Women's rights and preamble

Abortion Law book on copy of Preamble. Gavel and stethoscope.

In the May 15 Alabama ruling on abortion, it is illegal to receive an abortion, or for doctors to administer one, including circumstances of rape and incest.

Lawmakers motioned to remove access to not only imperative healthcare, but namely the means of someone recovering their own life through getting an abortion.

If this law is violated, doctors could face up to 99 years of prison time. There are exceptions, however; if the pregnancy is determined to be fatal to the mother or fetus, an abortion is permissible. The true fatality of this recent ruling is in basic human rights.

The ultimate prohibition of bodily autonomy, or the ability to do whatever one wants and sees necessary for one's own body, is the removal of human rights. Some would say terminating a pregnancy is removing the rights of an unborn human. Ultimately, the fetus is not capable of making the decision of whether or not to terminate pregnancy, so it is entirely up to the person whose uterus is occupied.

Oddly enough, the underlying authority to make this decision for women and others who can be pregnant has been overwhelmingly claimed by male lawmakers 一 25 men out of 28 total present on the Alabama panel.

“Alabama’s state motto is 'We Dare Defend Our Rights,’ and today we have taken a strong step toward defending the rights of the unborn,” Alabama Lieutenant Governor, Will Ainsworth, said according to a May 16 local Alabama news article. “With liberal states approving radical late-term and post-birth abortions, Roe must be challenged, and I am proud that Alabama is leading the way.”

Ainsworth voted in favor of the May 15th ruling. People like Ainsworth who cannot be pregnant should have no say in the option of terminating a pregnancy. People who can cause pregnancy, especially those who are against abortion, should shift their focus onto their own participation and accountability regarding impregnation.

Anyone with a uterus could need access to a safe abortion in their lifetime, not all being women. Many non-binary people, for example, have fully functional uteri and could thus carry a child. The same goes for trans men who wish to conceive. Ultimately, it is not exclusively cisgender or cis women, born with female anatomy and identify as women, whose rights are trampled by this legislation.

“[The notion that this issue only affects cis women] erases the idea of nonbinary or gender nonconforming people altogether,” Sam M., 24, senior analyst of a Fortune 500 company, who identifies as genderqueer, said. “Populations that happened to be assigned female at birth also face spousal rape, sexual assault or medical situations that have to result in a termination of a pregnancy. It’s sad that so many instances of sexual assault and rape [already] go unreported, so the option of abortion may be the only saving grace for some people in that situation.”

For plenty of people, being at the crossroads of needing to terminate a pregnancy or carry a baby to term is a reality they could face in their lifetime. As we all know, it does take two to conceive a life. The issue of abortion is conventionally placed onto mothers, given they are the ones whose bodies are inhabited, with a ‘damned if they do or don’t’ mentality regarding the fate of their unborn child 一 but the same level of accountability is not required of those equally capable of creating a child. Accountability for an unborn persons life at the level it is expected of women and others who can get pregnant must also be expected of those who can equally contribute to causing pregnancy 一 men. The population of non-cis biologically assigned males, in addition to cis males, should be held equally accountable for their involvement in causing pregnancy, due to their ability to produce sperm. The implementation of a more thorough sexual education curriculum is necessary in order to ensure proper education and accountability for all sexual identities and assignments regarding conception, and thus necessity for abortion.

Given the removal of accessibility to safe abortions , modern, accurate and thorough sexual education must be the standard for all school curriculum to more effectively educate young people on their sexualities and prevent unwanted pregnancy. Requiring thorough education acknowledging both sexual partners as equal contributors to pregnancy, and sexual health in all stages of intimacy, reduces the perceived sole responsibility and blame onto specifically the mother or pregnant individual for potentially needing an abortion. A proper sex ed curriculum empowers all individuals to make healthy and educated choices to effectively prevent unwanted pregnancies altogether, thus diminishing a significant aspect of the demand for abortions.

“We are required to take a constitution test in school as an American; the same should be required as far as sex,” Sam says. “People can be free to make their choices as they please as long as they have been properly educated on pregnancy and contraception.”

Not all school districts, however, equip students with what they need to know regarding individual sexual health and pregnancy. The requirements in Alabama are“(a) Any program or curriculum in the public schools in Alabama that includes sex or the human reproductive process shall, as a minimum, include and emphasize the following: (1) Abstinence from sexual activity is the only completely effective protection against unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) when transmitted sexually. (2) Abstinence from sexual activity outside of lawful marriage is the expected social standard for unmarried school-age persons,” (courtesy of ALSDE.edu). The phrasing of these standards entails that school districts aren’t actually required to teach sexual education, but provides the parameters for the superintendents who do choose to implement the curriculum. The overall message of the curriculum is to refrain from sexual intimacy altogether, in reference to “the expected social standard”, according to Title 16 of The Code of Alabama. This is simply not realistic as the only means of preventing pregnancy among young people.

As a closer-to-home perspective, Illinois “requires schools to include instruction on both abstinence and contraception for the prevention of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases,” according to the Illinois State Board of Education Public Act 98-0441. The Critical Health Problems and Comprehensive Health Education Act, however, does not require school districts to offer sex education.

“The General Assembly makes laws which determine what the state board can and cannot do,” Jackie Matthews, ISBE Director of Media and External Communications, said. “The [Illinois] state administration can enforce requirements within the parameters of the law, however cannot determine by statue. [Current] sex ed law in Illinois as written is that it is optional for any district in the state, is not a mandated course, and is not a requirement for graduation.”

Despite insufficient efforts to properly educate all students on their sexual health, thankfully, abortions are legal and accessible in Illinois. For students in Alabama, the fate of their sexual health and independence is not currently as promising. Seeing as the General Assembly in most states not only determines the parameters of required education, it also makes and assesses laws having to do with abortion. Lawmakers who do not require effective and realistic sexual education in schools, while also prohibiting abortions, are designing a legislative purgatory where individual power is seized from people and their own bodies. This system also perpetuates the view that solely the pregnant individual is to blame for not only getting an abortion, but also conceiving a child in the first place.

In 2019, people deserve to exercise the basic human right of what happens to their own body. Alabama should follow Illinois’ lead and not withhold access to safe abortions.