I no longer have a uterus. But I do have two daughters, 18 and 20. And I am horrified and enraged by the loss of the constitutional right to abortion. In 2022, according to a Supreme Court majority, states cannot regulate gun ownership, but they can — and should — regulate uteruses and the people in whose bodies they reside.
I am also an award-winning women’s health scholar. I can tell you that the majority ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is based on scientific inaccuracies about fetal development. It also runs counter to widespread public opinion in the United States regarding access to abortion.
The decision is already causing unequal and devastating harm based on race, class, citizenship status, language, age, and geography. Middle-class white women, like me, have long been able to secure abortions, and they will continue to do so. Many others will suffer unnecessarily — and even die — attempting to access health care.
Dobbs is both political and partisan. SCOTUS can no longer — if ever it was able to — claim objective authority about any matter, which bodes ill for the future of our democracy. This is Trump’s legacy, to be sure — but the seeds were planted long ago, during the Reagan Administration if not during slavery.
Reagan’s sun-drenched campaign tagline, “Morning in America,” was never meant for those on the margins, or even those at the moderate center. Overturning Roe has long been a fundamentalist conservative end game. Unfortunately, despite specious appeals to fetal well-being, the Supreme Court’s decision will not save lives.
Indeed, states seeking to limit or ban abortion are those with the highest infant mortality rates in the country: Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Alabama, Tennessee, Indiana, Georgia, Ohio, Louisiana, and North Carolina. Hotbeds of anti-abortion policies, they contribute disproportionately to our nation’s appalling overall infant death rates.
Globally, the U.S. ranks 53rd in infant mortality — well below all other industrialized nations and many developing nations. This is criminal, as the vast majority of these deaths are preventable.
The U.S. also has a tragically high maternal mortality rate, especially in states with abortion barriers or bans. Lack of access to safe and legal abortion is a leading cause of maternal deaths, and abortion has time and again been proven far safer than pregnancy. Black women are most at risk in this country, dying at three to four times the rate of white women from pregnancy-related causes.
And yet, while mothers and babies perish, leaving grieving loved ones behind, those in power look the other way. Or worse, enact policies cloaked in the language of “life” that in fact lead only to premature death. Overturning Roe in the throes of a devastating maternal and infant health crisis is the very antithesis of “pro-life.”
It is immoral and profoundly racist.
Monica J. Casper, a sociologist and bioethicist, is Professor Emeritus of Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Arizona. She is the author of “Babylost: Racism, Survival, and the Quiet Politics of Infant Mortality, from A to Z”, published by Rutgers University Press in 2022.
Image by Sarah Penney on Unsplash.