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Don’t understand what’s going on with Roe v. Wade? We’re here to help

Activism Resources

09.08.2022

Content note: Abortion and violence

On June 24, 2022, the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, ending the nationwide right to an abortion. This law was put in place in 1973 and had been protecting people seeking safe abortions for decades.

Now that it’s been overturned, it’s up to each US state to set their own laws, either protecting the right to abortion, or making it illegal. Check out this map to see where abortion is currently legal in the US.

09.08.2022

Abortion is health care. Illustration of a blue heart wrapped in a ribbon with those words on it.

For those in the US, it will significantly limit the options of birth-givers who are seeking an abortion, and increase the burden of mental illness, trauma, (dis)ability and death, due to the risks of unsafe abortions and bringing unwanted pregnancies to term. It will also further entrench poverty, inequality, and racial divides.

For those of us not in the US, it’s a reminder that gender equality is an ongoing struggle, and reproductive rights need vigilance and protection everywhere. It’s a reminder that attacks on reproductive rights do not affect all birth-givers equally, and that some will disproportionately shoulder the burden.

Who will this impact?

Abortion access is not just a “women’s issue”. It covers all people capable of giving birth including not only cis women, but children, trans men, and non-binary people. This is why we use inclusive language such as “people capable of giving birth”, “pregnant people”, “birth-givers”, and “abortion-seekers”.

As most abortion-seekers are women, many of the issues we talk about below are gendered issues, stemming from gender inequality and disproportionately affecting women. But here’s the truth: making abortion illegal does not just affect the people seeking abortions or being forced to give birth. It affects everyone.

However, the impacts of this ruling will not be felt equally. Birth-givers of Colour, particularly those who experience other intersecting discriminations, such as socio-economic status, class, or (dis)ability, will be particularly impacted.

What impacts will this have?

The impacts and flow on effects of this ruling are numerous and complex.
Here’s just a few.

  • Increasing control over birth-givers, the majority of whom are women: If choice and bodily autonomy are taken away from birth-givers, then so too is freedom. Many people, mostly women, will be forced into giving birth rather than pursuing their education, career, relationships, or dreams.

  • Compounding the effects of violence against women: Women are at a higher risk of being killed by their partners when they’re pregnant. Between the ages of 10 and 44 years, women who are pregnant, or who have had their pregnancy end in the past year, are murdered by their partners at a rate 16% higher than other women [1]. A US study found that pregnant women are twice as likely to die by homicide than pregnancy-related causes [1].

  • Worsening gender inequality: As just one example, it is well-researched and understood that education is a preventative factor for women and girls, protecting them from intimate partner violence and poverty [2]. Yet many girls and women will be unable to access education, and be forced into parenthood instead, if they don’t have access to abortions.

  • Strengthening class divides and pushing people further into poverty: Because there is no universal health care in the US, the average cost of giving birth was $11,200 in 2017, and a c-section cost on average $15,000 [3]. Now, it is even higher. Childcare costs an average of $11,232 each year (because there is no universal childcare in the US), and there is no guaranteed paid parental leave either [4]. Families already struggling with finances who are unable to access abortion will be pushed further into poverty.

  • Increasing the burden of death and disease: Criminalising abortion doesn’t stop abortion. It just stops safe abortions. Around 60% of unintended pregnancies worldwide end in abortion, yet only 45% of all induced abortions are safe [5]. Estimates from 2012 indicate that in developing countries alone, 7 million women per year were hospitalised due to complications from unsafe abortions, costing $553 million per year [6]. In almost every instance, death and injury of the birth giver from these unsafe abortions is preventable.

  • Entrenching racial and ethnic inequality: Each year in the US, around 700 people die during pregnancy, or the year after, and two out of three of these deaths are preventable [7]. Black birth-givers experience maternal mortality three times higher than that of White birth-givers [8]. This is a racial justice issue as well as a reproductive rights issue.

  • Perpetuating trauma: Forcing people to give birth is deeply traumatising and carries risks of disability and death. In many of the states in which Roe v. Wade has been overturned, there’s no exception for rape and incest. This means that in these states, survivors of violence, including children who, are being forced to give birth. Children are coming into this world unwanted. Some will live in poverty, or around violence or neglect, and others will be given up and join the 420,000+ US children living in foster care who are at a higher risk of being abused and neglected [9]. This is all deeply traumatising.

  • Increasing risk to medical professionals: In US states where abortion is criminalised, doctors who perform abortions will be the same in the eyes of the law as rapists and murderers. In Alabama, any physician who is convicted of performing an abortion in the state is classified as a Class A felon. This is the most serious category of crime, carrying a sentence of 10 – 99 years. For context, Brock Turner, a young White man who sexually assaulted an unconscious woman, Chanel Miller, on campus in the US state of California, was sentenced to only 6 months in prison in 2016, yet only served three months before being released.

  • Undermining democratic rights: When abortion is criminalised, abortion becomes a felony. Felons can’t vote.

What can I do?

  • Write to people in power. If you live in the US, you can write to your governor urging them to protect abortion rights. You can also write to your local paper asking them to cover this issue.

  • Share information online. Abortion access is a global human rights issue – not just in the US. Share evidence-based information online and keep using your voice!

  • Organise, or attend, pro-abortion rallies. The fight continues every day. We are more powerful when we organise.

  • Support abortion advocacy groups. If you live in the US, you can find abortion advocacy groups using Amnesty International’s map here.

  • Volunteer. Reach out to your local abortion provider to see if they take volunteers or sign up online.

Where can I learn more?

Self-care resources

This is a highly charged issue, and for many of us, it’s personal. Remember to look after yourself. Self-care is not selfish, it’s a necessity.

If you’re feeling affected by this blog post, please reach out to your local helpline.

The national helpline in Australia is 1800RESPECT.
For resources in the Northern Territory please visit nt.gov.au/wellbeing/hospitals-health-services/sexual-assault-referral-centres

References

[1] Wallace, Maeve PhD; Gillispie-Bell, Veronic MD; Cruz, Kiara MPH; Davis, Kelly MPA; and Vilda, Dovile PhD, Obstretics & Gynecology (2021). Access here.

[2] The Equality Institute (2021). Access here.

[3] International Federation of Health Plans (2017). Access here.

[4] Move (2021). Access here.

[5],[6] World Health Organisation (2021). Access here.

[7],[8] CDC (2022). Access here.

[9] US Children’s Bureau (2021). Access here.