a lack of choice: abortion bans 

by katie cogan

By design, anti-abortion bills transfer bodily autonomy and self- determination from the individual to the government. Anti-abortion legislation dictates the conditions in which women, trans-men, and non-binary people can access abortion services. In late spring a wave of anti-abortion bills cascaded through state legislatures in Georgia, Kentucky, Louisianna, Missouri, Ohio, South Carolina, and Tennessee. 

These bills are the government’s way of controlling which groups merit autonomy over their bodies. The implication that people who need access to abortion do not deserve to make their own decisions is not subtle. In fact, this is a deeply American sentiment. Historically, women, racial minorities, and low-income populations have always had less control over their autonomy than male, white, and wealthy populations, especially within public policy and the institution of medicine. 

Abortion beliefs are somewhat unique in the American psyche. Few medical procedures have polarized the American public and inspired activism on all sides of the issue. Opposition to abortion, as a medical regulation, is rare considering that many other medical procedures are far more dangerous, but have not caused states to implement bans. Abortion is actually an incredibly safe medical procedure. However, many lobbyists and politicians have completely ignored science throughout their anti-abortion crusade. As a nation we must confront the uncomfortable truth that most politicians do not have the medical or scientific expertise to implement medical policies. 

The medical industry should be regulated so that patients have safer, more affordable, and empowering experiences in the healthcare system. However, anti-abortion legislation does not make healthcare safer or affordable, in fact, it likely has the opposite effect on the population of people who need abortions. For people living in a place with strict abortion regulations, people will have three options available to them. 

The first option - People resort to unsafe abortion methodology without the supervision of a physician. Unsafe abortions account for the 4.7% - 13.7% of all maternal deaths globally, meaning that if American women resort to self-induced procedures, an increase of maternal deaths is likely to follow. Additionally, treating people in hospitals for complications of unsafe abortions will likely cause them psychological and financial distress. Further, increased hospitalizations will cost the government and tax-payers for an issue that is almost 100% preventable through sexual education, contraceptives, and timely access to healthcare. 

The second option - People will travel to other states and countries to obtain the procedure. This option can be extremely expensive, therefore, only wealthy people and families have access to this option. The classist implications of this option suggests that low-income populations, people of color, and survivors of rape and incest will have fewer options than wealthier, more privileged populations. This option actively maintains cycles of poverty and oppression. 

The third option - People with unwanted pregnancies for any reason will be forced to carry a child to term. Forcing people to continue their unwanted pregnancies has been correlated to a variety of mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. Some bills, such as the one in Missouri, do not make exceptions for rape and incest. This bill essentially forces survivors of rape and incest to give birth to an unwanted pregnancy. For survivors of rape and incest, being forced to give birth to an unwanted pregnancy is associated with an even greater risk of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Other bills, such as the one in Georgia, forces survivors to file a police report to qualify for the rape exception. This specific clause of the Georgia abortion ban is particularly troubling because reporting a rape is an incredibly large choice for a survivor to decide. By forcing survivors to report to seek abortion services may also discourage survivors from seeking other health services after a sexual assault incident. Furthermore, the decision to report a sexual assault has other implications including safety, access to legal resources, economic costs and mental health issues. This clause of Georgia’s abortion ban will further disempower and harm survivors of sexual violence. 

The wave of anti-abortion legislation peaked 5 months ago in the late Spring of 2019, however, since then, these bills have been challenged by different organizations in lawsuits to prevent the implementation of the bills. In early July, the Ohio anti-abortion bill was temporarily blocked by a federal judge. Then, in late August the Missouri ban was blocked by a federal judge. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the bill in Georgia, which was challenged by the ACLU as being unconstitutional, is currently being reviewed by U.S. District Judge Steve C. Jones to halt the bill. The announcement should be released in the coming weeks, before the January 1st, 2020 when the ban is set to start. 

In places with strict regulation of abortion services people who have unwanted pregnancies have only three options available to them. Each option, resorting to unsafe abortion methodology, traveling to access services, or keeping an unwanted pregnancy all bear a plethora of health, safety, and economic implications. These implications present a burden on the individual with the unwanted pregnancy, but also on the entire community and healthcare systems. Anti-abortion legislation is not only scientifically inaccurate, but purposefully malicious and harmful on an individual and societal level. 

Katie Cogan (she/ her/ hers), a senior, and serves as an Elbowroom Staff Writer. Katie is majoring in public health and is a pre-medical student. In her studies, she concentrates on health disparities and climate justice. Katie is passionate about sexual violence prevention and response. Originally from Portland, Oregon, Katie enjoys coffee, art museums, and traveling.