “person” in this scenario, claiming the other lives, and the suffering they will go through, as unimportant.
The creation of these new laws come from a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to be a democratic society. Democracy is defined as the “government of the people; the rule of the majority.” Alongside this, The Human Rights Declaration states that “everyone has the right to freedom of thought” and to “freedom of opinion and expression.” However, the way that certain states within the United States are being governed does not abide by these declarations. Instead, we use the term “democracy” to mean an elected official, who has power alongside their political party to create laws and policies in whatever way they see fit. Choosing whether or not to abort a child should be a personal choice, and the importance of making this choice is determined by the pregnant person, and what they are wanting or able to do with their own body. Each individual is also limited by what they are able to do; not only physically, but emotionally, financially, what they feel is ethical, or what is seen as right in the eyes of their families, or whatever religion they may follow.
According to our human rights, and to what democracy is said to entail, each of these individuals should be able to have this choice. Instead, we are living in a society where a select group of individuals controls the lives of every single person who should have been faced with this choice. This law has the potential to affect women, and all individuals with a uterus (including trans men, or non-binary individuals) within the states in which the law would be enacted. A high number of the people signing these new laws into effect will not be directly affected by it, says author Charlotte Smith with respect to the abhorrent nature of the law. She states that “This point (that cis men cannot get pregnant) should matter exponentially more than it does, which is not at all; the laws regarding abortion are, and for centuries have been, determined and enforced by cis men. This doesn’t excuse anti-choicers who aren’t cis men, especially not the primarily cis women who terrorize, deceive, and harass abortion-seekers.” This is further added to by one woman speaking out and making the comparison that “it’s as if I, as a physician, am telling airline makers and air traffic controllers what their safety measures should be. I don’t know anything about airplanes and the computers that keep them in the air, so why should I be telling them how to fly a plane?” In a so-called democratic society, taking away this choice by a group of people who are not affected by the individual decision both harms and contradicts the views that are being promoted as so important.
It is important to acknowledge that “pro-choice” is not synonymous with “pro-abortion.” To have an abortion is not often a decision that is taken without an emotional toll, and certainly never without heavy consideration. Therefore, we should not be punishing the people who have to make this choice. Instead, support is needed, and sufficient resources to ensure the procedure can be done as safely as possible. Often, it is a necessity, and this means that the change in law will not stop abortions, but will instead encourage people to take more elaborate and dangerous methods to achieve a termination.
Abortions should not be seen as a criminal issue, and should instead be viewed as a health issue. If we are truly wanting to best support innocent lives, we should put people in a position where they are best able to get the support they need. For those who are pro-life, this should include a new look into the way contraception is viewed. With limited access to contraception, as well as a school system that is lacking in education on how best to keep ourselves safe, abortion often becomes the last option available to people faced with being pregnant. In order to help living people to create a future where we are able to control our own lives, this law must change. For a peaceful and democratic society, the ability to choose is necessary, and taking away this choice is a breach of our human rights.