The true republic: men, their rights, and nothing more; women, their rights, and nothing less.Susan B. Anthony
Superficially the eradication of women’s rights to choose is an attack on bodily autonomy, but the far reaching effects of this decision, in some states, leads to women losing rights as fundamental as voting.
Despite popular opinion, the Republican Party is not stupid. They are well aware that their push to end legal abortions will not stop pregnancies from being terminated. In reality, their vendetta to criminalize abortions is an outright attack on women’s rights to privacy designed with the long-term goal of denying women’s right to vote.
Over the years the GOP has stocked the Supreme Court with judges who share the party’s pro-life views. However, historically, the court has determined some rights to be unenumerated- inferred by other rights- including the right to keep personal matters private. Few matters can be more personal than pregnancy and labor, which have lifelong physical, mental, and emotional impacts on women- and this is without even considering the additional responsibility of a child. The recent draft leak, supporting the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade is the first major step in a series of events that all result in women becoming inferior citizens. The decision made in the draft would not explicitly outlaw abortions. Instead, it would turn the question of their legality into the hands of the states- many of which are ready with anti-abortion legislature (trigger laws). Some of the bills in question would simply restrict the circumstances under which abortions can be perfromed while others would outright ban them. Either way, the constitutional right to privacy is meaningless if it doesn not apply to all people in all situations.
This issue also goes deeper than women not having access to safe and legal abortions. It has been seen time and time again that women seeking abortions will find ways to attain them. Once states are able to enact their trigger laws, these abortions will become criminalized- with some debating to charge women and their doctors with homicides. If they have been made felons, it is ensured that these women will temporarily or permanently lose their ability to vote- after their prison sentence- in 26 states.
Unsurprisingly, these 26 are all red states where Republicans have a majority on the state and federal representative level. It is commonly known that women are significantly more likely to vote Democrat then men are, and that difference only increases when you consider specifically women of color or lower income women. Coincidentally, women of color and lower income women are up to five times more likely to seek out an abortion than middle class white women. When you consider these statistics all together, it is not difficult to see why criminalizing abortions is beneficial to the Republican party. By criminalizing an action performed by many people outside their base, they are able to target them specifically while simultaneously making sure that their base is relatively unscathed. This is even more unsurprising when you consider the party’s recent actions to disenfranchise African American voters- another group of people more likely to vote Democrat. Women are half the voting population, and if you can delegitimize a significant amount of voters that are likely to vote against you, you secure your own win and ensure the loss of the opposing party.
In almost every definition of democracy it is stated that the right to vote must be available to capable adults, or that leaders must be elected through a process in which they compete for the votes of the majority. Therefore, any action that threatens that fundamental right is anti-democratic. When Roe v Wade was decided in 1973 it was a momentous increase in women’s democratic liberties. If it’s overturned, not only will it undo the progress made by the original decision, but it will also drag us further back by limiting the vote of women in over half of the country.
There are some on the opposing side that would argue that overturning Roe v Wade actually serves to better democracy. The pro-life movement promises that overturning Roe v. Wade would make America more democratic since “each state can identify policies consistent with the views of its residents.” This makes sense if you correlate an increase in states right as an increase in democracy. Many people do follow this mindset as decentralization of the federal government is seen as giving more power to the people of individual states. However, as previously mentioned, constitutional rights are worthless if they do not apply to all people in all situations. Constitutional democracies, such as the United States protect personal and private rights, and it is the responsibility of the federal government to protect those rights throughout the nation. Leaving the decision up to the states guarantees that some women will be stripped of those rights, which therefore does not make this the more democratic option.
The right to vote is an integral part of any democracy. However, for women in America that right is currently under attack. The eradication of a woman’s right to choose is, on the surface, a threat to bodily autonomy, but the far reaching consequences of this decision extend into other, seemingly inalienable, rights.
Illustration by Molly Crabapple for The Guardian
Dahl, R. A. (1972). Polyarchy: Participation and Opposition. Yale University Press.
Rojas, R. (2022, May 6). Bill Classifying Abortion as Homicide Is Advanced by Louisiana Lawmakers. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/05/us/louisiana-abortion-bill-homicide.html
State Voting Laws & Policies for People with Felony Convictions – Felon Voting – ProCon.org. (2022, April 6). Felon Voting. https://felonvoting.procon.org/state-felon-voting-laws/
Willick, J. (2022, May 6). Opinion | overturning roe would make America more democratic. The Washington Post. Retrieved May 21, 2022, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/05/06/overturn-roe-v-wade-states-decide/