• Jo-Ann Finkelstein, PhD (for The Feminist Parent)

What Teenage Girls Will Lose If Roe Disappears. It Could Be Their Lives.


Anti-abortion advocates are telling us not to get our panties in a bunch over the leaked news that the Supreme Court plans to overturn Roe v. Wade. Individual states will "just" get to decide now. First, we know it won't be long before they push for a federal ban on abortion. Second, if you're (understandably) overwhelmed by life and tempted to wish away the knowledge that our daughters will grow up with fewer rights than we had, read on.

Imagine for a second that your daughter or another young woman you love lives in one of those states that restricts abortion. Maybe it's a tween who is raped and impregnated by her uncle like the 10-year-old in India who was denied an abortion. Or maybe it's a young woman who has what Savita Halappanavar in Ireland had--an incomplete miscarriage--and she's denied an abortion until there's no heartbeat, but by then it's too late because, like Savita, she's goes into septic shock and dies in the hospital. Perhaps it's a missed miscarriage or a fetus that won't survive outside the womb, as in the very wanted pregnancies of two friends of mine. Or maybe she has a life-threatening ectopic pregnancy. What about when birth control doesn't work or a guy secretly slips off the condom as in the case of one of my teenage patients?

My point is that it is not all just "careless sex" by all those selfish and irresponsible women out there, as our government would have us believe. But even when it is, people make mistakes--teens, especially, can be impulsive. They're still learning. Forced pregnancy isn't good for anyone. But it's especially bad for teenagers: pregnancy complications are the leading cause of death among girls ages 15-19. That's not a chance anyone should be obliged to take.

The ability to choose if and when to have children is one of the single most important determining factors in a woman’s life. Without it their futures are bleak. We know from decades of research that when abortion is restricted, maternal mortality rates increase, women are more likely to stay with violent partners and be killed by them, women wind up poorer and their children do worse.

But none of these heartwrenching stories, none of the bad-for-society statistics garner a lick of empathy from the men who legislate away our humanity. And none of the medical facts move the needle even a millimeter. Instead, 1 in 4 women are accused of murder.

Yet it's not really about the babies. If it were about babies, we'd have universal maternal care, paid parental leave, and subsidized childcare -- the kind of support provided by almost every other nation out there. So what is it really about? It is about the lingering myth that women belong in the home; that women have too many rights and should not be allowed to rise out of poverty and dependency. It is about maintaining white heteropatriarchy. We have to fight because abortion is not the only human right they are coming for.

I know I'm preaching to the choir here, so please share this post far and wide. (You can also read this piece by Jill Filipovic for ways to help).


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