POLICY AND POWER

by Cloey Aconley


cover design by Michelle Leung


We are all familiar with the perceived roles of women and men in society. One as the protector, the worker, and the other as the childbearing and emotionally content homemaker. Equally so, we are familiar with the ways in which this social structure of ‘family’ or gender roles is outdated and unnecessary. Yet it pervades another issue in public discourse, the ever-changing abortion debate. As the US Senate has officially overturned the Roe v. Wade abortion precedent, the concept of bodily autonomy is threatened by the outdated social construction of the family. These structural family roles should not interfere in discussions, debates, or rulings surrounding the choices of the individual, and their level of access to reproductive healthcare.


Roe v. Wade is a legal precedent from the early seventies when the state of Texas deemed regulation of abortion unconstitutional. Justice Harry A. Blackmun determined that the constitutional regulation of abortion violates the individual's privacy rights. A public statement that this would violate the fourteenth amendment has formulated the US supreme court's attitude toward abortion for the following decades. However, on May 3rd, 2022 a leaked draft opinion stated that the supreme court is looking at overturning the 1973 ruling. This fear has incentivized the Democrats to redraft the Women’s Health Protection act, however, key changes were struck down by a majority vote. These developments have concerned the population who may be in need of an abortion, and wish to preserve their right to choose. The bill's failure to advance is a foreboding sign of the democrat's inability to protect abortion rights in the US.





As of Friday, June 24th, the bill was officially overturned, allowing states to individualize their opinions on abortion. There are now eight states where abortion is banned, affecting over six million women of reproductive age. This does not include the 22 states with harsh restrictions, leaving only 20 states with full and legal access to abortion as of June 28th. The lack of federal-level protection for reproductive self-determination is a threat to many forms of reproductive health. Though this debate has featured abortion, it is concerning for the future of readily available birth control and contraceptives alike.


Reproductive justice is designed for those who may face pregnancy, yet frequently debated by those who don't. Those born as men have never, and will never find themselves in a circumstance where they may require safe and legal access to abortion. A major issue here is the role of a father in the supposed child’s life, and whether this is grounds for consideration is up to the individual. Regardless of circumstance, we must realize that this traditional ‘father’ role is completely outdated. Firstly, it enforces the idea that marriage is between a man and a woman, while we know now that relationships do not always take on this form. Alternatively, it suggests that the father identifies as male, which may not be the case. Finally, the traditional structure of the family suggests the birth of a child. Personally, I find that growing up with the expectation to eventually bear children has harmful developmental effects on the mind of young women or those perceived as women. Dictation over your life, and how you are expected to live it results in harmful socio-economic repercussions. Those who may become pregnant are granted 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave in the US, and statistics have shown that managers are 40% less likely to hire young women for this reason. Whether someone chooses to have children or not, even the possibility of a child is enough to affect the livelihood of all people perceived as female.


Despite the failure to serve the needs of either party, the traditional family structure has promoted the idea that those who cannot get pregnant deserve a say over the bodies of those who can. As meidically established within the Roe v. Wade ruling, a fetus is not fully formed until 24 weeks. Meaning most of what exists before is the idea of a child, rather than the reality of one. President Reagan said that “We're told about a woman's right to control her own body. But doesn't the unborn child have a higher right, and that is to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?”. This quote illustrates the idea that men will value a fetus’s potential for happiness over that of a fully formed, currently existing person.




A contributing factor to Reagan’s opinion stems from the idea that a “family” centers around a cis-gendered male pattern narrative. Thus, our discussions surrounding abortion also fall into this narrative, impeding the needs of those who may actually require an abortion. It is important that discussions on this topic step away from the idea of family, and towards the needs of the affected individuals. With the official ruling being overturned, this concept needs to be applied as abortion rights are now being debated at the state level.


The Roe v. Wade case has greatly impacted the bodily autonomy of those who may become pregnant. The senate overturning such a pivotal piece of legal precedent is a terrifying example of the impermanence of human rights when interpreting the constitution. In conversations surrounding reproductive health, it is often those who do not face pregnancy making choices for those who do. It is important to remember that the structural idea of the family does not entitle the supposed ‘father’ to an opinion on overall reproductive justice.


 

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