Published in Athens Views (print – no longer in circulation) on Friday 5 September 2014
Last Friday, the federal court in Austin, Texas, ruled against a provision of the controversial Texas Abortion Bill that would have forced almost half of the remaining abortion clinics to close. The now-blocked ruling that was to take effect on September 1st required abortion clinics to abide by the standards of hospital surgery centres. According to the Guttmacher Institute, in 2011 there were 62 abortion providers in Texas, 46 of which were abortion clinics. Since then, more than 30 abortion clinics closed, leaving only 12 open in Texas; the second largest State in the United States, with an estimated population of more than 26 million.
The Texas Republican governor, Rick Perry, is one of the most prolific anti-abortion advocates and has spent a huge part of his career as governor blocking efforts that would give women access to reproductive facilities and let them practise their rights. Although access to abortion has been a constitutional right since 1973 and the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court Decision, several states have been relentlessly trying to block it by enforcing several restrictions. Such restrictions in Texas and other States include, but are not limited to mandatory counselling, which is designed in such a way that it discourages women from having an abortion; restricts public funding; and a mandatory ultrasound during which the doctor will describe the image to the woman. Such restrictions are designed in such a way that they override Roe v. Wade without infringing it.
What should be considered a basic human right, in the United States has become a matter of serious political disagreement that is at the centre of almost every major political debate including the presidential elections. The conservative republican right relentlessly attacks women’s rights for their own purposes. Regardless of their statements, they are willing to disregard women’s constitutional rights for the sake of the funding they receive from religious institutions.
The decision of an abortion does not fall to the judgement of the State or of the religious institution. This decision is a woman’s decision. Only women should be in control of their body and should decide what they should do with it. Being pro-choice does not mean that you make women have an abortion whether they want it or not; it means that you have the right to have an affordable abortion if you wish to. Yet being pro-life makes women oblige to decisions that are being taken for them without counselling them.
Having an all-male panel of religious leaders for example deciding about your body is not exactly how democracy should work. Unfortunately this war against women by the conservatives in the USA has made legislators worry more about the rights of a foetus and forget the rights of a woman.
Pro-Choice advocates should not rest assured that their struggle is over. Regardless of the current success in Texas the road to equality is long and full of obstacles.
For more information on abortion rights see here.