One Step Closer to Gilead: What Losing the Right to Abortion Means for Americans

The Supreme Court decision on June 24, 2022, that dethroned Roe v. Wade and our right to abortion left people feeling numb.

On June 25, 2022, and every day after, we are angry.

And scared. Confused. Betrayed. Devastated. Resolute.

And though I certainly am not, I’m feeling very alone.

The Case, the Verdict, and What It Means

Let’s take a look at the case that gave the Supreme Court the opportunity to upend and undo Roe v. Wade.

In a 5 vs. 4 decision of the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Supreme Court announced that the United States does not consider abortion a right. This decision undoes the work of Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992).

So where did this case come from?

In March of 2018, the Mississippi Legislature passed the Gestational Age Act. It bans any operations that qualify as abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. They left clauses for medical emergencies where “the continuation of the pregnancy will create a serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function” and severe fetal abnormalities that would leave the fetus lifeless outside the womb, but not for cases of rape or incest.

As Governor Phil Bryant signed the bill into law, he said “We’ll probably be sued here in about a half hour, and that’ll be fine with me. It is worth fighting over.” His justification was that he is “committed to making Mississippi the safest place in America for an unborn child, and this bill will help us achieve that goal.”

As they expected (and hoped), Jackson Women’s Health Organization sued the same day. They were Mississippi’s singular abortion clinic and offer surgical abortions up to 16 weeks. They sued Thomas E. Dobbs, state health officer with the Mississippi State Department of Health, and Kenneth Cleveland, executive director of the Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure, saying the law was unconstitutional. Lower courts ruled in favor of the clinic, and Dobbs et. al continued to appeal.

Before the official verdict was announced on June 24, Politico released a leaked draft of a majority opinion by Justice Samuel Alito on May 2, 2022. While we expected that a decision like this was underway, our worst fears were confirmed.

And on June 24, 2022, we learned that the following justices do not believe people deserve access to abortion:

  • Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr.
  • Justice Neil M. Gorsuch
  • Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh
  • Justice Clarence Thomas
  • Justice Amy Coney Barrett

The following justices voted to uphold Roe v. Wade:

  • Justice Stephen G. Breyer
  • Justice Sonia Sotomayor
  • Justice Elena Kagan
  • Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.

A quick Google search will give you the mailing addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses to each justice so you can share your thoughts with these civil servants.

They Aren’t Stopping at Abortion

Perhaps you celebrated in some way at the ruling on June 24th, 2022. Let’s protect the unborn. Let’s save some babies. We won!

Justice Clarence Thomas promised that this was far from the end of the rights they plan to undo. Part of his concurring opinion piece stated, “In future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell. Because any substantive due process decision is ‘demonstrably erroneous,’ we have a duty to ‘correct the error’ established in those precedents.”

Let’s unpack those cases and what it would mean to undo them:

  • Griswold v. Connecticut (1965): The Court ruled that the Constitution protects a married couple’s right to buy and use contraceptives without hindrance from the government on the grounds of “right to marital privacy.”
  • Lawrence v. Texas (2003): Once again citing the right to privacy, the Court ruled that criminal punishment for sodomy was unconstitutional. In other words, it was unconstitutional to criminalize consenting same-sex love.
  • Obergefell v. Hodges (2015): Citing the Due Process Clause and Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, the Court ruled that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed for same-sex couples.

He doesn’t just want to stop access to healthcare. He doesn’t just want to prevent people from having safe sex (which decreases the need for abortions). He doesn’t just want to keep people from accessing medication that has applications far beyond pregnancy prevention. He doesn’t just want to take away the right for same-sex couples to marry. He wants to criminalize being queer.

The dominoes have only just begun to fall.

Abortions Aren’t Just for Ending Pregnancy

If you want to protect life, ending legal abortions seems on the surface like it’s a good idea. Regardless of the fact that you only end safe abortions, which results in more death due to unsafe abortion procedures, some don’t realize what counts as an abortion.

Many people who desperately want children must choose between safely removing a dead fetus from their bodies and dying along with the undeveloped fetus.

Terminating a pregnancy for medical reasons (TFMR) is an abortion.

Here are just a few health conditions that require TFMR procedures that fall under the category of abortion that does not protect the unborn.

  • Anencephaly: In some embryos, the neural tube (which eventually becomes the brain and spinal cord) forms incorrectly. This will prevent the forebrain and cerebrum from developing. If the baby is born “alive,” they can only breathe. They rarely live past a few hours.
  • Chromosomal abnormalities: These genetic changes cause the majority of miscarriages and stillbirths.
  • Meckel-Gruber Syndrome: Always fatal, this genetic disorder creates a combination of congenital malformations.
  • Ectopic pregnancy: This is what happens when a pregnancy takes hold outside of the womb, most commonly in the fallopian tubes. This embryo will not survive and a miscarriage or abortion is necessary to save the pregnant person.
  • Intrauterine death (IUD): The baby is already dead inside the womb. Sometimes this will result in a stillbirth, but some bodies need an abortion to safely remove the dead fetus.

