We have been trying to think of the right words to say as young women around the world wake up to the news that the US Supreme Court, in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organisation, has overturned Roe v Wade. But we honestly don’t know if we have them. We have our anger, our nausea and our commitment to fighting for a better world for women and girls.
Knowing that millions of Americans have now been stripped of their bodily autonomy and the right to choose is devastating. It’s horrifying to think that young women leaving girlhood behind in 2022 have less rights than their mothers and grandmothers.
The US Supreme Court overturning Roe v Wade marks the elimination of a 50-year-old constitutional right that has long safeguarded women’s freedom and equality across the country. Planned Parenthood noted that 26 states could potentially ban abortion, which will leave approximately 36 million women without abortion access.
This decision has far-reaching implications that go beyond the right to choose. Pregnancy and birth contribute to high school dropout rates amongst young women across the US; it is estimated that approximately 30 percent of girls who drop out of school do so because of a pregnancy, while only about 50% of teen mothers receive a high school qualification. And if you’re a woman of colour or you belong to another marginalized community, the gap you once faced will now be an echoing chasm of risk, prejudice and a lack of control. Women in marginalized groups already struggle to have their health taken seriously, this means they won’t even get to open their mouths.
This decision could also potentially threaten young women’s ability to access birth control. Some abortion bills, such as a bill recently proposed in Louisiana, already jeopardise access to birth control by defining the life of an ‘unborn child’ as starting at fertilization and conception - which could apply to contraception methods like Plan B. In their judgment, the dissenting judges in Dobbs stated that while the prospects of the Supreme Court approving a ban on contraception is low, ‘the future significance of today’s opinion will be decided in the future.’
In his concurring opinion with the majority in Dobbs, Justice Clarence Thomas also flagged that the US Supreme Court should ‘reconsider’ its past rulings codifying rights to same-sex relationships and marriage. Yes, you read that right.
The Roe v Wade decision comes shortly after the US Supreme Court found that Americans have a right to carry firearms in public for self-defence. An upcoming decision weighing how much power the Environmental Protection Agency has to regulate greenhouse gas emissions could shape environmental and climate policy in the years’ to come.
One thing is for sure: it’s a scary and uncertain time to be a young woman in America, in a country where guns seem to have more rights than a woman’s body. Today we process the Dobbs decision. Tomorrow we get to work.