OPINION: How anti-abortion activists are warping the way we discuss reproductive health



Three women protesting Alabama's new law banning nearly all abortions. The controversial law is the latest in a stream of bills designed to be challenged in court, with the potential to go to the Supreme Court.

I’m a huge fan of “The Handmaid’s Tale.” While sometimes hard to stomach, the story and characters immediately spoke to me and I plan on loyally tuning in this summer for its third season. While I’m looking forward to the newest iteration of the dystopian America built on totalitarian misogyny, I can’t say I’m thrilled to see it reflected in real-life politics.

In 2019, abortion laws have been a major point of contention, with states like Ohio, Georgia and Alabama employing extreme restrictions on access to abortion. Ohio and Georgia will practice the “heartbeat rule,” in which abortion will be prohibited once a fetus’ heartbeat can be detected, usually around six weeks into the pregnancy. In Alabama, abortion is now prohibited by law at any stage of pregnancy. Cases of rape or incest will not qualify as exceptions for these laws.

When those who are against abortion label themselves “pro-life,” they claim to be against abortion in order to save the lives of unborn children, demonizing the practice as barbaric and unholy. However, being “pro-life” only appears to go so far.

In the United States, more than 600,000 children experience foster care each year. Of these children, 75 percent of them are working below their grade levels in school and 50 percent will never complete high school. If there are this many disenfranchised, unhappy children living in America, where are all of the pro-life pundits advocating on their behalf?

The short answer is because once fetuses grow into poor, underprivileged people, society stops caring about them.

“I do believe with the statement that pro-lifers seem to only care about children before birth. This opinion is quite frankly due to my experiences while living in Appalachia,” said freshman Demi Amodeo, a Georgia native. “Most of the states passing these laws have extremely high poverty and dropout rates due for various reasons. The mothers are mainly blamed according to politics, but no one seems to take into consideration that the mothers that are a result of the failing welfare system. If lawmakers want to see less abortions, they would put in the funding to provide birth control, sexual education and overall better welfare to those who are underprivileged.”

Amodeo went on to say that the highly conservative population of Georgia leads to a pro-life consensus.

“As a Georgian, I can’t say that the state has ever had reproductive rights,” Amodeo said. “ Even though abortion was ‘legal,’ it was still nearly impossible to get one without parental consent because the state knew that the adults were primarily conservative and agreed with pro-choice. Those who don’t believe typically leave.”

A common pro-life rebuttal to abortion is adoption: Surely, it’s a reasonable request for a mother to carry a child and then give it to a family who wants it, right? Things are never that simple or universal. While adoption is by no means a bad solution to an unwanted pregnancy, it is not without its pitfalls, a large one being that the mother still must carry out the pregnancy. That includes paying for hospital bills, adapting to the extreme changes brought to one’s body and the physical and emotional labor-no pun intended — of carrying a child for nine months, only to give it away.

And that’s the point. There is no universal answer for what to do when faced with an unwanted pregnancy. That’s what makes the ability to choose so important and what makes these laws so terrifying.

In addition to the hypocrisy of the alleged “pro-life” stance, lets call a spade a spade: These restrictions on abortion will only serve to control and disenfranchise those with female reproductive organs.

Anna Barban, president of DePaul’s branch of WeDignify, a pro-life organization, believes that abortion is damaging in a number of ways and an unfair way of exerting control over others.

“Abortion not only destroys life within the womb but also damages women emotionally, physically and mentally. I believe it is necessary to respect all life, both in and outside of the womb,” Barban said. “I believe life is to be protected from conception through natural death. My stance is founded upon scientific consensus proving that life begins at conception. It is also founded on the principle of human dignity, in that no human has control over another, regardless of their societal status.”

This is a curious perspective, as you rarely ever see pro-choice advocates attempting to force people to get abortions. However, the allegedly morally superior pro-life stance is ripe with judgement and control over the reproductive rights of women.

Additionally, these laws will not put an end to abortion. They will, however, restrict access to safe abortions and increase the likelihood of unsafe procedures.

As defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), unsafe abortions are “a procedure for terminating an unintended pregnancy carried out either by persons lacking the necessary skills or in an environment that does not confirm to minimal medical standards, or both.”

Unsafe abortions are the third leading cause of maternal deaths worldwide, according to WHO. So much for wanting to preserve lives.

“We know what this country looked like when abortion was illegal. Many, many women died,” said Dr. Sherry Nordstrom, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Erie Family Health Center.

“So if you’re ‘pro-life,’ you should care about this. Abortion will not stop because it is illegal, it will just become more dangerous for the most vulnerable women. Because rich women will always have access.”

Pro-choice is not synonymous with pro-abortion. It is not synonymous with irresponsibility, cruelty or a disregard for the lives of others. These new abortion laws, however, encapsulate all three of those adjectives. Simply put, these restrictions to abortion are dangerous and only serve to strip those with female anatomy of their agency and human rights.

While the abortion debate is not likely to end peacefully or in a timely manner, the political powers that be need to let go of their agendas and recognize the humanity of the people whose bodies they are legislating. If you would never get an abortion, that is perfectly fine and it is within your human rights that you are able to make that choice. It is important that people everywhere are able to make that same decision for themselves.