Overturning Roe vs. Wade and a lack of empathy

The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade feels like punch to the gut. To the generations who grew up after the 1973 decision that protected a pregnant woman’s choice to have an abortion, it feels like a right for a woman to choose what happens with her body was shockingly snatched away this week.

In the past couple of years, there’s been a lot of debate of whether the government has control to regulate what people do with their bodies, relating to whether or not laws could be enforced to require face masks in order prevent the spread of COVID-19. It seems ridiculous to compare wearing a mask to abortion, but many of the people who were opposed to mask requirements are also opposed to women having the choice to have an abortion, which also seems ridiculous since the underlying theme is personal liberty.

One obvious difference (in addition to the factor of religious beliefs, which are a major part of the abortion debate and is a whole other topic), is that a person wearing a mask may experience discomfort for the time they are in public. A woman having a baby against her will has lifetime repercussions for both her and the baby.

That’s what came to mind as I was processing this week’s news. Not only will this decision change the future of many young women, but also of the children that will be born as an outcome of this decision.

Yesterday I drove down a Phoenix street with a woman standing alone on the corner holding a sign that said “Struggling single mother.” Homelessness is a huge problem in Phoenix and in other major cities and it’s not unusual to see people standing on the corner with signs asking for help, even when the temperatures reach triple digits as it did yesterday. Whether or not her particular sign was penned after yesterday’s news is a separate cynical conversation, but the reality is that there are many people who need help right now.

There are so many children today who feel unloved or unwanted and whose parents are not able to care for them. Maybe more government efforts should go toward helping these children thrive. The U.S. can’t even provide enough baby formula to feed its most vulnerable infants due to the months-long shortage of baby formula that has left shelves empty, causing parents to struggle to feed their hungry babies. Not to mention all the children who go to bed hungry each day because their parents are unable to feed them.

One thing that’s sorely lacking in this whole situation is empathy. I personally haven’t had to make that type of difficult decision but there have been times in my life when a positive pregnancy test would not have been met with joy. However, many woman have had to face this difficult life-changing decision – and in some states, many will be losing their right to make this choice.

Have those supporting a ban on abortion at all costs ever had their lives turned upside down by rape or incest? Are they giving any thought to women who are the victims of these acts? What about when a genetic test shows that the baby will be born with a severe illness or deformities? Does the emotional or financial impact of this factor into this decision?

It breaks my heart to think of the pain this decision will cause. What will happen to the young women who face an unwanted pregnancy and feel like they have no other option but to potentially harm themselves? Or to the children who will come into the world as a result of tragic circumstances? It’s frustrating to hear some pro-life proponents act as if their way is the only compassionate way because they care so much about the unborn child. But sometimes it seems like they feel more compassion for the fetus than for the woman or what happens after the baby is born.

Putting this power in the hands of the state makes voting even more crucial. Could the laws switch on a regular basis depending on who the leaders are? In one drastic case, Georgia passed a law in 2019 that made abortion illegal after 6 weeks (though it’s not in effect due to legal challenges.) Sometimes people don’t even realize they are pregnant until after that time period so that seems especially cruel and ignorant.

In some states, abortion will remain legal, while in other states, doctors could face jailtime if they attempt to perform an abortion. It makes no sense to me how the repercussions can vary so widely in one country on such an important issue. I guess I shouldn’t be so shocked, after all there was a time when many states allowed slavery and segregation, while others forbade them.

Will the states outlawing abortion provide free or affordable maternal health care to the pregnant woman to ensure healthy babies? The cost of having a baby runs into thousands of dollars – who will be paying for that in those cases where the woman isn’t insured? (Even with insurance, childbirth can be costly.) Regardless of whether the woman chooses to keep the baby or put him or her up for adoption, we want the babies to be healthy, right? It’s not life purely for the sake of life, but for a healthy, productive life, correct?

Who will take care of the children? Will free or affordable childcare be part of the plan?

The repercussions of this decision are huge and it feels that more energy has been put into the effort to protect unborn children than into helping those who are alive today.

Please show some empathy to others who may be going through a difficult time and practice kindness when you can. It’s the only way to get through these challenging times.

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