Roe Vs. Wade Reversal: The Haunting Relevance of "The Handmaid's Tale" & What We Can Do About it by Ann Marie Patitucci
On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court of the United States overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade case, ending 50 years of the constitutional right to bodily autonomy, despite the fact that in May, 64 percent of Americans did not support a Roe v. Wade reversal. The SCOTUS ruling is expected to result in abortion bans in roughly half the states.
The consequences of the reversal will be far-reaching and devastating. Without bodily autonomy, women are unable to function as equal members of our society. It’s nearly impossible to miss comparisons between the fictional world of Gilead in The Handmaid’s Tale and our own reality. Memes that once seemed hyperbolic, silly, even, now feel eerily, hauntingly, familiar. Girls will have fewer options for their futures. There will be forced pregnancies and births, criminal charges, punishment. Women who travel to other states for the procedure could face criminal prosecution, even prison, along with the doctors who care for them. Miscarriages could be investigated as murders.
Undoubtedly, there will be suffering and trauma. Survivors of rape and incest will bear their abusers’ children, and if they don’t, they may face harsher criminal penalties than their abusers. Women will die. Those with pregnancy complications that must be treated with abortion, such as ectopic pregnancies, will die. Women who resort to back alleys to terminate pregnancies – their only option – will die.
Let’s be honest with ourselves: we all know that the most marginalized women and girls will be most adversely impacted. From the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMA): “The court’s [ruling] will impose a great burden on historically and economically marginalized and disadvantaged populations, who already suffer from limited access to our health-care system.”
Believing this SCOTUS decision will end abortion is naïve – it will only end SAFE abortion. But know this: safe abortion will always be available to the wealthy and privileged, including politicians, law makers and judges. Nothing will be forced on them or their sexual partners; this decision will not adversely affect their families; there will be no criminal charges for them.
But this ruling goes beyond reproductive rights – the reversal of Roe v. Wade will end the right to privacy established by the landmark case. Hence, every SCOTUS ruling decided based on the right to privacy is now on the chopping block, including cases that involve the right to contraception (Griswold v. Connecticut) and marriage equality (Loving v. Virginia, Obergefell v. Hodges). This is only the beginning of the erosion and revocation of human rights. I sincerely fear what’s next, now that women have lost the right to govern their own bodies.
Self-disclosure: I am a woman without a uterus (I had a hysterectomy in my early 30s). I am a mother of sons. I am a Christian who graduated from a Catholic (Jesuit) undergraduate college. You may wonder why I care about this issue and why I feel the way I do, why I would march and protest the SCOTUS ruling. First, as I often tell my boys, “it doesn’t have to happen to you for it to matter to you.” I have six other reasons, in addition to the above:
1. I believe in social justice. I believe in health equity. I believe that women’s rights are human rights.
2. There are women in my life who have had abortions – all for different reasons – and I love them. I suspect you love a woman who’s had an abortion, too.
3. The hardest decision a woman must make is not mine or yours to make for her, and it isn’t the government’s either. The decision should be between her and her doctor. The American Medical Association (AMA) agrees, stating that SCOTUS's ruling to overturn Roe. V. Wade “represent[s] an egregious allowance of government intrusion into the medical examination room” (Twitter).
4. Other major medical organizations have issued statements condemning the ruling, including the aforementioned as well as: the American Academy of Pediatrics (APA), American Public Health Association (APHA), the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the U.S. Department of Human Services (HHS) and more. (Catholic groups have also condemned the decision).
5. I will not accept that my nieces, cousins, students, friends and all the other women and girls in my life will have fewer rights than my mother and GRANDmothers had.
6. I will not believe that this decision was about "life" and “saving babies” until I see those who voted for the reversal and those who supported the ruling fully committed to:
- Supporting universal child care, health care and pre-k.
- Supporting children in the foster care system.
- Lowering Black maternal mortality rates.
- Mandating parental leaves.
- Providing free diapers and formula to any parent who needs them.
- Passing common sense gun legislation to protect life in our schools and churches.
The overturning of Roe v. Wade was “a direct blow to bodily autonomy, reproductive health, patient safety and health equity” in our country ( American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, ACOG). It’s understandable to feel disheartened and want to give up the fight, with a 50-year setback like this. But we can not give up.
So what CAN we do? Here are some ideas. I’d love to hear yours, too.
- Use your voices, platforms and dollars to stand up for equity.
- Link up with an organization and write, call, and text to support justice and raise awareness.
- Exercise your constitutional right to protest, to march.
- Support voting rights, term limits and campaign finance reform.
- VOTE. Encourage others to vote. Voting matters. Elections have consequences. Consider whom you’ve voted for in the past and whether they’ve contributed to this moment in American history.
- Become active in your community and in our democracy.
- Fight (whatever that means for you) until the fundamental right to bodily autonomy is once again the law of this land.
Our mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers fought for women’s rights. We must continue the fight. We must “scream so that one day a hundred years from now another sister will not have to dry her tears wondering where in history she lost her voice” ( Jasmin Kaur).
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