Amongst the many liberties the U.S. constitution promises its citizens, personal autonomy is perhaps chiefest amongst them. It stands to reason, then, that nobody should have the power to decide what one does with their body. Unfortunately, as the Supreme Court starts dismantling abortion laws, that may not be the case much longer. A woman should be allowed to decide what to do with her own body, but the topic of abortion has been hotly debated for years now.
1973 saw the Roe v. Wade ruling, which ensured women the right to terminate a pregnancy up until the 24th week, but said ruling is currently under threat of being overturned by the now conservative majority of Supreme Court justices, who are already poised to begin tearing down state laws that allow for abortion. To capitalize on this, several states, such as West Virginia and Alabama, have already passed state constitutional amendments that ban abortions should the courts eventually rule against Roe v. Wade.
The passing of these stricter abortion laws will force folks to travel out of those states in order to receive proper health care, which puts women, particularly women of color with low socioeconomic standing, in a very difficult spot. By the time a woman musters up the money needed for her abortion, her pregnancy may very well have been carried out to full term. To make matters worse, it is entirely possible that the overturning of these abortion laws will mean bad news for those minorities for many years to come. As mentioned before, the Supreme Court currently enjoys a conservative majority, and with President Donald Trump still in office for at least another year and a half, the situation might not get any better for quite some time.
While one would like to believe that the Supreme Court justices are willing to listen to the will of the people, it is important to recognize that not everyone in the states is pro-choice. In fact, recent Gallup opinion polls show that only 25% of participants believe abortion should be legal under any circumstances and 53% of participants believe abortion should be legal under specific circumstances. Many Americans are in favor of stricter abortion laws, which means that women seeking help with unwanted pregnancies will have a long road ahead of them.
That being said, pro-choice advocates shouldn’t despair. Just as easily as the bob has swung to the conservative side of the pendulum, so too can it swing to the liberal side. While the Supreme Court justices are able to stay until retirement, provided they don’t do anything that will get them impeached, retirement is still inevitable for them. Like any other official position, the Supreme Court is in a constant state of flux. Because the president nominates potential Supreme Court justices, what is now a conservative majority amongst the justices may become a decidedly liberal one 50 years from now depending on the political leanings of the president. The fact that the courts are ever-changing does not solve the issue at hand, but it does mean that perhaps someday the ground lost will be recovered.
Furthermore, while there is very little that the common person can do to solve this issue, advocating for the appointment of more women to the Supreme Court would be a good first step. Only four women have ever held the title of Supreme Court justice, the earliest amongst them being Sandra Day O’Connor, who was the deciding vote in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which ultimately upheld Roe V. Wade. While the average American citizen doesn’t have a direct say in who becomes a justice, the status-quo of a white, male-dominated SCOTUS must be openly critiqued, as it cannot be allowed to continue if progress is to be preserved.
In terms of long-term, actionable goals, an eventual constitutional amendment that truly protects a woman’s right to choose could be the closest thing to ending the debate. Many rights that were not originally included in the constitution have been added after the Bill of Rights was originally written. The 13th and 19th amendments immediately come to mind, and the United States would not be the same without them. Of course, the unfortunate reality is that society must remain vigilant even if a constitutional amendment was created. Conservative states would likely continue to pass laws that restrict abortion rights, so the issue doesn’t truly have a proper solution. Society is a long way away from truly settling the discussion.
It may look grim for Roe v. Wade, but it is important to remember that there will be people who are willing to fight on regardless of future Supreme Court decisions. Hold out hope; while the topic of abortion will likely forever be debated, potential constitutional amendments and the eventual arrival of more left-leaning Supreme Court justices may eventually make for a future where women’s bodies are once again theirs and theirs alone. Until then, society must continue to speak out against infringement on their personal autonomy.