Violating our bodily autonomy

by Ahona Dam, opinions editor
graphic by Julie Wang

The anatomy of a woman’s reproductive system is a beautiful blueprint — each part fitting like a puzzle piece to create the engine of life. In constant motion, a woman’s uterus sheds, contracts and dilates. It is a swift messenger, working in harmony with the fallopian tubes, endometrium and cervix. In recent months, this system’s ability to nurture a fetus has become the center of a nationwide debate over women’s rights to reproductive healthcare in a country that claims to support maternal health.

I was shocked when the Supreme Court draft opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade was leaked on May 2. In the 1970 case, Jane Roe (pseudonym) sued Henry Wade, her local district attorney, claiming that Texas’s laws restricting her right to abortion were unconstitutional. In 1973, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Roe in a 7-2 decision, asserting that the Constitution protected a woman’s right to privacy, and therefore her reproductive health as well. 

According to the New York Times, if the Supreme Court decides to overturn Roe v. Wade, 26 states may decide to ban or tightly restrict abortion. This puts all procedures that terminate a pregnancy at risk, including dilation and curettage (D&C), abortion pills, suction, induced miscarriage or c-sections which are typically done during third trimester abortions.

As my phone lit up with hundreds of news reports and Instagram stories in response to the news, I became angry thinking about how the Court could insert themselves into the lives of individuals without knowing each person’s circumstances. 

Decisions by the court — a group of wealthy, mostly male justices — fail to account for a wide range of situations that require the protection of Roe v. Wade to access reproductive healthcare: mothers who cannot afford to take care of another child, mothers who endure the pain of a miscarriage, mothers who took on the title of ‘mother’ too young, mothers suffering through an ectopic pregnancy, mothers who are forced to make a decision between life or death — what does the future hold for them? 

While many political leaders are fortunate enough to take matters of healthcare for granted, many women across America do not have that luxury. It is also important to acknowledge the conditions of abortion for all who can get pregnant including transwoman and any person with a uterus — not just cisgender women. 

A gendered discussion of abortion fails to realize the real perspectives that other people face who have gone through similar trauma of being denied an abortion. By discussing the legitimacy of life and death, the conversation shifts away from the safety and rights of a woman’s health autonomy. The future of American mothers has become fragile, their reproductive systems a battleground. 

According to research conducted at the University of California San Francisco, women who are denied an abortion are more susceptible to long term economic hardship and insecurity. There is also a noticeable increase in partner violence for women who can’t get an abortion. 

As a young woman growing up South Asian in America, I never openly discussed women’s health. In fifth grade and middle school, girls would whisper to each other about their choice of pads or tampons, and students would nervously laugh as our health teacher explained birth control methods. 

After I got my period, I was told not to talk about it in front of my dad. Pads were always hidden in shopping carts; bras were always bought secretly. When I was younger, I became accustomed to staying quiet and feeling embarrassed when these topics were brought up. 

As I’ve grown older, I’ve questioned such reluctance to talk about women’s health. Why has the female body been depicted to be this monstrosity or this foreign object of desire that no one should have the authority to handle besides the woman herself? 

Women are not objects to be pointed at, stared at, or manipulated to fit into molds. My body does not have an unlocked door that can be opened without my permission. I am not programmed to listen to whatever someone tells me to do because I have a mind of my own. 

There is a lack of knowledge about a woman’s reproductive system among the general public. With this lack of knowledge comes misinformation and reluctance to advocate for one’s own health. Without understanding the intricacy of this system’s ability to care for a fetus, people are more willing to support restrictive abortion laws. Not only is knowing anatomy important, but so is recognizing a woman’s emotional wellbeing.

Listen to women’s stories that plague America’s healthcare about mothers forced to give birth in dangerous conditions against their will. Listen to women’s experiences as they find alternate means to travel to states where abortion is legal. Listen to the cries of pain as women are forced to give birth to babies who have major health concerns. 

This is far from just, and I am tired of explaining the importance of women’s health to people who choose to be ignorant. Educate yourself and use your voice because it can change someone’s perspective. I am proud to identify as a woman and am grateful to have the necessary knowledge about my anatomy and rights because I know that being a woman in America makes me stronger.