Linda Schrieber worked at the University of Iowa Hospital in 1973 when the Roe v. Wade decision made abortion legal. She remembers seeing a mother with five other children and history of childbirth complications that threatened her life. A young girl, pregnant through rape. Another woman, focused and career-oriented, pregnant by her boyfriend who had no intention of being a father.
Abortion has always existed, it just hasn’t always been safe and accessible.
Roe v. Wade was a landmark ruling that gave women constitutional control over what happened to their bodies and their lives. What it declared was that women should be allowed to make decisions that impacts the entirety of their lives, forever.
This past week, Iowa Senators Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley and Congressman Steve King signed an amicus brief asking the federal courts to reconsider Roe v. Wade. At the heart of the brief is the argument that abortion clinics are not safe and should be regulated. Additionally, the brief argues that the Supreme Court ruling, Planned Parenthood of Se. Pa. v. Casey, which restricted states from placing an “undue burden” on access to abortion, is vague. “Roe did not actually hold that abortion was a “fundamental” constitutional right, but only implied it,” argues the document, which was signed by 207 Republican lawmakers.
For so many Americans, this brief is a victory. Part of the agenda of voting in Donald Trump, a president who has appointed judges that will actively legislate the bodies of women out of existence.
For the rest of us, those of us, those who know what it’s like to be uninsured, to be scared that your attacker made you pregnant and you are only 21 and so poor you can’t even afford the trip to the Planned Parenthood, or simply a woman who isn’t ready to raise a child, this brief is a nightmare, that rips our bodies and lives out of our control, all under the disguise of caring about women.
The rhetoric of the amicus brief pretends at concern over the safety of the abortion clinics. But the true danger for women lies in actually giving birth. For too many women in America, pregnancy is a death sentence. The United States has the highest maternal death rate in the developed world. It’s worse for black women, who are three times more likely to die in childbirth than white women.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention lists pregnancy and childbirth as the sixth leading cause of death for women ages 20-34.
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Additionally, the cost of childbirth in America is outrageous. Even with insurance birth in America costs $4,500 on average out of pocket for a vaginal delivery. Do our Senators have that kind of money to hand out to the women they hope to force to give birth? Is Steve King, with all his rhetoric about no exceptions in rape or incest going to fund a Medicare-for-All that allows women to give birth without huge out of pocket expenses, is he going to fund their maternity leaves or their childcare? The answer of course is no.
Our senators do not care about women. They care about moralizing over fetuses, while women died. If they cared, if anyone actually cared, they wouldn’t be trying to end the reproductive rights of women. They’d instead be working to pass legislation that ensured a right to childcare, paid maternity leave, and access to affordable healthcare.
The arguments of people opposed to abortion elevate the lives of those children lost to abortion. Very little consideration is given to what is lost when a woman is refused the right to access contraceptives, and safe and affordable healthcare, when she is allowed to make choices regarding her body.
In the debate about abortion, women are made to feel selfish for wanting to work, for wanting lives outside of motherhood. It’s not selfish to want a life of your own. What’s selfish is a paternalistic government that wants to decide what that life looks like.
Ending abortion in America will not save lives, it will end them.