Originally published in print on July 13, 2019.
If you’re angry, it’s good that you’re angry.
If you’re not angry, read on.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed HB 481 into law on May 7, 2019. Known as the “Heartbeat Bill” (which should read as: “Fetal Pole Cardiac Activity Bill”), it is one of multiple state legislations passed in attempts to restrict reproductive rights in the U.S. Abortion bans have also been passed in Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, and Utah this year. Here’s what you should know about them:
1. None of these bans are currently enforceable or in effect. Federal judges have blocked bans in Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, and Mississippi. The ACLU and the Center for Reproductive Rights filed their lawsuit against Georgia’s “Heartbeat Bill” on June 28. Every one of these bans faces some sort of legal challenge, making them unenforceable. Legislators knew this would likely be the case, but that’s not really the point. Because:
2. The abortion bans are a political ploy that is extremely strategic and methodical. The goals of the anti-abortion legislations are to instigate legal challenges that will ultimately lead to a case in the now conservative-leaning Supreme Court in hopes of overturning 1973’s Roe v. Wade. But as of right now, the Supreme Court is upholding the U.S.’s abortion precedents as it showed in its rejection to hear Alabama’s appeal in restoring its ban on June 28.
3. Each abortion ban is slightly different. Each state’s bill is slightly different, so that if one bill gets blocked it doesn’t automatically shut down the other ones. For example, Alabama’s bill does not include an exemption for victims of rape and incest, while Georgia’s does (as long as there is a police report). Georgia’s bill also includes a “personhood clause” in which the fetus is considered a person by state law, while others don’t. So in this scheme, there are one in nine chances that these Republican-controlled legislatures can make it to the Supreme Court.
4. Criminalizing abortion doesn’t make abortion go away, it just makes it illegal and unsafe. Just like how making marijuana illegal didn’t stop anyone from smoking weed and just like how the prohibition didn’t stop anyone from drinking alcohol in the 1920s-30s. To reiterate:
5. Abortion bans do nothing to lower abortion rates. One in four pregnancies are terminated every year, worldwide. This means that whether abortion is legal or not, it is a common healthcare procedure needed by many for various reasons. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health non-profit based in the U.S., the abortion rate in countries that prohibit abortion altogether is 37 per 1,000 people while the abortion rate in countries that broadly allow abortion have an abortion rate of 34 per 1,000. This number doesn’t carry enough statistical significance to warrant nationwide legislation under the claim that they’re trying to “save lives.” Which means:
6. This isn’t really about the “pro-life” movement or saving lives. Before we get lodged into pro-life and pro-choice arguments, let’s remember that these abortion bans are another political ploy for politicians to run on in the 2020 election. This is a time of reckoning for the abortion issue, but it’s not a new tactic. Think: what populations have been criminalized in the U.S. time and time again? Marginalized communities, or in other words, people of color. This is about money, power, and keeping women (specifically those of color and in poverty, who are disproportionately affected by these bills) in their place.
7. These bills are not random or have just appeared out of nowhere. Many are asking, “WHAT FUCKING YEAR IS THIS?!” It’s important to know that there have been attempts at anti-abortion legislation before this year. There was a 2006 South Dakota bill that was repealed and a 2016 Oklahoma bill that was vetoed by their governor. And the narratives go back further than that. In 1988, 50,000 people marched in protest of Roe v. Wade. Ronald Reagan delivered a speech in which he said, “We’re told about a woman’s right to control her own body, but doesn’t an unborn child have a higher right, and that is to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Are we to forget the entire moral mission of our country through history? Well, my answer is no.”
Let that sink in.