Legal or not, women will continue to have abortions | OP-ED
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Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last Friday, I’ve been left with an abundance of unanswered questions. What if there was a law regulating men’s bodies? What would the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg have said if she were still a judge? Why do guns have more rights than women? When will we have autonomy over our bodies again? Amidst so much uncertainty, I’m sure I’m not the only one terrified of being a woman and a Latina in 2022.
In addition to Justice Ginsburg, who passed away in 2020, I also think of the French feminist Simone de Beauvoir and the English writer Virginia Woolf, great thinkers of the 20th century whose positions remain valid no matter how many years and centuries there are in between. Or is it that time is like a wheel where the same conservative cycles reappear from time to time?
“Never forget that it only takes a political, economic or religious crisis for women’s rights to be questioned. These rights can never be taken for granted. You must remain vigilant throughout your life”, De Beauvoir wrote more than 50 years ago. The proof is in the pudding.
In 1971, Simone de Beauvoir joined 342 other women to publish a manifesto in which they stated they had undergone an abortion, regardless the legal reprisals and the possibility of imprisonment they could have faced. However, the Manifesto of the 343 succeeded in ratifying the Veil Law in France and decriminalizing voluntary termination of pregnancy by December 1974.
“One million women have abortions every year in France.
They do so in dangerous conditions due to the clandestine conditions to which they are condemned when this operation, practiced under medical supervision, is one of the simplest. These millions of women are silenced.
I declare that I am one of them. I declare that I have had an abortion.
Just as we demand free access to contraceptives, we demand free abortion”, reads part of the manifesto.
Virginia Woolf followed the same feminist line as De Beauvoir. In her literature, she rethought the position of women in the academic and professional spheres and stressed the importance for women to gain economic independence, free thought, and total autonomy of decision to claim their own. Hence, the famous essay A Room of One’s Own.
“How many women forgotten because not even they themselves could, can or will be able to say ‘this mouth is mine’, ‘this body is mine’, ‘this is what I think’”, says one of Woolf’s most famous phrases.
In more recent times, I return to the feminism of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In a 1993 video, the judge emphasized, with the wisdom that distinguished her, the importance of legislating in favor of autonomy and the right to abortion.
“It is something fundamental for a woman’s life, for her dignity. It’s a decision she has to make for herself. And when the Government controls that decision for her, she is being treated as if she is less than an adult person responsible for her own choices. And if restrictions that harm her are imposed, she is being harmed because of her sex. For the State to control women would be to deny her their full autonomy and their full equality”, Ginsburg replied during her confirmation as a Supreme Court Justice.
Barriers to accessing abortion are significantly increased for Latina women, who represent a high percentage of those at the poverty level. As a Latina woman, the fear of not having a safe abortion is further intensified. According to Planned Parenthood statistics, Hispanic women are nearly 2.5 times more likely than white women to have an abortion. Meanwhile, the abortion rate among women living below the federal poverty level is more than four times higher than the rest. In short, a direct threat to Latina women’s health and lives.
The prohibition on abortion represents one of the greatest setbacks in the history of modern feminism. How long will a group of confirmed Supreme Court justices under Donald Trump’s misrule continue to control what we do with our bodies and our autonomy? What they don’t understand is that, legal or not, women will continue to have abortions. When our privacy becomes business of the State, we women become third-rate citizens. So said Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Simone de Beauvoir and Virginia Woolf. And history repeats itself.