It's Time to Hit The Streets! It's the Only Way for Women to Take Charge of Their Reproductive Futures
Get critical information about the fight for reproductive rights delivered directly to your inbox!
By Robin Marty, author of Handbook for a Post-Roe America, a guide for navigating through the end of legal abortion in the United States.
Hit the streets, folks, I think we have finally reached a breaking point. After years of guessing and projecting, abortion rights are officially drawing to an end and, unsurprisingly, it's all because of some random guy from Alabama.
At first glance the case seems completely ridiculous. A young man has hired a lawyer to sue an abortion clinic in Huntsville, Alabama. The crime? The clinic allowed that man’s former (we assume) girlfriend to terminate her pregnancy. With the backing of "Personhood Alabama," Ryan Majors sued on behalf of himself and the 6 week embryo they dubbed "Baby Roe," declaring that the clinic, the doctors at the clinic, even the makers of the medication that the pregnant woman took, all were agents in the "wrongful death" of Baby Roe.
In any other state in the U.S. this case would have been laughed out of the courtroom. There is no constitutional requirement anywhere for a pregnant person to notify, much less get permission from the person who impregnated her. But this is Alabama, where the state Supreme Court repeatedly ruled that "personhood" - and all legal rights therein - begin from the moment sperm meet egg. That makes this state the most favorable landscape for this type of legal shenanigans and Alabama is responding just as ludicrously as we expected, by not only not dismissing the suit immediately, but allowing "Baby Roe" to have an "estate" in probate court and letting Majors act as that estate's "representative."
Anyone who has ever dealt with a probate court knows this is only the beginning of a very long process and there's still a multitude of places where the court can (and should) grind this farce to a halt. But none of that will change the fact that we have now seen what is the first blow in a new round of attacks on abortion access - a precedent that opens the door for men who provided the sperm to directly impact a pregnant person’s right to choose an abortion, either by granting them standing to sue when they don't consent to the termination, or just intimidate clinics just by threatening a suit, which clinics don’t have the financial backing to fight.
All of this just goes to reiterate an issue that has become more and more clear every day - one of the biggest burdens to abortion access is the clinic system itself. They are inundated with restrictions like mandatory waiting periods, they are subject to zoning laws and the whims of city councils, they are overrun with protesters on their sidewalks and public easements, and they are few and far between in many states across the country. Even in cases where there are no restrictions and many providers to choose from, they are alarmingly expensive, making clinic abortions prohibitively expensive for far too many patients to count. And now, on top of everything, a pregnant person may even need to hide a trip to the clinic (or in some states two of them) from a spouse or partner to ensure they don't file a lawsuit if they wanted her to carry to term.
At this point Roe is a promise of abortion rights that almost no one can access – especially not the poor, people of color, or people in rural and red states. And as we prepare for a world in which Roe is gone, we need to prepare for one where clinics are gone, too, and not just in those states where abortion will be illegal. Abortion is and always should be a matter of personal health, of personal conscience, and personal resources and responsibilities of the one who is pregnant. And hand and hand with that comes personal privacy – the right to decide on one’s own when and if to give birth, and if choosing not to remain pregnant, the ability to terminate as easily and privately as possible without any coercive pressures from partners, protesters or the government and yes, clinics - intentionally or inadvertently – enable these pressures as well.
When Roe goes away, we need to lose the gatekeepers as well. We need to take abortion access, and the right to determine our reproductive futures, straight into our own hands, even if that means doing what we need outside of clinics, outside of the healthcare system and yes, even outside the unreasonable and medically unnecessary boundaries of the legal system, too. And we all need to commit to that decision, and do it together, hand in hand.
After all, our numbers are our power. They can’t arrest us all, can they?