Being pro-choice in a conservative state

Photo courtesy of unsplash.com

Anvitha Reddy

Surrounded by my liberal peers, I gave speech after speech analyzing progressive policy and debating it’s nuances. In my bubble of traditionally liberal high school debate, I almost felt safe from the attacks on my human rights happening across the nation and sometimes forgot I lived in one of the country’s most conservative states, Texas. 

But I was quickly reminded of my conservative surroundings. After one repost on my Instagram story about Alabama’s 2019 Near Abortion-Ban (HB 314), I was confronted by a student before school. We discussed abortion in person where she claimed feminists protesting with “My body, my choice” signs “needed jobs.” I spoke with her about how women risk their lives getting unsafe abortions in the absence of legal options. I still remember her words: “This is going to sound horrible, but I believe any woman who wants to get an abortion deserves to die,” she claimed in response to my argument. 

I was in disbelief. That’s the point in the debate I realized how ideologically different we were, and her comments about a woman’s life made me question how “pro-life” she was.

That interaction, coupled with my state mandated abstinence “sex-ed,” pushed me to educate myself on abortion rights and it quickly became one of the causes I feel obligated to stand up for.

The attacks on abortion rights also manifest through legistlation in almost every conservative state.

Most recently, the Supreme Court deemed a Louisiana abortion restriction unconstitutional. Named the Louisiana Unsafe Abortion Protection Act, the law prohibited doctors from performing abortions if they dud not have admitting privileges in a hospital less than 30 miles from where the abortion was performed. 

The law mirrors a Texas abortion restriction which was struck down four years ago in the case of Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. The Lousiana Unsafe Abortion Protection Act is considered unconstitutional because it placed an “undue burden” on women seeking an abortion.

The Louisiana case, June Medical Services LLC v. Russo, was taken to the Supreme Court. Surprisingly, the majority conservative Supreme Court ruled in favor of abortion rights in this case. Chief Justice John Roberts, a typically conservative judge, sided with liberal leaning judges as the decisive vote in a 5-4 decision.

I continue to advocate on social media and at school for abortion rights and more accepting ideas. But as much progress as I think I make by asking people to rethink their opinions, I still see “Make America Great Again” hats in the hallway, people yelling “If you’re pro-choice get the f*ck out of here” at lunch and the occasional pro-life conspiracy theory in my business class. Some of my peers are unwilling to respectfully engage in conversation about abortion or other topics, and they continually attack people with opposing views who want to discuss these issues. 

It’s exhausting having to defend my bodily autonomy, but I know there are thousands of teenagers from more conservative areas that struggle with the same feeling.  The Supreme Court’s decision reaffirmed that our voices are being heard.

However, Roe v. Wade is still under attack in states nationwide. Abortions are accessible to upper-class white women, but these restrictions target low-income women of color. Currently, several states have classified abortion as non-essential and have stopped all elective procedures due to COVID-19.

Though abortion rights activists celebrated a win last week, the Supreme Court still has a conservative majority. In addition, both left-leaning Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer are in their eighties which makes it critical to have a Democrat in office when they retire to preserve abortion rights.

Trust me, I’ll be the first to be excited when women’s rights are upheld at the national level. But each day it feels like a new attack is launched in Austin. Just last year, a bill was introduced that would charge women who get abortions with criminal homicide, which could result in the death penalty in Texas. Luckily the bill failed, but it shows that our rights are never safe. While most people I’ve interacted with considered that bill to be extreme, some believed doctors should be tried as murderers and women should face some sort of charge.

So, congratulations to abortion advocates for the win last week. But, we still have a long way to go in the fight to protect Roe v. Wade and this generation has an important role in leading the fight.

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