For many individuals, recent headlines concerning reproductive rights have been bleak. A new Texas abortion law went into effect this month, banning abortions after only six weeks of pregnancy.
As someone is considered four weeks pregnant at the time of their first missed period, this bill serves as virtually a complete ban on abortions. Furthermore, the Texas law operates on a citizen-report basis, with a $10,000 bounty awarded to those who successfully report people and practitioners who underwent or performed abortions.
Nothing says “protect women” like empowering citizens to turn their back on those seeking abortions.
The Supreme Court denied an emergency injunction to prevent the restrictive law from going into effect while it awaits a hearing before the Court. As the law is implemented across Texas, the threat for similar reproductive laws to spread to other states looms.
In a similarly atrocious violation of autonomy, a brother of Phi Gamma Delta at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln was accused of sexual assault last month, prompting several nights of protest from fellow students, demanding the fraternity be removed from campus.
Sound familiar? UNC has its own unreconciled problems with sexual assault on campus, also perpetuated, in part, by our expansive Greek life industry.
These two recent headlines portray the underlying issue plaguing young women and female-identifying individuals – threats to our autonomy. We weather these threats with little-to-no safety mechanisms in place to protect us.
Consider the evolution of U.S. legal protections against unfair abortion legislation. Many are familiar with the landmark Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade (1972), which used an implied right to privacy to protect abortions within the first trimester.
It’s worth noting the idea of a “trimester” system was arbitrarily created by Justice Blackmun in his infamous 1970s opinion. Despite this, the division of pregnancy into three-month segments remains central to modern reproductive policies.
Moving forward in history to 1992, the Court essentially overturns Roe v. Wade in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey. Here, the court ruled that laws cannot put an “undue burden” on women, and abortion can be performed until fetus “viability.” Two phrases that lack definitions, broad interpretation or the ability to widely protect women.
Abortion laws in the U.S. are consistently subject to the wanton judgment of nine people. They are the last line of defense for female-identifying individuals seeking control over their own bodies and wellbeing.
Unfortunately, solutions are not more equitable at the local level. When combatting sexual assault on campus, UNC lacks comprehensive reporting, investigation and punishment systems, coupled with the past Title IX violations. Meanwhile, one out of every five women is sexually assaulted in college.
Whether it's by state or federal law, happening on campus or in the court system, people lack the inherent reproductive protection they need to live happy and healthy lives, with the freedom to make choices about their own bodies.
We are constantly subjected to the actions, beliefs and wishes of others above our own concerns. The scope of the issue is without borders, and further violations of individuals' autonomies just seem to open the door for more unjust treatment of people with uteruses in the U.S.
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