By Marian O’Connor
On Wednesday, Jan. 31, South Dakota lawmakers introduced a bill that could directly challenge Roe v. Wade, the 1973 court case that legalized abortion in the United States.
If passed, the bill would make abortions only accessible to rape and incest victims and in order to save the mother’s life. However, rape and incest victims would need to report the rape to police within 50 days to be considered, and incest victims’ aborted fetuses would be subject to blood tests. Also, if this law goes into effect, the punishment for illegal abortions carries a 10-year prison sentence.
In an effort to defend abortion rights, the non-profit Feminist Majority Foundation has forged a campaign across America’s college campuses to petition for the continuation of reproductive rights. The Feminist Majority Foundation is an organization focused on the struggle for gender equality, reproductive health and non-violence.
Olivia Ortiz, an organizer for the Feminist Majority Foundation, believes that the social climate can only be changed through a collaborative effort.
“I think that it’s important for our generation to work together to create change,” Ortiz said.
She went on to suggest that the future of the feminist movement lies in promoting gender equality internationally.
“Changing the situation of women globally starts at home,” Ortiz said. “[Americans] make ripples all over the world. What we do affects women all over.”
One of the most prominent abortion rights petitions appeared in the 1972 debut issue of Ms. Magazine, and featured a petition signed by 53 women that declared “We Had Abortions.”
On Jan. 22, the 34th anniversary of Roe, a number of similar petitions were delivered to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The petitions were signed by over 12,000 women across America.
The Feminist Majority Foundations’ campaign will end in either March or April, but lacks the support needed to create a stir in Congress. The foundation is urging women to start circulating petitions throughout their schools.
Jessica Silva, a 20-year-old woman from the Bay Area, believes that women should have the choice to get an abortion.
“I think people should have the right to decide to have an abortion because everyone’s circumstances are different,” Silva said.
Silva has been pro-choice since she had an abortion as a teenager. She feels that her decision was the right one because she wasn’t ready for a child, and was grateful to have the option of abortion.
“I love kids, but I don’t want to have one until I can support it,” Silva replied.
Planned Parenthood, America’s first birth control clinic, is one of the leading opponents of new legislation against abortion like the law proposed in South Dakota.
Elisa Singh, health educator for Planned Parenthood Mar Monte in Santa Clara County, feels that these laws are not the leading opposition to Roe v. Wade, but rather that reproductive rights advocates are more troubled by a lack of available services.
“I think that South Dakota’s bill is unconstitutional, and that Planned Parenthood would challenge it if it were to pass,” Singh said.
According to Singh, abortion services are only offered three days a month at the Mar Monte facility, and doctors come from out of state to perform the procedure, making access to abortions already very limited in California.
“Outlawing abortions would open the flood gates for people to get abortions in other states,” Singh said.
Singh worries that Planned Parenthood has developed a stigma because of its liberal views on reproductive rights, and the organization’s intentions are sometimes misinterpreted due to bad publicity.
“Sometimes Planned Parenthood gets bashed because people think it is encouraging abortions, or that it is solely an abortion clinic. However, less than three percent of what we do is perform abortions,” Singh said. “The other 97 percent is providing healthcare and education to the communities about sex and reproduction.”