Sociology Current

Abortion Controversy in USA

Abortion Controversy in USA

Published on:
04 Nov 2023

Written by:
Pranay Aggarwal

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The News:

  • The United States Supreme Court has overturned its own 1973 ruling regarding women’s right to privacy as they seek abortion.

  • The 1973 judgment in Roe vs. Wade was a landmark judgment in which the U.S. Supreme Court on January 22, 1973 ruled (7–2) that unduly restrictive State regulation of abortion is unconstitutional.

  • Thus, States will be free to enact their own legislation regulating access to abortion. It is estimated that as many as 26 out of 50 States are ready to ban or severely restrict abortions.

  • Major rationale behind the support for ban on abortions is based on religious grounds. Other Pro-Life supporters believe that the rights of fetus start at conception.

  • However, the stance stays contested by Pro-Choice supporters.

  • Sociology of Protests:

  • A study by 2021 Nobel Prize recipient Joshua Angrist, found that abortion legalization increased women’s education, labor force participation, occupational prestige, and earnings, and that all these effects were particularly large for Black women. This is because of the confidence that it gives the women to plan their future.

  • The second set of studies shows that reliance on abortion has declined substantially over the past two decades. The Guttmacher Institute estimates that abortion rates in the U.S. have reached historic lows. In 1973, before Roe vs. Wade, the abortion rate was 16.3 per 1000 women ages 15-44, and it declined to 13.5 by 2017. This decline occurred as access to contraceptives grew, particularly with increased access to long- acting reversible methods of contraception such as injectables, implants and IUDs.

  • In a longitudinal study of relationship dynamics for women ages 18-19 in Michigan, sociologists Jennifer Barber and Heather Gatny found that two-thirds of the young women who were positive about having a child before pregnancy, felt negative about their pregnancies after the fact, mainly because their partners reacted negatively to the pregnancy. They thus advocated the Right of the women to change their minds as well.

  • In more extreme cases, women may also be subjected to 'reproductive coercion' where their partners engage in a range of behaviors that restrict reproductive autonomy, including pregnancy coercion, birth control sabotage, and controlling the outcome of a pregnancy.

  • This experience of reproductive coercion is higher among younger women and women with less education, thus completing the vicious cycle.

  • In many societies, motherhood remains mandatory, and voluntary childlessness is not considered a legitimate option. This situation may be defined as a form of ‘reproductive violence’, according to sociologist Orna Donath. In some cases women are forced to choose between bearing children against their will or facing various sanctions, including divorce, loss of economic security and denunciation by their family and community

  • Black feminist scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw is often credited with having coined the term of 'intersectionality' in 1989. Intersectionality means that all forms of oppression are interconnected, and all people experience oppression and discrimination differently as a result of their particular identities.

  • The concept of 'reproductive justice' is an outgrowth of intersectionality, which was popularized by the Black socialist feminists of the Combahee River Collective. Members of the Collective believed their identities and the various forms of oppression they experienced as members of different but overlapping groups—Black people, women, LGBTQ people, and working-class people—uniquely suited them to fight these oppressions.

  • Hence, this ban on abortion will compound the overlapping circles of vulnerabilities. For example, the experience of reproductive coercion is higher among poor women, younger women, and women with less education. These women often find it difficult to obtain expensive, long-lasting, reversible contraception, and as result most often experience unwanted pregnancies. Increased expenses and logistical challenges will make it difficult for them to get an abortion. However, they also have the least resources for raising children.

  • Anthony Giddens, gives the concept of plastic sexuality and believes it as the consequence of effective contraception. Thus, delinking sex from reproduction, it has also "liberated" men from the constraints of traditional gender expectations. Ban on abortion will thus also strain men into supporting unwanted pregnancies.

  • In the Indian scenario, the landmark right to privacy judgment (Puttaswamy judgment) of the Supreme Court of India held that the decision making by a pregnant person on whether to continue a pregnancy or not is part of such a person’s right to privacy as well and, therefore, the right to life.

  • Defending the rights and dignity of all women often means confronting state power, as Irish women did when they took to the streets to demand the repeal of Ireland’s abortion ban in 2017.The death of an Indian origin dentist, who died of sepsis after being denied abortion on legal grounds was a major driving factor.

  • Conclusion:

    'Every child- a wanted child” has long been the motto of the pro-choice movement. Reproductive justice seeks to take this goal several steps further by challenging us to build a world in which every child is not only “wanted” by its parents at birth, but also well provided for.