The Daily Tar Heel

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Friday September 30th

Column: I've never had to live without legal abortions. Overturning Roe v. Wade changes everything.

University of Texas students march from the UT campus to the state Capitol on Sept. 7, to protest the state law banning abortions after six weeks. Photo courtesy of Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman/TNS.
Buy Photos University of Texas students march from the UT campus to the state Capitol on Sept. 7, to protest the state law banning abortions after six weeks. Photo courtesy of Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman/TNS.

In an intolerable betrayal of abortion rights, the Supreme Court voted to strike down the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, according to a leaked initial draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito. The shock of this vote is being felt across the country as abortion rights, the pillar of reproductive autonomy, are being unjustly pulled out from underneath us.

The ruling, which was drafted in February, would end the constitutional protection of abortion rights that have been guaranteed for nearly half a century. If Roe were to be overturned, it would be up to the states to decide whether to restrict or ban abortions. It’s unclear if there have been subsequent changes to the draft.

According to the Politico report, the overturning of Roe would almost immediately lead to stricter limits on abortion access in large swaths of the South and Midwest, with about half of these states set to immediately impose broad abortion bans. This is a severe and devastating blow to bodily autonomy across America and this decision leaves many uncertain about the future of abortion rights.

I wrote my high school research paper on the history of abortion rights and the importance of these rights for preserving reproductive health and bodily autonomy. This has led me to pursue a career as a reproductive rights lawyer. Roe sets the precedent for the right to an abortion in this country, and without it, I am afraid for our future.

The decision to strike down Roe will change the course of my career, but will also inspire me to keep fighting for the right to choose. 

The history of abortion accessibility is a messy one, that demonstrates how dire this right is today. It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that states started to pass laws making abortion illegal. Without the innovative technologies of today, surgeries and procedures in the 19th century – including abortion – were considered risky, causing infant and maternal mortality rates to be extremely high. 

Although medical technology improved over time, many individuals in need of abortion had no other choice but to get their abortion from an illegal practitioner without these medical developments at their disposal. The criminalization of abortion did not and will not prevent individuals from receiving them – it will only make the process riskier for patients.

Roe v. Wade made it possible for people to receive safe and legal abortions from well-trained medical doctors. This Supreme Court case led to a drastic decrease in pregnancy-related deaths and injuries. It was a groundbreaking Supreme Court case for reproductive rights and gave individuals access to a procedure that had been limited to risky and illegal methods before.

It's important to know the names and faces behind such a dangerous judicial decision. Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett sided with Justice Alito's decision. Meanwhile, Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan were working on dissenting arguments. It was not clear how Chief Justice John Roberts will side.

The status of this draft is in the air. Justices can make changes and circulate multiple drafts before the holding is officially published, which is likely to happen in the next couple of months. Until then, uncertainty over the legality and accessibility of abortions looms over the heads of those who would be impacted by this ruling.

I have never lived without the right to choose. Since Roe was decided in 1973, the legalization of abortion has saved lives. Without such a ruling, I’m afraid for the future of reproductive autonomy. But I am also inspired by my peers who have spoken out against this egregious decision. 

Striking down Roe will not happen without pushback. Although devastating, this decision is a reminder of how important public mobilization is for the right to choose.

@sophhteague

opinion@dailytarheel.com

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