Criminalising abortions and miscarriages: Is America going back to the Dark Ages?

Published: May 25, 2019

Marchers gather at the Alabama State Capitol to protest the state's new abortion law on May 19, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

America is an exceptionally confusing place. Doctors in Alabama can now face up to 99 years in prison for performing an abortion, whereas people like poster boy Stanford swimmer Brock Turner face six months (three due to good behaviour) for being a rapist.

Political party culture and conflicting ideologies have been the root of heated debates surrounding life, death, and the disturbing reality that 25 men can tell a woman what to do with her body in the 21st century, and a judge can write a law on abortion in God’s name in a country where church and state are separated.

It’s no secret that these new abortion laws are the most extreme this country has ever seen, at least since Roe v Wade, and both women and doctors can be charged as criminals for receiving and performing abortions respectively. If taken effect, the Georgia law could have a negative effect even on women who miscarry, and both the doctor and mother would have to go under criminal investigation for the miscarriage.

Under these new laws, states are looking to overturn the aforementioned Supreme Court case which, as seen in precedent, violates the right to privacy implied in the First, Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Ninth Amendments of the US Constitution. Even with these constitutional violations, was it not also established in the American Revolution that church and state are separate? Then why are we reversing progress?

The only place where religion is incorporated into the constitution or has any sort of place in politics is through its implication of natural rights, which protect life, liberty, and property. The idea that life begins at conception is an ecclesiastical belief and can’t be incorporated with political ideologies; in other words, church and state are separate, and last time I checked, controlling a woman’s body was said neither in the Bible nor the Constitution.

Regardless of the fact that these abortion laws are incredibly expensive and invasive, the pro-life arguments have become far beyond contradictory, and equating the life of a foetus to a human being is simply illogical and absurd. To force a woman to sacrifice her body for nine months and dedicate her life to that child for 18 years is desperately unethical: an individual can’t even sacrifice his body to give blood or donate organs unless he consents to the procedure.

These new laws force women to accept less bodily autonomy than a dead body donating organs. The value of that embryo simply cannot be equated to the value of the mother or even a child. To give a simple explanation, if you’re in a fertility clinic and the fire alarm goes off, would you save the four-year-old child in the corner fearing for his life, or a container of 1,000 embryos in a quickly burning building, given that you can only save one?

The choice becomes clear: the argument here is not whether the embryo is alive, it is that one cannot equate the value of an embryo to the value of a child or a mother, and these bans on abortions from rape or incest are more likely to put the mother’s life at risk. The fact of the matter is that if a woman has decided she does not want to be pregnant, she will do whatever is in her power to get an abortion, even if that means putting her life at risk.

Abortions will occur regardless of the restrictions placed on them, and unsafe abortions simply lead to a higher risk of injury or death of the mother. The restriction on abortions will just lead to more people like Dr Kermit Gosnell, a physician who killed three infants and a woman through malpractice and provided illegal abortions to women who had no access to safe ones.

Statistics show that when countries provide safe, legal access to abortion, the rates of abortion are typically lower. In Switzerland, for example, a progressive and liberal country which provides almost no restrictions to abortion, the rate is approximately five abortions per thousand women, the lowest in the world. On the contrary, in Pakistan, a country which only permits abortion in the case of saving the woman’s life or due to her physical or mental health and has limited access to healthcare and birth control, the rate is a staggering 50 abortions per thousand women.

If the US succeeds in its attempts to stop the termination of pregnancy, what happens next?

Who pays for the doctors’ appointments if the mother can’t even afford rent?

Who helps the millions of children stuck in foster care, in cycles of being abused day in and day out?

Who will fund the education of this child, or sex education for teenagers and birth control?

Who funds for scientific research for male birth control?

What role will the government have in ensuring the quality of life for this child, who they begged to give life to?

In the United States specifically, if states choose to place more limitations on abortion, they must give more funding for healthcare and the foster care system and provide better access to birth control to prevent such cases, and the pro-life argument must be carried through to after the birth of the child.

In other words, if a woman chooses to give her child up for adoption because she cannot abort it, the child could be placed in the foster care system, an overcrowded and often abusive place for a child. A study of foster children in Oregon and Washington State found that nearly one third reported being abused by a foster parent or another adult in a foster home. If the government forces the mother to give birth to the child, it must ensure that the child is somehow able to live safely under the foster care system or ensure that the parent can provide for her own child.

To pro-lifers: consenting to sex does not mean consenting to pregnancy, and the value of an embryo comes nowhere near to the value of a woman and her body.

Hira Ahmed

Hira Ahmed

The author will be attending the University of Nevada, Las Vegas as a pre-med student in the fall.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.