Roe v. Wade may have been around for 45 years now, but abortion rights are still center stage in U.S. politics today. Although abortion is legal here, states still have the right to enforce various restrictions, such as waiting periods, parental notification laws, mandatory ultrasounds, and strict time limits that make it difficult or impossible for women to access a safe abortion.
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Ben Ray Luján caused quite a bit of controversy last summer when he said that the party would support anti-choice candidates, stating that “there is not a litmus test for Democratic candidates. As we look at candidates across the country, you need to make sure you have candidates that fit the district, that can win in these districts across America.”
Similarly, Senator Bernie Sanders drew criticism last April when he campaigned for anti-abortion Democratic candidate Heath Mello, who co-sponsored several bills that would restrict abortion rights. Sanders and other progressives argue that Democrats’ main priority should be taking back the House and Senate, even if that means compromising on abortion laws.
The problem? I, like many Democrats, am not interested in “compromising” on such a fundamental issue. Not one bit.
In essence, abortion is about “bodily autonomy.” Bodily autonomy is a universal right to both the living and the dead that gives them the right to control their own body. It’s why you can’t force someone to donate their organs, even if that would save another’s life. Bodily autonomy states that no one can use someone else’s body without their consent By restricting abortion, lawmakers are not only taking away pregnant peoples’ autonomy, they’re granting a special right to fetuses that literally nobody else has.
Some may argue that consent to sex is consent to pregnancy, but that argument simply doesn’t hold up. Consent to driving is not consent to getting into a car wreck – we don’t refuse someone hospital treatment even if they were doing something incredibly reckless like driving drunk.
Here are the facts: the majority of abortions (89%) occur during the first 12 weeks. More than half of abortion patients are in their twenties, approximately 75% are low-income, and over 59% are already mothers. As for their reasons for terminating the pregnancy, the most common explanations were responsibility to others, the inability to afford a child, and the fear that a baby would greatly interfere with their education, career, or life in general.
The problem with “compromising” on abortion laws is that every circumstance is different. In reality, you can take every precaution possible against pregnancy and still end up facing an unwanted pregnancy. No method of birth control is 100% effective. Even wanted pregnancies may sometimes require abortions due to serious complications or changed circumstances. Late-term abortions are often brought up during debate (like President Trump’s suggestion that you can “rip the baby out of the womb” at nine months) as a means of enforcing time limits. While at first glance it may seem reasonable to suggest a cut off at say, 20 weeks, this largely ignores the reality of late-term abortions. Let’s be clear, nobody has an abortion at seven months for fun. When an abortion is performed late in the pregnancy, it’s almost always because of severe complications for the fetus and/or mother. Many, many of these pregnancies were wanted. In an essay for Cosmopolitan Magazine, 33-year old Kelly Cervantes wrote of her late-term abortion, “Our baby had a skeletal disorder called thanatophoric dysplasia, which causes underdeveloped lungs, among other ailments… [The doctor] told us that if our baby survived birth, he would die soon after. We made a choice we would not have imagined before that 20-week exam. A choice that wasn’t really a choice at all.”
I can’t think of any reason why politicians should be involved in such an emotional personal situation like the one above. Or anyone’s choice to abort or not abort, really. When it comes down to it, abortion is a deeply personally decision. We can’t apply blanket restrictions like 20-week bans because it’s impossible to know each case’s circumstances. And frankly, it’s really nobody’s business but the pregnant person’s.
Despite still being considered very taboo in society, abortions are nothing new, nor or they uncommon. 1 in 4 women in the U.S. will have an abortion by age 45. As we saw prior to Roe v. Wade, banning abortion does not reduce abortion rates. It just means unsafe, illegal abortions occur instead.
At the end of the day, abortion is a fundamental right. I can’t think of any basic rights cis men would be willing to sacrifice in the name of “purity politics.” Why should we have to be the ones to compromise our bodily autonomy?