In light of recently passed abortion laws in several nearby states, specifically the heartbeat bills, I can’t help but notice a heartbeat that legislators continue to overlook: the woman’s. In the fight to demand rights for the unborn, legislators are denying women the right to autonomy. When her freedom to choose is in jeopardy, she is in jeopardy.
Alabama’s Human Life Protection Act, passed May 15, criminalizes performing an abortion at any stage of a pregnancy, with few exceptions. The American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood filed a federal lawsuit on May 24 to block Alabama’s new legislation. Unless a judge overturns the decision, abortions will be illegal, starting in November.
Numerous other states have or have attempted to introduce what are colloquially known as the heartbeat bills. States like Georgia and, most recently, Missouri, have heartbeat-related clauses in their legislation that say a pregnancy cannot be terminated once a fetal heartbeat is detected.
These laws infringe on a woman’s legal right to an abortion, a right that was and still remains in the hands of the individual as ruled by the Supreme Court in Roe vs. Wade.
And this gestational sound, according to gynecologists, isn’t the same as a heartbeat from a fully developed heart; it is a sign that a pregnancy is progressing in the correct direction.
I’ll admit that the intense push for banning an abortion after doctors detect a “fetal heartbeat” certainly pulls on the heartstrings. Humans put a lot of meaning into a heartbeat and, furthermore, a heart. We associate them with not just life and autonomy, but with loftier concepts like sympathy, compassion and perhaps the boldest of them all: love.
But I’ve noticed a serious lack of sympathy, compassion and love for a woman who wants or needs to have an abortion. Few are the women who’ve walked away from Planned Parenthood without being shamed by strangers. Fewer are the ones who have walked away without being shamed by someone they trust.
Emotional stress has physical consequences on the heart, but women’s rights, needs and opinions are disregarded for something that could not live without her body and its resounding heartbeat.
Women, who have functioning hearts and organs, are being brushed aside for what gynecologists and scientists alike have found to be the electrical vibrations of a budding collection of cells inhabiting the womb. The heartbeat-related legislation gears the argument toward the sanctity of life of the unborn, but it does not elevate the woman’s life to the same level of importance.
This movement to overturn the right to an abortion affects all women, because it destroys the social progress our country has made toward women’s physical and emotional independence. We must recognize the potential these bills and their sponsors have in gaining ground on a national level.
The elimination of constitutional rights will not solve the issue. It will just be one step in an ongoing fight to eliminate a woman’s right to her own reproductive health. As someone who takes contraceptives medicinally, I regard this infringement on our rights very seriously.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that national abortion rate has declined 26 percent between 2006 and 2015. The major change that led to this: better access to contraception and sexual education. Those efforts should continue to be our focus.
Across the country, women still have the right and dignity of choice. There are many organizations, both locally and nationally, that are fighting to uphold this constitutional right.
I can only hope that my fellow citizens, particularly those in Florida and Jacksonville, understand that women have hearts, too—real, beating and thriving hearts. We cannot forget the value of our own lives and the right to choose how to spend them.
Campbell is a content editor and Southside resident.