I, like so many this week was overjoyed to see the trailer for the upcoming series of The Handmaid’s Tale. As the drama’s protagonist, June, boomed onto my screen I was, in fact, so excited that I actually let out a squeal of excitement so high-pitched that dogs in my village started howling . While The Handmaid’s Tale may be binge-worthy entertainment at its finest, the very real news of Alabama’s abortion ban has demonstrated that the dystopian drama where a totalitarian regime subjects American women to a life of servitude is becoming less and less fictitious and more of a prescient warning.
To fill in anyone who’s managed to keep their blinkers on and avoid this piece of rather divisive news, Governor Kay Ivey of Alabama signed the most stringent abortion law in the whole of the United States making it illegal to perform an abortion in nearly all cases except those where the mother’s life is at direct risk because of the pregnancy. This ban on abortions makes no exception for women who have become pregnant as a result of rape or incest.
Alabama is just one in a wave of American states seeking to mount new legal challenges to the landmark Supreme Court case of Roe v Wade 1973 which saw the nationwide legalisation of abortion. Not far behind Alabama in this reversal are sixteen other states, notably including Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio and Georgia where governors have approved bans on abortion in cases where a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Such heartbeats can be detected as early as six weeks into the pregnancy.
To break this down to bare facts, these antediluvian laws would force an eleven year old child to carry out a full term pregnancy. An eleven year old child.
If a woman is raped and she aborts the pregnancy, she will be incarcerated for longer than her rapist. This is not a restoration of “good old family values” – this is a war on women.
Setting aside my own fury, I have tried my hardest to sincerely understand the opinions of those who do not believe women should have the autonomy to make an informed decision about their own bodies. A common argument is that where abortion is legal, women use it as a form of contraception. Do they? Trying to be earnest for a second and not laugh at how naïve a point this is, I just do not think that those who say this have an understanding of how traumatic an abortion can be. Whether medical or surgical, this is not something a woman is going to enjoy. Your Ben Shapiros and your Kay Iveys would have you believe that in more equal countries, swathes of women are swapping their cocktail nights and brunch dates for a girls’ night in at the abortion clinic where they’ll proffer a loyalty card to the receptionist in the hope of getting their tenth one for free. Who are these women? Because I don’t know them. Do you?
Even the naked figures do not expose women in less misogynistic countries to be serial abortionists in the way the American conservatives are eager for us to believe. In the United Kingdom (excluding Northern Ireland – that’s for another article I’m afraid) where abortion is legal up to twenty four weeks into the pregnancy, over the last five years an average of 1.6% of women have had an abortion. So no, we’re not all unconcernedly skipping the pill when we feel like it because we know we can just take care of any unwanted pregnancies later.
Disclaimer, there will be a minute number of women who exploit the availability of abortions in essence using it as a form of contraception, but they are in numbers so miniscule that they cannot form the basis of a coherent argument. Further, do you really think that a child should be forced to be born and raised by a mother that irresponsible?
Other arguments against women accessing safe abortions include that it goes against the Bible. Well, the Bible also prohibits mixing meat with dairy products (Exodus 23:19) so the mighty cheese burger – a firm favourite with Americans – is not allowed. Is Governor Iveys going to dismount her high horse to shut down Five Guys? The Bible also prohibits performing any work on the Sabbath (Exodus 20:10), but America seems positively exuberant when The Super Bowl takes to the world stage every year on a Sunday. Why is Governor Iveys not waving her Bible at Maroon 5 and the New England Patriots telling them to go home and because they can’t work on a Sunday? The Bible also condemns the wearing of clothing woven from more than one type of cloth (Leviticus 19:19) but unless you’re Britney and Justin rocking the 2001 AMA’s red carpet in denim-on-denim-on-denim-on-denim, the great majority of us are contravening this particular Bible precept multiple times per day.
So why then, when Americans care not for the majority of the Bible’s commandments, do these conservative states choose the prohibiting of abortion as the rule they would like to impose with such verve and commitment? Because it is anti-women. It is that simple.
Nothing scares an institution which has misogyny ingrained in its fringes more than women having unhindered autonomy. Legal and socioeconomic equality between the genders is anathema to them and their policies are merely reflective of that.
While the state governments’ propensity to withdraw women’s rights is somewhat of a trope in America, I feel it would be a little bit less infuriating if these so-called “pro-life” campaigners were more sincere as to their genuine cause; if they wore their hearts on their sleeves and admitted that they are in fact anti women’s equality, then a more honest debate could be had by all. But instead, they veil their deep-seated misogyny with a flurry of disingenuous arguments about human life and the Bible which are, as arguments go, flawed beyond salvation.
No imperious law on abortion will ever stop women from seeking abortions. It will simply stop them receiving safe abortions. That is the reality.