Controlling the sexual and reproductive rights of women has always been a political goal. The fact that the U.S. has taken a step in that direction legitimizes the rhetoric of the far right
We already knew that the U.S. was not the nation of freedoms it has always made itself out to be. A democracy that does not go hand in hand with policies that reduce inequality cannot be a democracy. Now, the Supreme Court’s ruling of several days ago — leaving it up to the states to ban abortion rights — makes it clear in black and white that the country, which for years claimed to be a model for freedom, lived and lives with a permanent double standard. In the U.S., freedom is only a given as long as citizens live according to the moral (and above all, religious) standards of those who hold political power.
We know that it is no small thing that the U.S. Constitution cannot guarantee nationwide abortion rights. It is an outright restriction of a right that, with some nuances, was already well-established. Moreover, we know that this decision is hypocritical. Social inequalities always have a direct impact on the reduction of citizens’ rights and, more precisely, on abortion rights. Any woman who has the financial means to get an abortion will still be able to do so. She can travel to a different state or go abroad, the same way that the rich are able to evade taxes despite its being illegal.
The technocratic machinery of the state always exerts greater control over the lives of people with limited financial resources. That is, above all, why American democracy is a fraud. The fact that people are unable to exercise their full rights as citizens — such as voting — because they are considered undocumented** (as in Spain, for instance) or the fact that the financial situation of some determines the exercise of their rights versus that of other people (such as the right to housing and health care) is redolent of countries where a full-fledged democracy is not guaranteed.
The impact of banning the right to abortion in some U.S. states puts citizens from the most conservative states in a highly vulnerable position for various reasons. First of all, because it takes away their ability to make decisions about their own bodies and whether or not to become a mother. It is the state that decides for them and about their life choices. Second, because there is a greater risk to their lives if they choose to have an illegal abortion, with all that that implies for their lives, including potential legal implications. Third, this deepens the feminization of poverty, once more placing more responsibility and the perpetuation of their social situation on the shoulders of those women who are in the most precarious financial position.
The scenarios leading women to get an abortion have been, are and will be wide-ranging. However, in a world that is allegedly waking up to the importance of a feminist perspective, ignoring that violence against women or economic vulnerability are two important reasons to get an abortion — two reasons which, cynically, have become invisible in this Supreme Court decision — implies a clear willingness to establish neoliberal and class-biased policies that deepen inequalities between people, particularly for women. However, the most important thing to point out as a consequence of this decision is the return to the message that life and women’s bodies must be politically regulated and supervised. That women — I emphasize above all, those who cannot “break the law” with their money — lack autonomy over themselves. And this goes further: This decision once more reinforces the stereotype of care and childbearing as the most important mission in women’s lives.
Unfortunately, the U.S. is not an isolated case. We know that the ultraconservative onslaught is growing in Europe and is having a very large impact on women’s lives. Controlling the sexual and reproductive rights of women has always been a political goal. Therefore, the fact that the U.S. has taken a step in this direction legitimizes conservative rhetoric and contributes to the big lie of talking about “protecting life,” as if the right to abortion did not protect the lives and human rights of people.
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**Editor’s note: In the U.S., as in Spain, only citizens are allowed to vote.