Editor’s Note: In the July 20 print edition of The Michigan Daily, this editorial was mistakenly printed with a paragraph from another, unrelated piece inserted into it. We apologize for this error and any confusion it may have caused. We are taking care to ensure that it is never repeated.
*Content warning: rape, violence
The recent overturning of Roe v. Wade has left United States citizens shocked and undoubtedly angry, considering most Americans do not support the outlawing of abortion. Overturning Roe v. Wade means disaster for women across the country. As a result of the 6-3 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling, the legality of abortions is now determined by each individual state, not by the federal government, rescinding a nearly 50-year-old federal legal right. As of early July, only a few states have directly banned abortions, but countless others seem to be pushing to restrict access to abortions. This abolition of a constitutional right puts the health, safety and even lives of millions of people with uteruses at risk.
Specifically, women of Color and low-income women are most harmed by this recent Supreme Court ruling. Twenty-six states are likely to ban abortion, most of them in the South — where over half of Black Americans live. Because Black women are almost four times more likely to have the procedure done than white women, the impact of this ruling on them is even more unjust. Indigenous and Alaska Native women seeking abortions, especially those in rural or remote communities, will suffer compounded effects from reduced abortion access. Compared to white women, they are two to three times more likely to die in childbirth.
In addition to these racial inequities, abortion is and always has been a class issue. In states where abortion is outlawed, poor women will be forced to have children — no matter the circumstances leading up to their pregnancies — due to the financial resources traveling to another state requires. Those unable to travel might engage in unsafe abortions. A nationwide abortion ban is projected to increase the number of pregnancy-related deaths by 21%. America has decided to infringe on women’s rights, imprinting sexism within our legal code. These women who are denied abortions in their home states are also four times more likely to live below the federal poverty line, assuming they survive their potentially deadly pregnancies. When two people might be in the same situation with an unwanted pregnancy, wealth could be the deciding factor between life and death.
Though the idea may seem far-fetched, this decision could be the harbinger of a government overtly influenced by Christian beliefs. This is the first time a constitutional right has been taken away by the Supreme Court, and Justice Clarence Thomas stated in a concurring opinion that the Supreme Court should also reconsider other legal rights not explicitly stated in the Constitution. This includes Griswold v. Connecticut (the right to buy and use contraceptives), Lawrence v. Texas (the right to same-sex sexual activity) and Obergefell v. Hodges (the right to same-sex marriage). While the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision and Thomas’s seeming indifference to fundamental civil rights might seem shockingly barbaric, they come as no surprise after the last six years of American politics.
By electing Trump into office in 2016, America doomed itself. Trump explicitly stated in the 2016 presidential debates that he would appoint multiple conservative Supreme Court justices in order to overturn Roe v. Wade — and that was just the beginning. Throughout his presidency, he leaned on pro-Christian, conservative rhetoric to build and sustain his political base, creating room within the American political sphere for more radical, conservative, religious ideologies to affect public policy. This rhetoric led to a set of policies that includes (but is not limited to) the Muslim travel ban, revoking rules that allowed transgender kids to use their preferred bathroom and privileging federal COVID aid to religious organizations over secular ones. Clearly, and as stated in the U.S. Constitution, America is prohibited from establishing a state-sponsored religion. But, with the passage of these archaic anti-abortion laws, the line between Christian churches and the state is becoming dangerously blurred.
While the overturning of Roe v. Wade has often been referred to as a women’s rights issue, the impact of this decision will be felt — in varying degrees — by transgender men, nonbinary people and cisgender men as well. This is a decision that affects us all, and we must respond to it in a way that reflects its severity and breadth. With midterm elections coming up this fall, voting for pro-choice candidates is an integral part of the fight for reproductive rights.
In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has outwardly expressed her commitment to protecting the right to abortion and, in an effort to help repeal Michigan’s 1931 law classifying abortion as a felony, has pushed for the Michigan Supreme Court to determine if abortion is a protected right under the Michigan Constitution. Considering that all five Republican candidates running for governor are anti-abortion, reelecting Whitmer and other pro-choice officials is a key step toward maintaining reproductive freedom in Michigan. In whichever state you reside, to show up and vote for pro-choice state legislators, governors, attorneys general and judges is to show up not only for reproductive rights but also for the idea of freedom so frequently vaunted in this country.
As there are pro-choice officials in power right now, voting is clearly not enough to protect the right to abortion. However, voting is not the only path to reproductive freedom: in certain states, even without a strong presence of pro-choice legislators, laws protecting the right to abortion can be set by referendum or initiative through the process of petition. Abortion rights will be on the ballot in at least five states this November, and, with enough petition signatures, they could be on the ballot in Michigan and Oklahoma as well. Depending on the state, certain ballot initiatives further protect the right to abortion and others explicitly oppose it. It is clear that we cannot rely solely on elected officials to protect reproductive rights, making the act of supporting initiatives in favor of reproductive freedom, like the Michigan Right to Reproductive Freedom Initiative, and signing petitions to get them on the ballot even more important. Although this Supreme Court ruling, made with such far-reaching ramifications and such little democratic involvement, may seem impossible to counteract, there are actionable steps we can take together to fight for reproductive rights — not just for students at the University of Michigan, but for all Americans.