UWEC students and faculty discuss impacts of recent abortion legislation

Legislation passed in Ohio, Alabama and Georgia challenge the Roe v. Wade precedent set by the U.S. Supreme Court

Madeline Fuerstenberg

More stories from Madeline Fuerstenberg

November 2, 2020

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The Roe v. Wade precedent set by the U.S. Supreme Court has been openly challenged in several states over the past few weeks.

In Ohio, it is no longer legal for private insurance companies to cover abortions as per bill HB 183. In Alabama, abortion is illegal in accordance with HB 314, and there are no longer any exceptions for women who are victims of rape or incest. In Georgia, a new “Heartbeat Law” prohibits abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, when many doctors are able to detect a fetal heartbeat.

All of these bills have been passed within a span of one week, sparking controversy all around the United States as the bills’ supporters are now openly challenging the Roe v. Wade precedent established by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973, according to an article on Vox.com.

The Roe v. Wade ruling affirmed that it is a constitutional right for women to have access to safe and legal abortions. According to the Planned Parenthood website, Roe v. Wade is “at risk more than ever before” as a direct result of the increase in “extreme conservatives” being elected to lifetime positions on federal courts.

In addition to the implications that may or may not result from the opposition or reconsideration of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, critics of these anti-abortion laws have pointed out other potential issues with this new legislation.

According to Vox.com, Ohio’s bill prohibiting private insurance coverage of abortions includes language banning coverage of “drugs or devices used to prevent the implantation of a fertilized ovum.” Some reproductive rights groups interpret this to mean contraceptives like birth control pills or IUDs are now to be considered forms of abortion under this new bill, the Vox article said.

U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez voiced her disagreement with Alabama’s anti-abortion law on Twitter.

“This law would force children — 12 year olds — to carry a pregnancy by their rapist,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “This law would force people w/ mental disabilities to carry pregnancy by rape to term. This law forces people to be pregnant against their own consent. It’s horrifying.”

According to The New York Times, Georgia has become the fourth state to enact a fetal heartbeat law — following Ohio, Kentucky and Mississippi. Critics have argued against this bill, pointing out that many women do not even know they’re pregnant until after six weeks, according to Vox.

Pamela Forman, a professor and chair of the sociology department, said legislative moves like these could end up applying new pressure on the U.S. Supreme court, as other legislative could also be up for reinterpretation.

“So what’s happening right now is that we’re at a really scary time,” Forman said. “With the Supreme Court changing over in the fall and the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh, it really means that we are headed closer and closer to a showdown about Roe v. Wade.”

Forman said the topics relating to these bills should not only be considered “women’s issues.” She said cutting access to safe, legal or affordable abortions will have a significant impact on people of color and people of lower economic classes.

“In the end, we don’t want to just keep this about an attack on women,” Forman said. “We also have to look at how this affects the sovereignty of lower classmen and people of color … it’s utter elitism that people that don’t have to worry about how to take care of a kid if they have one, our legislating in ways that prevent that freedom for the rest of us.”

Nicole Pomplin, a second-year broadfield social studies education student and secretary of both UW-Eau Claire’s Students For Life and College Republicans, said she believes the uptake in anti-abortion legislation should be adopted by more states, as “it will save thousands of children.”

“It protects more unborn children,” Pomplin said. “A heartbeat doesn’t determine whether the child should be valued and protected. The fact that the child is a human gives him or her the same human protections that we living outside of the womb have.”

Pomplin said she and the other students of Students For Life were unable to find language in the Ohio bill mentioning contraception. Pomplin defended the changes to the Alabama and Georgia anti-abortion bills by arguing that all human beings deserve a chance at life, regardless of how they were conceived.

Pomplin said legislative moves like these will curate more respect for women in the future, as they will not be pressured into aborting their child because of their marital status, age, social class or means of conception.

“Because we are talking about children in the womb being killed, every human has a right and responsibility to protect those vulnerable humans,” Pomplin said. “We all need to speak up to protect the unborn children. Nobody has the right to intentionally take an innocent life.”

While Pomplin generally supports the anti-abortion bills being passed around the country, she said more “hopeful support” should be given to women who are victims of rape, incest and other forms of sexual assault, rather than punishing a children for the actions of their fathers.

“Just because they are conceived in a way that is so horrible doesn’t mean they are less than anyone else,” Pomplin said. “It doesn’t matter how someone is conceived; we are all human beings who deserve a chance.”

Four new anti-abortion bills have been passed by the Wis. State Assembly last week, according to Wisconsin Public Radio.

These bills include the “Born Alive” bill that has been adopted in various states around the country, a bill prohibiting abortions on the basis of sex, race or congenital anomaly and limiting chemical abortions, a bill that cuts Medicaid funding for abortions and a bill that removed public funding for Planned Parenthood.

Gov. Tony Evers has already expressed the intention of vetoing at least the Born Alive bill next month, according to WPR.

Fuerstenberg can be reached at [email protected].