PETRUCCI: Rights are violated in protecting unborn
Opinions Column: The Annoying Vegan Millennial
In a utopian West Virginia and Alabama 2018 midterm election, the most glorious of amendments were passed. But first, let us begin by what was not passed. No, it was not a requirement that biscuits and gravy be served at every meal in West Virginia in order to maintain its record of highest obesity rate in the country. It was also not a requirement that the photos of Alabama native Lonnie Johnson, inventor of the Super Soaker water gun, be plastered on every public library.
Instead, Alabama constituents voted in favor of Amendment 2. This amendment would make it a state policy to “recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, including the right to life."
West Virginia constituents voted in favor of Amendment 1, which would amend the state's to declare that a woman's right to an abortion is protected in West Virginia, paving the way for the state legislature to protect the procedure outright if the United States Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.
Like all utopian scenarios, these changes have been distorted for a purpose. The amendments passed in both states severely restrict a woman’s right to an abortion under state law.
Alabama’s Amendment 2 policy acknowledges that under the state constitution, women do not have the right to an abortion because of the rights granted to “unborn life” and “unborn children."
West Virginia’s Amendment 1, also known as the “No Right to Abortion Amendment,” asserts that nothing in the state's constitution guarantees a woman’s right to an abortion and would limit how Medicaid recipients could use their insurance for abortion.
Both amendments are known as “trigger laws,” which are put in place to end abortion if or when Roe v. Wade is overturned. Roe v. Wade was the landmark legislation that established a three-staged framework which outlined that the state could intervene in later stages of pregnancy to protect the health of the mother, and only in the third trimester to protect the potentiality of human life. These new state laws aim to reverse key components of that decision.
But what if utopian laws, like those written above, actually existed? How might the real Amendment 1 and Amendment 2, which restrict a woman's access to an abortion, violate the rights of a woman outlined in the re-wording above?
According to the Guttmacher Institute, in 2011 45 percent of all pregnancies in the U.S. were unintended. Unintended pregnancies are highest among low-income women, women aged 18-24 and minority women. Although the Hyde Amendment restricts federal funding for abortion only in cases of endangered health of the mother — whether the cause be rape or incest — there are 17 states including West Virginia in which a lot of their funds go toward providing "medically necessary" abortions.
How do these states measure up to these national averages?
In Alabama, 55 percent of all pregnancies were unintended. Sixty-four percent of these pregnancies resulted in birth, 21 percent in abortions and the rest in miscarriages. Alabama’s rate of intended pregnancy is higher than the national average, which is 45 percent. Alabama allows Medicaid to fund abortions only in the event of rape, incest or when the mother’s life is in danger.
In West Virginia, 52 percent of all pregnancies were unintended. Sixty-three percent of unintended pregnancies resulted in birth, 21 percent in abortions and the remainder in miscarriages. West Virginia’s rate of unintended pregnancy is also higher than the national average. West Virginia allows Medicaid to fund abortions if "medically necessary," which is a much less stringent standard for determining if a woman can receive an abortion compared to the Alabama law above. But, its amendment would prevent this form of public funding to be allocated to abortions.
In the case of the Alabama amendment, in the attempt to “recognize the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children," — which grants rights to the unborn fetus and removes funding in protection of the fetus — we might end up eliminating rights of and funding for women while violating their sanctity of life. Simultaneously, by asserting that a woman’s right to an abortion is not protected in West Virginia, and by disabling public funds for abortion, we might end up further violating this sanctity and disenfranchising women.
These new amendments focus less on whom or what they aim to protect, and instead on whose rights they violate. So, let us go down the list of whom will remain unprotected in the quest to protect an embryo oftentimes smaller than the size of the period at the end of this sentence.
Economically disadvantaged women
Francesca Petrucci is a School of Arts and Sciences senior double majoring in journalism and media studies and political science and minoring in Spanish. Her column, "The Annoying Vegan Millennial," runs on alternate Tuesdays.
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