Why The Abortion Debate Is Reserved For Women
Earlier this year the governors of Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Ohio all signed bills banning abortion if an embryonic heartbeat can be detected. This detail has been met with great opposition as a heartbeat can be detected as early as the sixth week of pregnancy. This is only two weeks later than an expected period. Although this law is supposed to target the doctors performing these abortions (making it a felony with a 99 year sentence), the “heartbeat bill” presents a detail that immediately restricts a woman’s choice before she may even be aware that she is pregnant. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 28 states are currently considering legislation that would ban abortion in a variety of ways.
It has been an exhausting few weeks since Alabama’s abortion ban was announced. Women in America and all over the world have condemned these bills and this outrage has been meticulously covered on social media. While hashtags like #NoMoreBans #NoUterusNoOpinion and #YouKnowMe have gained momentum, statements like these have unsurprisingly followed suit:
“Abortion affects men too!”
“We should have a say!”
“You shouldn’t have sex if you didn’t want to get you pregnant!”
“Don’t blame the man, it’s not his fault.”
The abortion debate has always been divided by gender: Women are the wombs, the carriers, and Men, to be quite frank, are the donors. At the end of the day, when these rights are restricted and/or taken away from women, it is they who suffer the majority of the consequences. As far as I am aware, no bills have been introduced to strengthen paternal accountability. “It is mainly men who legislate against abortion because men are disproportionately represented in legislatures, especially in conservative states. Just four out of 35 senators in Alabama are women; of all members of the state legislature, more than 84% are men”. This does not negate the fact that it was a woman who wrote this bill, and that it was also a woman passed it. While gender inequality is at the forefront of this debate, there is another aspect that is not being addressed as aggressively- the fact that these laws critically affect women who suffer from serious socio-economic inequalities.
Women who are already marginalised are severely and disproportionately affected by these laws. These women have several obstacles in their way of accessing basic healthcare, and it is their intersectionalities that are overlooked in the mainstream narrative when we discuss accessibility to these kinds of services. For instance, women and girls from low income backgrounds are restricted from travelling out of state or country to obtain safe and legal birth control and abortions. Amnesty International notes that these legislations affect “refugees and migrants, adolescents, lesbian, bisexual cisgender women and girls, transgender or gender non-conforming individuals, minority or Indigenous women”. Access to these basic rights must be advocated for in conjunction to developing childcare facilities and equal opportunities for everyone despite their socioeconomic background. These are some of the essential structural elements necessary for sustainable development for gender and social equality.
Despite it taking two to tango, discourse around unwanted or accidental pregnancies typically result in women taking almost all responsibility and therefore bearing (sometimes literally) the “consequence” of “their” actions. The hypocrisy of this narrative is that when women embrace this responsibility and decide to take control of their own bodies/their health/their future, they are labelled as murderers. We just can’t seem to win. Legislators claim that the ban is supposed to preserve “the sanctity of unborn life” which is ironic because the law allows in-vitro fertilization (IVF). IVF is a procedure that often results in the discarding of fertilized eggs. Clyde Chambliss, the bill’s chief sponsor in the state senate, stated that “The egg in the lab doesn’t apply. It’s not in a woman. She’s not pregnant.” It seems that the only value placed on a woman is nothing more than an incubator for these “lives” they cherish, but only if conception takes places in a woman’s body because that is the only thing they are really interested in controlling.
Prohibiting abortion from women and girls does not mean they stop needing one. Access to safe AND legal abortion, whether as a precaution or not, means that women, like men, can have a sexual life without risking their future. Yes, abortion does affect men. Like I said before, from a biological standpoint, they are the donors. But that does not mean men can police a woman’s body simply because they hold the potential to impregnate it. If men want to be part of the debate, then they must take ownership of their role while also acknowledging that their physical and mental health is not up for gamble. Men must share their privilege and advocate for women’s freedom of choice, control over their body and reproductive decisions. In the end, abortion is not just about healthcare, it is about choices and opportunities, and most times, these options are a privilege for many. So if you want to have a say in the abortion debate then don’t forget that when you are fighting for your options you are not only fighting for yourself but your partner, sister, mother, and for women and girls everywhere.
Article by Social Media & Content Manager Yaz Omran