One of the most fascinating ironies of our current political scene is the sight of anti-vax protesters holding signs that read: “My Body, My Choice.” The slogan, which has been appropriated from the feminist movement and proponents of women’s reproductive rights, is meant to represent the idea of personal bodily autonomy free from government intrusion, or in its present iteration, without the external domination of “mandates.” These folks believe that no one can force them to give up their right to corporeal self-ownership, which, in this case, would require them getting injected with a vaccine that is meant to halt the spread of a pernicious virus. It’s their body, they maintain, ergo, their choice.
And yet a vast majority of these self-same proponents of individual freedom would deny that same right to women who wish to seek the constitutionally protected right of a safe and legal abortion.The hypocrisy is stunning, yet not entirely unusual, considering it reflects the all-too-human tendency to “do as I say; not as I do.”
Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, ruled that the Due Process Clause of the 14th amendment to the Constitution, provides a fundamental “right to privacy,” that protects a pregnant woman’s liberty to choose whether to have an abortion. This right was upheld in 1992, in the case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, when the Court, once again affirmed that a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion is constitutionally protected. In other words: “Her body, Her Choice.”
And yet, today, that right is being eroded bit by bit, in state after state. For example, Texas’s Senate Bill 8, which has been allowed to stand by the current SCOTUS, bans abortion at around six weeks of pregnancy – before many women even know they’re pregnant. It also has a “sue thy neighbor” scheme that encourages any person in the state to sue people who, in any way, help someone obtain an abortion. Recently, the Republican majority in Tallahassee passed another restrictive law, banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. And this summer, many expect that the Court will overturn Roe v. Wade, when it considers the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. If the nation’s highest court decides to reverse nearly 50 years of precedent, it could affect 36 million women of reproductive age in 26 states – including Florida.
Considering that 80 percent of people in American want abortion to be legal, Congress must act to create federal statutory rights that parallel the constitutional right in Roe v. Wade. These rights would have at least two key components. First, they must prohibit states from interfering in the ability of a health care provider to provide medical care, including abortion services. Second, they must prohibit states from interfering in the ability of a patient to access medical care, including abortion services, from a provider that offers them.
Our democracy cannot be held hostage by Republican legislators or right-wing courts. If the Supreme Court overturns Roe, Congress must ensure that the will of the people remains the law of the land. Too many women and families are going to be adversely impacted if abortion rights are left up to individual states. We must protect the right to choose. Now’s the time!