Women’s bodies aren’t yours to legislate

Tula Borges is sophomore sociology major.

 GRAPHIC BY SAMANTHA CADENAS-ARZATE/GRAPHICS CENTER

 Although the fight for women’s rights has gained incredible momentum over the last decade, dozens of anti-abortion bills have recently been proposed. The  ethics of abortion aside, I believe our bodies should not be legislated by the government, who often use the excuse of anti-abortion efforts to control us. This legislation undermines women’s ability to make their own choices about their bodies, is evidence that our government is still rooted in the patriarchy, and dangerously stigmatizes abortion as non-essential health care. 

Recent anti-abortion bills — which have passed in South Carolina, Montana, Tennessee, and Oklahoma, among other places — not only attack women’s reproductive rights, but our dignity as a whole. When government officials restrictively legislate women’s bodies, they show a paternalistic distrust of a woman’s ability to make choices about her health. In the words of former President Barack Obama, “A woman’s ability to decide how many children to have and when, without interference from the government, is one of the most fundamental rights we possess. It is not just an issue of choice, but equality and opportunity for all women.” 

In response to the outpour of anti-abortion bills this year, Eric Scheidler, executive director of the Pro-Life Action league, said, “We’re more likely to see [the Supreme Court] put more restrictions on abortion. I think five years from now, we’ll realize that Roe v. Wade was slowly overturned without it ever making a big headline.” It is sneaky and appalling for  conservatives to try to quietly and incrementally chip away at Roe v. Wade, the famous 1970 Supreme Court trial that found the Constitution must recognize a woman’s right to terminate her own pregnancy by abortion.  

Beyond outrightly making abortion illegal, conservative politicans have been allowing groups like the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a network of Christian lawyers who oppose abortion and LGBTQ rights, to limit women’s financial and locational accessibility to abortions. In an article published in the American Journal of Economics & Sociology, Marshall Medoff and Christopher Dennis explained that Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws drive abortion providers out of practice by “impose[ing] medically unnecessary and burdensome regulations solely on abortion providers in order to make abortion services more expensive and difficult to obtain.” This means that even if a woman wants to legally exercise her right to have an abortion in her state, there may be too few providers in her area to be able to practically perform the procedure. 

As a sociology major, I have learned that where there is injustice, there is usually insecurity on the perpetrator’s part. As such, in the 2019 Politics, Groups & Identities article “Grab ‘em by the masculinity,” researchers Alyssa Zucker, Alexandra Weis, and Laura Richman found a telling relationship between members of the Republican party and the likelihood of seeing toxic masculinity, “when men actively avoid vulnerability, act on homophobic beliefs, ignore personal traumas, or exhibit prejudice behaviors against women, [which] contributes to many larger societal problems, such as gender-based violence, sexual assault, and gun violence.” Surveyed men who identified as Republican exhibited a strong need to conform to masculine societal norms, and were less willing to intervene in everyday sexist situations than their Democrat counterparts. 

On top of that, in the Cogent Social Sciences study, “Sex, race, gender, and the presidential vote,” sociologists Susan Hansen and Shang Ha found that “Democrats [were] more supportive than Republicans of equality for women and reproductive rights.” Thus, it seems that Republican men’s dismissal of, and attack on, women’s rights is due to the party’s ingrained, institutionalized masculine ideologies. Republican legislators who choose to assert their insecure masculinity by legislating women’s bodies are inappropriately abusing their power. 

Men do not face similar restrictions on their bodies from the government, so they cannot fully understand how harmful these anti-abortion laws are.In 2019, 25 white men in Alabama finalized the decision to outlaw abortion in 2019, demonstrating that decisions like these are made by majority men far too often. So, I urge our politicians to hear the progressive words of Vice President Kamala Harris, “Women have been given the responsibility to perpetuate the human species. Our bodies were created to do that, and it does not give any other person the right to tell a woman what to do with that body. It is her body. It is her right. It is her decision.” 

For too long, it has been socially acceptable for people in power to oppress and regulate women. Abortion is essential health care, and the dozens of bills that currently target it leave women in danger and without options. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, “Patients seeking abortion care already face numerous barriers, including medically unnecessary mandatory waiting periods and restrictions on medication abortion. Given its time-sensitive nature, an unanticipated delay can make abortion completely inaccessible [and] it is crucial to prioritize evidence-based policy and ensure that all people have access to comprehensive reproductive health care.”

My hope for our society is that all women may have the freedom to decide what to do with their bodies, free of judgment, political pressure, or opposition in any form. To stand up against the dozens of anti-abortion bills plaguing our country, contact the state officials who have the power to disapprove these bills, and vote in every election so you can ensure the protection of women’s rights and make sure more women are represented in our government — because only women can truly understand this issue.

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