By Lynn Wenzel
In 1972 I marched for the right to control my own body. We carried signs. We were loud. And we were angry. Then came Roe. And we relaxed, at least for a while. Folded as it was into the larger fight for women’s rights, we marched on to advocate for specific issues such as work equity, access to loans in our own names, the Equal Rights Amendment and so on. We took our eyes off the ball in the mistaken belief that Roe was “settled law.”
Yesterday, a young woman in her 30s said with a mystified expression on her face, “I just took it all for granted. It never occurred to me that things would change.” Those of us, battle-scarred and wary, had often warned young women to stay heads-up. And now, they are shocked. Well, the antis have not rested for those 50 years—they have plotted and planned to remove the human rights of all people (except white men) and to own only for themselves the right of bodily autonomy.
OUR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS
The Fourth Amendment, protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government.
The Fifth Amendment guarantees that an individual cannot be compelled by the government to provide incriminating information about herself – the so-called “right to remain silent.”
The Ninth Amendment states that the federal government doesn’t own the rights that are not listed in the Constitution, but instead, they belong to citizens. This means the rights that are specified in the Constitution are not the only ones people should be limited to.
The Fourteenth Amendment, adopted after the Civil War, prohibits the states from depriving “any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”
All the rights and privileges guaranteed to citizens in the Constitution are covered by these amendments—and this includes women. According to the amendments, women should be protected from unreasonable seizures by the government, including the seizure of their own bodies; women may not be compelled to provide private information about themselves, including pregnancy or the termination thereof; the federal government does NOT own any rights not listed in the Constitution as they belong to the citizens, in this case the woman; and no woman may be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process (see the 1st and 4th amendments).
Now, I am no Constitutional scholar, but it seems to me that under our rights women’s bodily autonomy may not be violated in any way. Roe has been standing on these amendments, which have also protected the liberty and rights of Black, Indigenous and Native, People of Color and LGBTQIA+ people. So, as Roe goes, so go all the other rights and protections? Women’s rights are the pathway to liberation for everyone else. The termination of those rights may quite possibly be the beginning of the end of all others.
Alito’s leaked opinion that privacy and liberty must be rooted in ”this Nations Anglo-American history and tradition” is misogynistic and racist. Alito, as a privileged white man, obviously wants to return to early centuries when women were property and Black and Brown women were slaves. As Maureen Dowd wrote in The New York Times on May 8, “Alito is a familiar type in American literature; the holier-then-thou preacher, so overzealous in his attempts to rein in female sexuality and slap on a scarlet letter that one suspects he must be hiding some dark yearnings of his own.”
For now, women who live in blue states as in ours, are safe. But, as the Washington Post recently reported, anti-abortion groups and their congressional allies are already planning for a nationwide abortion ban if Republicans take power. In an interview with USA Today, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said a national abortion ban was “possible” and “worthy of debate.” And he suggested that most Senate Republicans would support a national ban. Thinking of getting around it by ordering abortion pills which now accounts for more than half of U. S. abortions? Think again. States have already been cracking down on mail-order. Last week, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed a law that criminalizes mail-order abortion pills, fining anyone who sends pills “via courier, delivery or mail service up to $50,000.” Other states have already banned the use of telemedicine. Some GOP lawmakers are already beginning to reconsider access to contraceptives.
We cannot rest until all women and girls across the country are assured of their rights under the Constitution. We cannot let a small group of white men decide to take autonomy and freedom away from us. Vigilance requires us to recognize and call out the first steps of power erasure. Remember the poem by Martin Niemoller—“and then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak.”