In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court Case Roe v. Wade ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment, which guaranteed equal protection of the law to all Americans, also protected an individual’s right to privacy. This decision legalized abortion in the United States—affirming a woman’s right to choose what happens to her body and changing the lives of women across the nation for years to come. All women, including those who felt that abortion was not a choice that they would personally make, were recognized to have agency over their own bodies and the liberty to make personal decisions regarding abortion.
Today, women’s reproductive rights are being threatened by conservatives who maintain religious objections. These fundamental liberties, recognized and upheld in Roe v. Wade, are slowly being stripped away in state legislatures. More than a dozen states, including Indiana, have already passed or attempted to pass restrictive and unconstitutional abortion laws.
Alabama, Ohio, Mississippi and Georgia are a few states that have successfully passed laws that act in direct violation of the Supreme Court ruling in Roe v Wade. Each of these states has approved legislation that makes it illegal for a woman to get an abortion once a heartbeat is detected. This all but completely bans abortion, as the fetal heartbeat can be detected around six to eight weeks of pregnancy—which is when women usually learn that they are pregnant. In Alabama, attempts to pass an amendment that granted an exception to this law in cases of rape or incest were unsuccessful, as Republican majorities voted them down. The new law in Alabama also makes it a crime for doctors to perform the procedure; attempting to provide women with abortions can result in up to 99 years of imprisonment.
These actions by Statehouse Republicans are unconstitutional, restrictive and oppressive and end up costing taxpayers in each state hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend lawsuits brought forth by organizations like the ACLU. Any attempt to infringe on women’s reproductive rights is inhumane and actively works to undermine the U.S. Constitution. Moreover, these laws are dangerous—outlawing safe, legal abortions will result in the resurgence of unsafe abortions that further threaten the lives of women. Stripping women of their rights, forcing them to carry out a pregnancy against their will and penalizing a woman or her doctors for making suitable medical decisions isn’t pro-life; it’s pro-oppression. America has already lived through this dark reality, and going back is not an option.
In response to these blatantly oppressive attempts to pull back women’s rights, women and their allies across the nation have come together to rally. On Tuesday, demonstrators gathered on the steps of the Indiana Statehouse to make their voices heard and protest the regressive legislation making its way through state legislatures. This rally is especially fitting in Indiana where the governor recently signed two restrictive abortion-related bills into law. If we hope to stop the persistent efforts by the GOP to strip women of the fundamental right to determine what happens to their bodies, we must continue to fight such laws. Indiana Senate Democrats have fought and will continue to fight against this oppressive legislation because women’s rights are human rights, and the only way to save lives is to recognize and respect a woman’s right to make her own choices about abortion.