“Abortion is now illegal in North Carolina after 20 weeks.”
The message is ironically accompanied by the cute bell sound of a text notification. It pops up in the corner of my laptop right as I set it down on a speaking podium. I’m about to deliver a presentation to my class.
Immediately, a thick anxiety settles on my chest.
To preface, I wasn’t thrilled before I got to the podium either. Public speaking isn’t my favorite pastime, but public speaking during the first week of a new semester evokes an even worse kind of dread.
This notification exacerbates that feeling.
I don’t have time to process the new information I’ve just learned via text. I have eyes on me right now. I’m being graded right now. There’s something else — my presentation — that I’m supposed to be worried about right now. It doesn’t matter if my civil rights are on the line.
So I start performing.
As of yesterday, North Carolina is no longer one of the south’s “safe havens” for abortion rights. U.S. District Judge William Osteen reinstated a state law that rules abortions illegal after 20 weeks.
The anti-abortion law was initially instituted in 1973. After Roe v. Wade was passed, an injunction was placed on the law, deeming it unconstitutional. Now that Roe has been overturned, Osteen reinstated it.
So as of Wednesday, North Carolina’s abortion laws are the same as what they were in 1973. Nearly fifty years prior.
It’s not just the stripping of abortion rights that is worrisome. It’s also what the new verdict means for civil rights in the future.
Roe v. Wade was a landmark Supreme Court decision. It set the precedent that abortion is considered a civil right. It fundamentally altered the political landscape that impacted law concerning health care for child-bearing bodies. It secured liberty for other laws regarding bodily autonomy.
Abortion will always be more accessible for those who are wealthy. Traveling across state lines to have an abortion requires time and money that those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged simply don’t have. People of color and young people face a particularly uphill battle because of other marginalizing factors. These vulnerable populations statistically have more limited access to health care and contraception options.
The friend who sent me the text message, disrupting my presentation, is the first to break the news to me, but certainly not the last. The rest of class consists of my phone emitting various buzz tones, which I know indicate news outlets and breaking news.
After class, some friends and I go to Linda's, seeking a quick escape from the stress of our first week back on campus. For the first few moments, it’s just some female friends and I. We panic, grieve and express our genuine concern for ourselves and members of our community after the passing of this state law.
The majority of the American public disagrees with the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Approximately 61 percent of Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases according to a study from Pew Research Center. But that doesn’t mean all 61 percent are willing to do something about it.
Our male friends arrive and hop into the conversation. When we explain what we’re discussing, one nods, saying he heard about the news a couple days ago. Which is impossible, of course, because it just happened that day.
We don’t correct him.
The topic of conversation changes to what people are eating and drinking and what music is playing in the restaurant.
And that’s it: I’m performing again. We all are.
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