OPINION: The Right to Female Bodily Autonomy: Why It Matters

By: Hannah Stoughton

On Friday, June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court overturned the rulings of the court case Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case that afforded women the right to an abortion and bodily autonomy. Since that day, women across the United States have rallied for the right to bodily autonomy and the ability to make decisions without influence.

Bodily autonomy is the right to govern one’s own body without outside influence. It is what allows people to make decisions on what to do with their physical self, such as getting a tattoo or having a medical procedure (like an abortion) done. The court voted in 1973 with a 6-3 vote that abortion was a fundamental right protected by the Constitution. It fell under the 14th Amendment, which reads as follows:

“No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Many believed, including the 6 justices that voted to uphold Roe v. Wade, that this amendment protects the right of a woman to govern her bodily choices. Forced pregnancy and motherhood often are viewed as a deprivation of life and liberty, as the person is now forced to retire much of their current life and freedom for their child.

Arguers against Roe v. Wade will often cite the idea that a fetus’s body is no longer the woman’s body but claims its own personhood. The opposition presents thus: a fetus that can not survive without the provisions of a female body is not an independent being; if it would be considered independent, then it is parasitic.

The moral standpoint in which arguers view from, however, is irrelevant to the idea of government involvement in female healthcare and wellbeing. Many believe that the federal government should protect the right to an abortion, while others believe that it should be a state issue, as it is now in 2023.

In 1973, the Supreme Court felt as though it was the responsibility of the Constitution and Federal Government to protect a woman’s right to an abortion. Despite this ruling, the government still was allowed to regulate abortions when it came to the length of the woman’s pregnancy. Regulations on “late-term” abortions were quickly adopted, with many vehemently disagreeing morally with a “late-term” abortion, despite these forms of the procedure being rare and, typically, only in medically necessary instances. In the 49 years in which Roe v. Wade was protected under the Constitution, regulations on the length of time in which a woman is eligible for an abortion have fluctuated.

The influence on women’s healthcare through these regulations has been monumental, particularly since the overturning of Roe v. Wade in 2022. Many states chose to try and ban or abolish abortion practices, and many decided to defund any business that supported abortion. Of these businesses, the most popular is Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood often has facilities that perform abortions, but they offer a wide variety of services to low-income women that need healthcare. The defunding of these facilities has affected how lower-class women are able to access healthcare, making it more difficult and sometimes impossible. The misdirected anger at Planned Parenthood has not only affected abortions but women’s healthcare as a whole.

Everyone reserves the right to bodily autonomy. Each person is allowed to govern their own self, and Roe v. Wade protected a woman’s right to govern herself. Bodily autonomy is extremely important, and the right to an abortion and other forms of healthcare should always be protected.

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