Bodily Autonomy: Is it Too Much to Ask For?
The fight for women’s bodily autonomy is akin to a dance: one step forward and two steps back.
Recently the spotlight has been cast upon Roe v. Wade and yet again, conservatives are advocating for the repeal of the landmark case. We have a fiery population of perpetually malinformed people and politicians that may have a disastrous effect on women’s reproductive and sexual healthcare.
Back in 2016 when Donald Trump was elected president, women everywhere were advised to get an IUD as soon as possible because his political supporters gained more traction and presidential support to move forward and begin chipping away at Roe v. Wade. Trump had also taken hits at Planned Parenthood, egging on his cronies. People mocked the women who were terrified and expressed their fears on social media calling them dramatic and their actions “fear-mongering”.
The discussion to uproot women’s bodily autonomy arose more seriously a few years later, and this time without Trump. Texas has since passed laws to outlaw abortions after six weeks and criminalize abortion providers. The thing about the people making these laws is that they are ignorant of scientific fact and seem to trust anything that fits their agenda.
When pressed by a reporter about why he’d force a woman who had been raped to carry her pregnancy to full-term, Governor Greg Abbott declared, “It doesn’t require that at all because obviously it provides at least six weeks for a person to be able to get an abortion.”
This claim is just one of many pieces of misinformation that he and other like-minded politicians have spread.
The trouble with setting a limit at six weeks is that it takes many women more time to even realize that they are pregnant. At six weeks, a woman has only likely missed her period for about two weeks, which is normal given the high incidence of irregular periods as well as factors that affect menstruation. Stress, diet, hormones, and illness cause women to miss periods and if a woman isn’t having morning sickness or other obvious early pregnancy symptoms chances are she isn’t going to assume she’s pregnant, especially if she uses birth control.
The argument that a fetus has a heartbeat at six weeks is another common claim used against abortion but it, too, is just another piece of misinformation. The “heartbeat” detected is merely the fetal stem cells starting to pulsate as they differentiate into various organs.The fetus at six weeks could not survive outside of the womb and couldn’t be classified as an independently living being. That isn’t to say that it’s existence has no significance, but its abortion isn’t the great act of violence that conservatives purport it to be.
A great act of violence would be forcing women who cannot provide for a child to carry their pregnancy to term and then allow it to wind up in a broken foster care system where there is a high chance of mistreatment until the child is 18 and has no resources or support to live. But, of course, there are still opportunities to avoid such a scenario, right? Just like men can get vasectomies, women can get their tubes tied to avoid ever getting pregnant? The answer to that question isn’t a simple “yes”; there are many hoops that women have to jump through in order to get a tubal ligation procedure done.
Age is just one barrier to surgery. Younger women who seek a tubal ligation are often disappointed to hear that their doctor won’t perform the procedure on them because they’re too young and may change their mind later in life when they get married. Nevermind their sexual orientation or health issues that can hinder a pregnancy… Doctors also often request permission from a male figure, usually a husband, so that they can perform the procedure with the knowledge that he doesn’t want kids. They may also cite the possibility that said woman will get remarried to a man that wants kids (because they obviously would not have had that conversation already). This sexist attack on women’s rights often successfully prevents women from getting a tubal ligation while also making it clear that they don’t get to make decisions for themselves. Of course, there is always a chance that a woman could regret her choice to get a tubal ligation, but that doesn’t take away her chances of ever becoming a mother.
But, men don’t need to get their wife’s permission to get a vasectomy — their doctors value their opinions and choices more than those who treat women.
There is no law restricting access to tubal ligations, so why does it happen? Other than the sexist objections many doctors give, there is also one reason that they never seem to mention: that procedures fail more often in people under 30, according to the U.S. Collaborative Review of Sterilization. We can only wonder why doctors don’t provide this information when they decline the procedure, but they opt for sexist claims more often than not.
In light of the difficulty women already face in doctor’s offices, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see their experiences worsen if Roe v. Wade fell. From the little action taken by the Supreme Court and the lack of advancement of abortion bans throughout the country, it would seem that the challenges to Roe will only make it harder for women in select states to get abortions. That being said, it provides a jarring look at how women might be treated if Roe were to be knocked down.
Women are already treated as second-class citizens, but when it comes to healthcare it’s frustrating to see our desires invalidated by hypothetical men. In a Roe-void country, women’s healthcare would look worse, and dare I say it, un-American.