Reproductive Rights Being Mismanaged by Lawmakers


Courtesy of the ACLU of Southern California

Kalyani Ryaru, Reporter

Over the course of one week in mid-April, four states took steps to restrict abortion access, including a near-total ban in Oklahoma and a 15-week ban in Florida. Additionally, on May 2, a Supreme Court opinion leak foreshadowed an overturning of Roe v. Wade. Quite simply, people with uteruses should have the ability to access abortion health care. This legislation and the potential for overturning Roe v. Wade is a huge and concerning step backwards for the state of reproductive justice in America. 

It is important to understand the background of what has caused the recent increase of restrictive abortion bans. Senate Bill 8 in Texas went into effect on September 1, 2021 after being taken to the Supreme Court. SB 8 was an extremely restrictive 6-week abortion ban with no exceptions for rape or incest. The Supreme Court case, Whole Woman’s Health et. al. v. Jackson, allowed SB 8 to go into effect, giving other states the message that restrictive abortion bans would be tolerated and allowed by the Supreme Court, despite the protections that were provided by Roe v. Wade. 

Sure enough, an influx of restrictive abortion bans have been introduced, and unfortunately, passed. 

Oklahoma Senate Bill 612 was passed on April 12, 2022. SB 612 makes it illegal to perform an abortion in the state of Oklahoma, the only exception being a medical emergency, and no exceptions for rape or incest. Performing an abortion in the state is considered a felony that can be punishable by a maximum of $100,000 and/or 10 years in prison.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a 15-week abortion ban into law on Thursday, April 14, which will take effect on July 1. This law grants no exceptions for human trafficking, rape, or incest. Prior to this ban on abortion after 15 weeks, abortion was legal in Florida through the second trimester. People with uteruses from neighboring states with restrictive abortion laws who wanted to get an abortion previously were able go to Florida to get reproductive healthcare. However, with the 15-week abortion ban, they will no longer be able to do so, making this law felt throughout Florida and neighboring states. 

Kentucky House Bill 3 is essentially a 15-week abortion ban. It prevents a physician from performing an abortion procedure or inducing one through medication after 15 weeks. There are no exceptions for rape or incest and HB 3 makes it difficult for minors to obtain abortion access. It also requires medication abortion to be administered by a physician and bans it from being mailed to individuals. This bill was vetoed by Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear (democrat), but the legislature overturned his veto. HB 3 took effect immediately. That said, the ACLU and ACLU of Kentucky and Planned Parenthood are filing lawsuits against this bill. 

Similar to Kentucky, the Tennessee House recently passed HB 2416, which would prevent prescribed abortion drugs from being sent by mail, allowing only for them to be provided by physicians after careful in-person examination of the individual, including follow-up appointments. Physicians would be at risk for criminal penalties and civil liability. 

It is hard to overlook the fact that these restrictive abortion bans were passed after the Whole Woman’s Health et. al. v. Jackson case. Notice the similarities between SB 8 and the Florida legislation, for example. Both have restrictive bans based on an early point in pregnancy and do not provide exceptions for rape or incest. The Supreme Court ruling of Whole Woman’s Health et. al. v. Jackson sent the signal to states looking to clamp down on abortion access that it would be accepted. This can be seen happening right in front of us in states like Oklahoma and Florida. 

On Monday, May 2, a Supreme Court draft was released by Politico that would overturn Roe v. Wade. This is the first time that an opinion draft has been leaked before the announcement of the final decision in the Supreme Court’s modern history. The draft, written by Justice Samuel Alito, believes that abortion rights should not be decided by the courts, but rather politicians. According to NBC News, if Roe v. Wade was overturned, 23 states would ban abortion. As of May 3, 13 states have passed trigger bans that would go into effect in the case that Roe v. Wade is overturned, according to CNN. 

Abortion bans and overturning Roe v. Wade will not stop abortions, they will stop safe ones. Individuals will always find a way to access an abortion of one kind or another, but not all options are safe. When people get abortions illegally, there is no guarantee of sterile conditions and these individuals can be severely harmed or even die from the procedure. 

NHS junior, Sofia Casano, shared their opinion on an individual’s right to abortion. 

“I think that it shouldn’t be a political issue because it’s a medical thing, it’s a personal thing,” they said. “​​You should have the right to choose what is done to your body and if people have laws regulating that, that’s not freedom.” 

Lauren Dias, Novato High School junior, shared her thoughts about Roe v. Wade potentially being overturned. “It’s really scary. Why are we going backwards?,” she said. 

NHS English teacher, Susan Lehman, worked for an organization called Exhale on a talkline that provided non-judgemental listening and support to callers who had had an abortion. Lehman shared some of her experience.

“What I learned is that for so many women, abortion is a complex and deeply personal decision. I was struck always by callers’ thoughtfulness, kindness, and courage in the face of painfully challenging circumstances, and sadly, societal disrespect,” she noted. 

Individuals should have the option to make this decision and not be denied the right to choose due to restrictive abortion laws.

Another component that is particularly frustrating is the further inequality that these restrictive abortion laws promote. Well-off families and individuals will be able to fly themselves out of state to get an abortion. These individuals have the financial ability to take time off of work, get childcare for other children that might be at home, airfare or travel costs, and more. These expenses add up and are not feasible for many. Because of this, these abortion bans will disproportionately impact socioeconomically-disadvantaged individuals, families, and communities.

Here in California, people with uteruses are able to access abortion until the fetus is at the “point of viability,” meaning a physician has determined that the fetus could likely survive outside the uterus. 

“In California, minors have the right to consent to an abortion on their own. You do not need anyone’s permission—not your parents’ or guardian’s, nor your boyfriend’s or partner’s—to have an abortion,” states the ACLU of NorCal.

Reproductive rights need to be significantly more prioritized by lawmakers across the United States. In California, the right to abortion is present, but a concerning amount of states are passing severely restrictive abortion laws. It should be up to the pregnant individual to choose whether or not to carry out a pregnancy, and the government should not be able to limit that decision for others.