Unless you've somehow avoided all media since last Friday, you've heard that SCOTUS overturned Roe v Wade - triggering anti-choice laws in lots of red states and prompting others to fall all over themselves to pass similarly abhorrent laws as quickly as possible.
It is no longer safe to be a person who is or might become pregnant in much of the United States. I'm writing about this here, on the blog for my coaching business, because the people who might want to work with me in the future deserve to have the information they need to make informed decisions. I'm also writing about it to be transparent about how I decide which clients to work with - I won't coach books that harm others (in other words books supporting racism, diet-culture, anti-choice beliefs, ...).
As a scholar and an editor, I've been trained to pay attention to language - which words are chosen, what they say, and what they leave unsaid.
Above, I write: "It is no longer safe to be a person who is or might become pregnant in much of the United States." What does my use of person where many writers would use woman tell you? That I recognise that this decision affects more than just cis women: trans men and some nonbinary people can become pregnant. They are at risk, too. (If cis, trans, or nonbinary are new terms for you, I discuss them in more detail here.)
Let's look at the terms in my title: bodily autonomy, anti-choice, and forced birth.
Bodily autonomy is having the right to make decisions about one's own body. This is a right that men (especially white, cishet men) have long taken for granted, and one the rest of us have to fight for.
If you're not convinced of this, just look at what people say when a woman reports a rape: what was she wearing, where was she going, what was she drinking? All of these questions imply that the woman did something to cause the rape, that she doesn't deserve to be safe from attack simply because she exists. In other words, people who ask these questions are saying she only has a right to say no and expect that to be respected if she follows the "rules".
I am well aware that the usual term for this belief is "pro-life", but I, like a lot of other writers and thinkers, take issue with that term.
Anti-choice campaigners don't want people with uteruses to be able to choose what happens to their own bodies. If they had any interest in the sanctity of life, they'd be campaigning for better and more accessible healthcare (have you looked at how much it costs just to give birth in America?), better and more affordable housing, better education, and eliminating food poverty, among many other things.
The anti-choice brigade aren't interested in making life possible or tolerable; they are only interested in controlling women's bodies (they'd like to ignore or destroy other bodies that may fall pregnant).
This term largely speaks for itself. When people are forced to give birth, they are being treated like breeding stock - not like humans.
This is only the beginning
The decision to overturn Roe has been a long time coming. I'm not going to try to unpack the whole history of this decision - that's what historians are trained to do. If you're interested in the social and political history, follow Heather Cox Richardson on Facebook. She's a historian who posts 6-7 times a week on how the US got into the state it's currently in.
The issue of abortion in America has never been simple. This ruling won't make the debate go away (quite the opposite), neither will the newly enacted/re-instated laws across the country end abortion in those states.
What it will do is what deeply ingrained misogyny and intolerance have always done: put lives at risk and punish the poor. The wealthy will still have access to safe abortion care; the rest won't.
As we debate, protest, and vote in the coming weeks and months we need to be careful to put this particular decision and issue in its wider context. We need to be aware of other rights and freedoms that are at risk (contraception, LGBTQIA+ rights, interracial marriage, unfettered travel across state lines). As Clarence Thomas has made clear, this is only the beginning - it's well past time that we start believing the far right when they tell us who they are and what they plan to do.
Overturning Roe is an attack on people with uteruses. But more than that, it is a clear sign that an extremist minority feels it has the power to strip rights from citizens against the wishes of the majority of voters.