Imagine you are a woman living in the 1960s, there are so many things you are told you can’t do as a woman. You are asked to take permission from your husband to start a business or need his signatures to open a bank account, and workplace harassment is as common as day. Huge income disparities and lack of opportunities define the women of your era. However, despite all this, the worst part about being a woman in the 60s is the complete lack of reproductive freedom. There are laws telling you what you can and cannot do to your own body, and choice doesn’t seem like an option. But you see women around you standing up. You see them standing up against predators, oppressors and raising issues like reproductive freedom. You feel there’s hope, the hope that things will change for the coming generation. In another 20, 30 or say 40 years, women won’t be demonised for choosing what they want to do with their own bodies.
Well, jump to 60 years later, in 2021, and there’s a law being passed in South Carolina of the United States of America (USA), one of the most progressive countries in the world, banning all abortions in the state. More than anything, it is disappointing because irrespective of what we claim, it looks like we haven’t come very far from the 1960s. The said event took place after the Governor of South Carolina, Mr. Henry McMaster earlier this week signed into the law imposing a ban on almost all abortions in the state.
The law so proclaimed as the ‘Fetal heartbeat’ law declares an abortion as illegal after a fetal heartbeat is detected. That is, the bill requires doctors to perform ultrasounds to check for a heartbeat in the fetus. If, however, a heartbeat is detected, performing the abortion would be charged with a felony, except for the cases when pregnancy is caused by rape or incest or the mother’s life is in danger.
However, it is to be noted that the fetal heartbeat is often detected at about six weeks, which usually is before a woman realises she is pregnant. In other words, as and when you figure out, you’re pregnant, it’s already too late to make a choice because the law criminalises your choice.
The constitution of the United States in 1973 protected a pregnant woman’s right to abortion. Thus, the law, as passed in South Carolina, is unconstitutional and has thus been met by various lawsuits from the women’s health group Planner Parenthood owning to its unconstitutional nature. It expressed that the “South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from abortion Act”, like other similar laws currently being challenged, is “blatantly unconstitutional” and is disrespectful to the community on so many grounds. But this isn’t the first time any such law has been passed imposing restrictions on abortions. Various states have indulged in similar rulings and most are still tied up in the courts with the lawsuits filed against them. The issue is being presented before the Supreme Court in hopes that the three justices bench appointed by the Republican former President Donald J. Trump could overturn the Supreme court in the 1973 verdict that supported pregnant women’s abortion rights.
However, it is imperative to note that any state law passing the abortion ban, sets the motion on the basis of abortion being against religious beliefs and an immoral act, while the proponents of abortion for the longest time have been declaring abortion or any decision relating to a woman’s body a personal affair and a matter of women’s health and privacy issue, among many other arguments. It is ironic how the perpetrators have been forcing something in the name of religion on an actual human being, who, however, has to stay with the decision for all their life. I don’t understand why letting a woman decide what she wants with her own body still a matter of debate. And who decides what is immoral? It is subjective and you enforcing a law taking away somebody’s reproductive freedom is immoral for all the women out there.
The Republican Senator Larry Grooms, while celebrating the passing of the law on the state, said “We’re about to do what I’ve been trying to do for the past 25 years: shut down the abortion industry in South Carolina.” Focus on the words ‘Abortion Industry’. Do these people realise how disrespectful they are? Not only are these people violating the five decades-long precedent set by the Apex Court of USA, but they also are belittling a very serious issue that the entire female community has been fighting for the longest time.
During the signing ceremony at the statehouse attended by lawmakers and supporters who made the bill a reality, McMaster said, “There’s a lot of happy hearts beating across South Carolina right now.” It can’t be stressed enough how problematic this statement is. It, right here, is the manifestation of the viewpoint that demonises women for undertaking abortion and carries forward the ideology of how abortion is immoral. Pregnancy and carrying a baby are a whole life commitment and it takes more than just giving birth- it requires being physically, mentally, socially, financially and emotionally ready and able to raise a child, and no woman should be forced to make that commitment. Again, any woman with the right circumstances and mindset doesn’t opt to abort the life inside her, and even if she does, it is her decision for her own life and body.
How hard is it for lawmakers and authority holders to treat women as intellectual beings who can make their life decisions? Is it just your songs of immorality or your unending patriarchal need to have control over their life course? Either way, your opinion or decision of what a woman should do to her body shouldn’t matter. If they really want to make people’s lives better, there’s a long list of priorities that needs to be worked on, they are free to focus on them.