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Op-Ed: Abortion Access for All

Abortion. It is a word that has a vast and controversial history tinged with stigma. Ever since the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in 1973, it seems as if the whole world has been fighting to change it. Although Roe v. Wade granted womxn the authority to terminate their pregnancies, a number of loopholes and limits were set to backtrack this constitutional right since then. However, contrary to common knowledge, Roe v. Wade wasn’t the kickoff to abortions in America. In fact, it was merely a ruling that prevented the unsafe and illegal abortions that made up a sixth of all procedures. A monumental decision that allows womxn to have the basic right of bodily autonomy, Roe v. Wade affirms the importance of abortion access on a fundamental level.

Abortion access, principally, grants a womxn the right to her own body. Therefore, it was critical to the feminist apex and female empowerment for a few key reasons. One, the court ruled that a state law that banned abortions was unconstitutional and punishable by law, legalizing it in many areas. Furthermore, it extended a womxn’s right to privacy and recognized the principles of bodily autonomy. Bodily autonomy, defined as the right to govern one’s body, is the prerequisite to equality. True bodily autonomy allows an individual to make informed decisions in any experience involving their body, especially medical involvements. This ruling made it illegal for external influence and coercion to affect a womxn’s bodily decisions, bridging the gap between men and womxn.

Abortions among teenagers, in most cases, are not only imperative to their livelihoods but to their basic health. In developing countries, there is a cloud of stigma surrounding sexual activity among unmarried adolescents. Therefore, there are little to no available contraceptives among teenagers, and abortion is similarly restricted. This lack of access to safe services among womxn takes a toll on these teenagers, as sex education and contraceptives are first-line defenses against unwanted and unintended pregnancies. In addition, adolescents are rarely inclined to keep the pregnancy due to cost, stigma, and trouble locating safe providers for their child. Therefore a teenager is liable to a number of risks when she does get pregnant, including but not limited to fatal injury and infection, infertility, and other complications that arise from unsafe abortion. This lack of bare necessities and essential services has a significant magnitude. Researchers estimate that in 2012, 25 million adolescent womxn in these developing regions underwent illegal abortions, and an estimated 7 million were treated at hospital facilities due to complications. The global rate is ultimately reflective of how restrictive the abortion laws were between geographic regions. For example, in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean, where the abortion laws are incredibly prohibitive, there was an average of 26 unsafe abortions per 1,000 adolescent womxn. In contrast, in parts of Asia where abortion is legal, the unsafe abortion rate was only 9 per 1,000 adolescent womxn.

Ever since Roe v. Wade, medical and health benefits for womxn have been increasing at a steady incline. It ended the proliferation of illegal abortionists, motivated by money, who performed unlawful and medically incompetent procedures. Similarly, it was a driving force in the rise of medically licensed professionals motivated by principle. States that support womxn’s health and safe abortions tend to spend more money on foster care, education, welfare, and the adoption of children who have physical and mental disabilities, in contrast to states that oppose abortion. Female empowerment is also increased, as these states supportive of abortion have a higher percentage of womxn in the legislature and more mandates that require insurance providers to cover minimum hospital stays after childbirth. To these ends, the controversy over abortion cannot negate the fact that American individuals have reaped countless social, mental, and physical benefits from one historic decision in 1973, Roe v. Wade, and the invalidation of this right will only compromise womxn’s health.

Article By: Sherry Long

graphic by: Savannah Frederiksen