Natalya Bomani is a senior politics major.
With the federal government’s mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic and our ongoing climate crisis, I thought the current political climate could not worsen. But the Sept. 1 passing of Texas’ restrictive anti-abortion bill plummeted many across the nation, like myself, into further disbelief and devastation upon witnessing such an unconstitutional event.
As a direct attack upon the constitutional protections of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s approval of the heartbeat bill, or Senate Bill 8, will prohibit all abortions after six weeks when most people able to have children often do not know they are pregnant. In making no exceptions for cases involving rape or incest while also enabling any private citizen to sue all parties involved in the administration of abortion, the law stands as one of the strictest pieces of anti-abortion legislation to date. Just like that, the conservative majority of the Court, including Justice Kavanaugh who has been accused of sexual assault, legalized sexual punishment against the seven million childbearing Texans.
How did we arrive at this moment?
As a partial native of Austin who has observed conservatives take control of the Texas government, Supreme Court, and Congress, along with the efforts of the Christian anti-abortion movement, it was gut-wrenching yet unsurprising that an act as unconstitutional as this seeped through the judicial system. But for the heartbeat bill to become law, it also required corporations like AT&T, NBC, and Chevron, which have long exploited women’s labor while denying them access to paid maternity leave and childcare, to donate to co-sponsors of the bill.
Students of oppression recognize how capitalism, patriarchy, and white supremacy thread the story of America to breed the merciless denial of agency and structural demotion of people into objects to be surveilled and controlled. The sexual oppression of anti-abortion ideology has perpetually intertwined these structures since the height of white Angolo-Saxon Protestant paranoia of demographic annihilation.
While I am worried the Court’s decision has emboldened these oppressive forces, my fear lies in its direct impact on my neighbors who have long struggled for reproductive justice.
I am frightened for the Black women on the east side of Austin who face high maternal mortality rates; for brown undocumented women in San Antonio who will not have the means to travel out of state for care; for the non-binary person in Dallas with a chronic illness who cannot afford the cost of a life-threatening pregnancy; for the young woman assaulted on the University of Texas campus who will be forced to bear the child of her assaulter.
What is most frightening is that these individuals will still desperately seek abortions—only now they lack access to their safest option. They will be criminalized for exercising their right to control their body, just as their fellow feminists were from 1854 until Roe v. Wade was decided when the Texas Senate effectuated obtaining an abortion as a criminal offense punishable by two to five years in prison.
Their suffering is now legitimized by a state apparatus that adopts the guise of “pro-life” yet chooses to let its foster care system crumble, thousands of Texans die of COVID-19 due to denialist policies, and millions of households freeze amid a treacherous snowstorm. The Texas state has tactically chosen to ignore medical professionals, legal experts, and feminist advocates to maintain social control upon millions who exist in their purview as a lucrative item for profit.
Indeed, “abortion is murder” is both a talking point strategically employed by Republican lawmakers and a firmly held belief among conservatives. The millions of Texans who were raised on such a notion are entitled to view conception as the dawn of life, but they cannot disrespect the sanctity of life after birth by leveraging their beliefs to chastise millions who depend upon abortions for survival.
Whether a fetus is a person remains an ongoing debate, but whether a person who can bear children is, is not. One’s right to bodily autonomy is as sacred as one’s right to breathe air. Any and all efforts to eradicate this human right are abusive, heartless, and immoral.
As the judicial dust of the decision has settled many of us feel powerless, like we lack the capacity to fight for reproductive justice in a time filled with endless conflict. But as this moment marks a turning point that may enable other conservative states to follow suit, we must not sit idly by.
As USF students, the action begins on campus. We must call out our administration’s financial support of conservative candidates who are a threat to reproductive freedom and join clubs such as the USF chapter of the #ItsOnUs organization to support student survivors of sexual assault.
Our commitment to social justice demands us to.