A woman’s body, a woman’s choice – but only where it’s allowed.
After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in a 5-4 decision, it erased decades of progress. Not just in the fight for women’s rights, but in our growth as a society. As devastating as this loss has been for our country, the damage may not be limited to the confines of our borders.
The decision came after a slow but steady overall decline in abortion restrictions worldwide. In the years before Roe v. Wade was overturned, many foreign nations had begun to allow abortions. Columbia, Argentina, and Ireland have all made abortions legal in just the past four years alone. On the other side of things, the US has become only the third country to place restrictions on abortion rights since 1994.
With those facts in mind, it’s not hard to imagine that June’s decision could set forth a global movement against abortion for years to come. Already-oppressive governments will undoubtedly look to the US to justify their stance on reproductive rights, and those that have changed their laws in recent years might consider revisiting the issue. Poland, for example, has been widely criticized by the EU for its own anti-abortion policies. With the US – the world’s sole true superpower – restricting reproductive rights for the first time in decades, it easily becomes a game of “Well, they did it…so why can’t we?”
That implication aside, outlawing abortion procedures does not stop them from happening; it simply makes them more difficult to obtain, and more dangerous. This is already true for the US, but the negative effects of banning abortion are even more easily seen around the world. In El Salvador, for example, the third-leading cause of death among adolescent girls in 1994 involved complications from pregnancy, many of which can be attributed to impromptu abortions that were performed illegally. At the time, abortion laws in the country were very strict, and by 1998 the practice was banned altogether. Today, many young girls in El Salvador are arrested for attempting to have abortions, some as young as ten years old. Now, with the US validating their behavior, countries like El Salvador are salivating at the mouth. Those young girls won’t have safe or legal access to abortion anytime soon, and we, in part, are to blame.
Perhaps one of the most upsetting aspects of this issue is the fact that the majority of Americans don’t actually support the new ruling. In a recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 61% of Americans were found to have supported abortion in all or most cases. The Republican party – classically known to demonize abortion – is losing its grip on younger, more forward-thinking Americans, and the recent elections are representative of that. While the party holding the White House usually loses seats in the House of Representatives during midterm elections, the Democratic Party lost the fewest seats in 40 years, only 22 as of this writing. By comparison, 63 were lost under Obama in 2010. Conservatives don’t want to see it, but America is becoming more and more progressive. It’s only a matter of time before that reality trickles into the courts and progress begins to be made for good – the world watching all the while.
As Americans, we often forget the amount of privilege and influence that we have over other countries. History has shown that, for better or worse, other nations tend to look to us when evaluating their own culture, and that includes our politics. When we make such drastic changes in our laws, we must consider not only the example that we are setting for ourselves, but the example that we are setting for the world.
After all, with great power…