These are just a few instances where no situation or length of pregnancy can save the baby. There’s no way to protect these lives.

But there is a way to protect the pregnant person. And it’s an abortion.

And it might seem easy to just adopt the notion that no abortion should be allowed under any circumstances. But when it’s your wife, partner, child, or friend that needs a procedure to save their lives, it’s easy to see why we should allow these medical procedures.

It’s Not Just Women

Scrolling through posts on Facebook, you’ll see people enraged that this is “an attack on women,” and “we need to stand with her” and “think about your daughters, wives, and mothers.”

But at this critical moment, we cannot exclude trans and non-binary people from this debate and call to action.

Anyone with a uterus is at risk. This includes non-binary people and trans men. Not only does the future look grim for LGBTQIA+ people as promised by the supreme court when it comes to same-sex relationships, but I can’t think of any experience more destabilizing to your gender identity as a man than getting pregnant.

Of course, there are certainly trans men that can and would enjoy the experience of being pregnant. I do not speak for them, or any other trans person.

There are many trigger points conservatives will reach for when justifying this decision.

Let’s discuss them.

“It’s About the Children”

The desire to protect life at every stage seems a noble one. Should life not be considered sacred?

Here are ways to protect life in and out of the womb:

  1. Sex education and birth control for all.
  2. Harsher punishments and higher convictions for rapists.
  3. Completely free maternity appointments and free healthcare.
  4. Increased education and studies to reduce maternal morbidity rates, particularly in communities of color.
  5. Free lactation consultants, free (at least affordable) diapers, formula, and infant necessities.
  6. Free (at least affordable) daycare.
  7. Gun control to end mass shootings, especially in schools.

But here’s where we stand currently.

  1. Only 18 states require that sex education instruction be medically accurate.
  2. Only 6% of rapists ever spend a day in jail.
  3. Childbirth can cost anywhere between $4,000 to $20,000 depending on the state.
  4. Maternal morbidity rates have drastically risen since the 90s. And black women have maternal morbidity rates at 2.5x the rate of white women. In NYC, Black women are 12 times more likely to die due to pregnancy than white women. Giving birth is not safe, nor are you guaranteed to survive it.
  5. We’re experiencing an extreme formula shortage and increased inflation on all food items.
  6. 51% of families in 2022 say they spend over 20% of their household income on childcare.
  7. With school shootings on the rise, the Supreme Court expanded gun rights at the same time they restricted abortion rights.

“A Fetus Develops a Heartbeat at 6 Weeks”

“Heartbeat bills” that ban abortion after 6 weeks say that life starts as early as 6 weeks because you can detect a heartbeat.

That “heartbeat” sounds like a heartbeat because of the machines we use. It’s not so much a heartbeat as a series of electrical pulses.

Dr. Nisha Verma, OB-GYN explains, “When I use a stethoscope to listen to an [adult] patient’s heart, the sound that I’m hearing is caused by the opening and closing of the cardiac valves…At six weeks of gestation, those valves don’t exist. The flickering that we’re seeing on the ultrasound that early in the development of the pregnancy is actually electrical activity, and the sound that you ‘hear’ is actually manufactured by the ultrasound machine.”

There’s no consciousness at 6 weeks. If we consider a heartbeat the sign of life and consciousness, it would be murder to turn off life support for someone who is braindead.

For People Who Are Scared

It’s okay to mourn. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to grieve the life we thought we deserved: the one where our human rights went unquestioned. The people who celebrated the Roe v. Wade victory in 1973 didn’t wonder how long it would last. They just thought “we won.”

And especially with threats like the ones handed out by Justice Thomas, it’s okay to be scared.

And it’s okay to feel hopeless. We’re told to “go out and vote! The government works for us!” But when 9 people that we can’t vote for determine the fate of our human rights in a move that opposes popular opinion, it’s hard to feel empowered by the government that supposedly works on our behalf.

It’s time to get angry. It’s time to get loud. It’s time to know your rights as a protestor. It’s time to sue for child support at the moment of conception and to use a fetus as a dependent on your taxes.

We’re done being civil and sweet and smiling when we’re told. In a country with a $778 billion military budget, they can’t be surprised that their citizens are ready to wage war.

Published in Featured Articles, In My Own Words
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Author, Artist, Photographer.

Sarah Margaret is an artist who expresses her love for feminism, equality, and justice through a variety of mediums: photography, filmmaking, poetry, illustration, song, acting, and of course, writing.

She owns Still Poetry Photography, a company that showcases her passion for capturing poetic moments in time. Instead of poetry in motion, she captures visual poetry in fractions of a second, making cherished keepsakes of unforgettable moments.

She is the artist behind the Still Poetry Etsy shop, which houses her illustrations and bespoke, handmade items. She is the author of intricacies are just cracks in the wall, a narrative poetry anthology that follows a young woman discovering herself as she emerges from an abusive relationship.