By Mekdela Ejigu
THE limited legal abortion and women’s reproductive rights available in the United States exist in a permanent state of siege enforced by the Republican party and religious conservatives across the country.
During President Obama’s terms, Republican House and Senate members repeatedly attempted to block abortion clinics from operating in their districts with varying degrees of success. Under Donald Trump’s presidency, the government has nationally defunded Planned Parenthood forcing branches to close or survive off donations.
It is not a coincidence that Planned Parenthood, a non-profit organisation that provides sexual healthcare, birth control, sex education and family planning to predominantly low income, minority women, is under fire.
Conservatives have been explicit that their crusade to shut down Planned Parenthood clinics is due to abortion being part of their services. The reality, however, is that abortion accounts for only 4 per cent of the life saving services these clinics provide.
In this climate of reaction, the US can expect wide reaching and fundamental attacks on abortion, women’s rights and all civil rights for the remainder of Trump’s presidency.
Roe v. Wade, the 1973 US Supreme Court case that legalised abortion, has been threatened by anti-abortionists ever since. Trump’s administration is the next in line to declare that it will overturn the landmark decision; with conservatives now in the majority on the Supreme Court, this looks like a possibility.
Republicans and conservative Christians oppose abortion on the grounds of being “pro-life” or protecting the life of the unborn foetus. Other talking points include restricting or altogether removing women’s access to birth control because sex is not a recreational activity and should be restricted to sex within marriage for the purpose of conceiving only.
This argument tramples over the rights of married women who need family planning resources like birth control and abortion because they do not want to or are unable to raise children.
Regardless, Republican Senators and Congress members continue to introduce bizarre and psychologically abusive legislation intended to discourage women from seeking abortions. This includes a bill that requires women to get ultra sounds before being permitted to have an abortion, a bill requiring women to bury the foetus after having an abortion, and a bill requiring women to provide written permission from their husbands to have an abortion.
Anti-abortionists are so determined to stop abortions that they operate crisis pregnancy centres and deceive women into attending them. At these centres, women who need scientific and impartial medical advice are instead given false and alarming information meant to dissuade them from getting abortions. According to the Guardian, Google Maps has directed American women searching for abortion clinics to crisis pregnancy centres instead. This kind of misinformation is unacceptable and dangerous; a woman’s right to control her own body is a fundamental human right that should never been interfered with. Women that have been raped, or get pregnant at a young age, or simply cannot afford to have a child deserve to spare themselves and their future children from a life of heartbreak.
The closures of Planned Parenthood and abortion clinics around the country hit low-income women of colour the hardest. The reality of having a child or more children than one can afford perpetuates the cycle of poverty, and a child born into poverty is more likely to stay in poverty.
The U.S. healthcare industry is privatised and so expensive that only the relatively wealthy can afford to have health insurance. Yet twenty six states prohibit private insurance plans from offering coverage of abortion. People on low incomes who rely on Medicaid instead of private insurance have even more limited access.
The closure of Planned Parenthood clinics means that low-income people who cannot afford healthcare will have even fewer ways of accessing the life-saving care that they need.
Predominantly white anti-abortionists have smeared Planned Parenthood for carrying out a genocide of African-Americans through abortion. According to this theory, Planned Parenthood’s white female founder Margaret Sanger intended to use abortion to wipe out the African-American population. However, Planned Parenthood debunked these allegations on their website as untrue. Regardless of Sanger’s racist beliefs, today Planned Parenthood provides life-saving medicine to minority populations who need family planning and sexual healthcare. This anti-abortion argument erases the genocide of Indigenous people and the eugenics used against both African-American and Indigenous women. These eugenics include forced sterilisations and unethical experiments conducted on African-American and Indigenous people. In fact, the “father of modern gynaecology” J. Marion Sims, is an American physician that created the field of gynaecology by performing unethical, nonconsensual experiments on Black female slaves without using anaesthesia.
Historically, the U.S. banned abortion to force white women to repopulate the country while sterilising women of colour. The US must recognise its violent history and the negative effects of denying its marginalised populations the human right of healthcare, including abortion.