Rise Up For Rights

By: Isabelle Smith

ismith6@tulane.edu

The clock is ticking.

Soon, a choice will be made that will affect the lives of countless families and individuals throughout the United States. The Supreme Court is on its way to decide if they will overturn Roe v. Wade, a 1973 law protecting liberty for an individual to receive an abortion. Many are deeply frightened of what the future for Louisiana, and the US, could entail, and many are already beginning preparations for the worst-case scenario.

“It’s absolutely bonkers. It’s just wild to see the legal gymnastics that individuals will go through to criminalize specific bodies,” said Morgan Moone.

 Moone, who works at the Reproductive Justice Action Collective (REJAC) in New Orleans, talks about the chaos that has erupted from politicians and legislatures desperate to take rights away from individuals capable of giving birth. 

She explains that legislators will propose unconstitutional legislation for years and years, mining information from the courts to eventually get their legislation to pass. It’s an information gathering strategy, as the judge will explain why the unconstitutional law was overturned, allowing legislators to go back and find a loophole. This is what we saw happen with SB 8, a law in Texas making abortion illegal once a fetal heartbeat is detected. Other states are extremely eager to follow in Texas’s footsteps, and overturn Roe v. Wade

Regarding the upcoming Supreme Court Decision, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Moone, her team, and the rest of Louisiana are preparing for one of three results. The first would be that Roe is upheld, and nothing changes immediately (for a finite amount of time). The second would be that they undercut viability, in which the time frame would be realistically too small to receive an abortion. 

“It’s not a choice. You’d have to be monitoring your body so closely in order to know the moment of conception” she said.

Finally, the third option would be to overturn Roe altogether, leading to a drastic decrease in abortion clinics- the likelihood choice that Moone and others are anticipating. If that choice is future reality, Louisiana, as well as the other 12 states with trigger laws (laws that will ban abortion as soon as Roe v. Wade is declared unconstitutional), will automatically ban abortion in the first and second trimesters. 

Michelle Erenberg, executive director of Lift Louisiana, said that the overturning of Roe would have “A devastating impact on people who cannot find the funding, or take days off of work.” 

Furthermore, if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned, the question comes into play: where would these individuals go to obtain a safe abortion?

Already, Louisiana has only 3 abortion clinics in Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and Shreveport. Erenberg said this as devastating to people who live in rural communities, or people living in poverty with low-wage jobs.

“If you live in Lake Charles, you are 130 miles one-way from the nearest clinic.”

A major concern she has is the fact that Louisiana is in the middle of many states that would also ban abortion (due to the trigger bans). Someone in Louisiana would have to travel, depending on their situation, all the way to Illinois or potentially Maryland.

“That is over 1000 miles of travel… to access a medical procedure.” 

In addition to the stress already embedded from the past few years of prospected legislature, COVID-19 has added to that layer of disarray of how people will handle the upcoming future.

“We knew this moment was coming, but especially compounded with the pandemic increasing the work that women have to do, and increasing the cost of everything, people are in a pressure cooker right now. We are going to see a mass crisis. Socially, mentally, and financially” said Moone.

Regarding the future of Louisiana, Moone thinks “It doesn’t look great. What we are seeing isn’t just an attack on bodies capable of pregnancy, but we’re seeing attacks on the right to have a family, and the right to raise your family in a way that you want to.”

Erenberg is also deeply concerned for what the future of Louisiana holds, and the catastrophic effects that will erupt on our Louisiana friends and neighbors. 

“I feel so sad talking to young people about what’s going on because it feels very dire and depressing.”

However, she is still optimistic for change. 

 “I am hopeful that we will respond to this as a nation, especially getting young people to be more involved in this fight. It’s going to take a huge amount of protests and backlash and putting pressure on legislatures to change the trajectory of things from the way they are going now. This is really the time for young people to get engaged.”

 One of those young people desperate for change in the future is Charlotte Levine, a freshman at Tulane University. 

 “Our generation is the future. We are the ones who will be the lawmakers or ones in positions of power, so I think as long as we stay educated about these topics, we’ll be able to help when our time comes” she says. 

 However, being an 18-year-old holds its limitations. While their voices are strong, there is only so much they, as well as the rest of the population, can do now regarding the upcoming Supreme Court decision. 

 “For now, we have to sit tight because we’re not in positions of power where we can really do anything impactful, which is unfortunate” she said. But that doesn’t mean that she, along with her Tulane peers, will ever stop trying. 

“We have been pushed to a point where we are no longer trying to defend,” Moone said, disheartened. “We just have to be reactive, which is a shame because it means our capacities decrease since we have to respond so quickly. People will be left in the dark.” For people all throughout Louisiana, as well as other states in the US, worlds will be turned into disarray. 

Erenberg and Lift Louisiana also work hard fighting for minors who cannot get parental consent to have an abortion. In Louisiana, state law requires that a parent/legal guardian must give consent for children under the age of 18 to receive an abortion. Erenberg and her team help minors apply for a judicial bypass, in which a judge can waive the parental consent requirement. 

However, this creates a major issue if Roe v. Wade is overturned. If they can’t legally get an abortion in Louisiana, they most likely won’t be able to go out of state to get one as a minor. If someone were to help the child get an abortion out of state, there is the threat that they could be charged with kidnapping. 

“In reality, that child would most likely be forced to follow through with the pregnancy, even if they don’t want to” said Erenberg.

A child, ultimately, would be having a child. 

Undocumented immigrants are also at severe risk with the upcoming legislation, as it is very dangerous for them to travel out of state. 

“These are the people who are most vulnerable, facing the most barriers to their health, and the most barriers to economic security.”

“If you think about it critically for even 5 minutes, you’d realize this would harm a lot of people. Making abortion illegal would not stop it, which is a fact. They would have abortions done illegally that are dangerous and causing so much more harm. It’s never going to stop,” said Levine.

According to the World Health Organization, at least 22,800 women a year die due to complications of illegal abortions, and 2-7 million women who survive have long-term bodily damage. These are the statistics that few pro-life lawmakers talk about. The statistics in which women are dying.

Erenberg and other organizations fighting for the same cause have all been working together to plan/think about what people are going to need if their worst-case scenario comes true. They will try to respond to the verdict with more legal challenges to try and slow the trigger bans from taking effect, but she is doubtful that they’ll have much success.

“I don’t think the activists pushing for abortion to be illegal have really thought about what the implications are of having 10,000 unwanted babies born in the state of Louisiana.”

 Erenberg said that it’ll put a strain on foster care systems, social safety net programs, and be an overall burden on the state for having to take care of a large number of babies that are being carried to term by force. 

“I think that even if they [politicians] know the consequences, they just don’t care. A lot of the actions that they’re taking are for their own benefit. They do this just to keep their religious constituents happy. If an anti-abortion politician’s daughter got pregnant at 15 years old, would they just force her to have the baby? That just seems really messed up to me,” Levine tensely said.

It’s essentially a helpless situation. Levine and her friends must sit back, while the news continues to swirl in a fury of madness. Each week, you see new states trying to follow in each other’s footsteps, and new bills being introduced that are making hearts around the country skip a beat. 

 “’Roe is Dead’: Ohio and Kentucky abortion laws preview a future without it’”- Cinncinnati.com.

 “Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signs a bill banning abortions after 15 weeks”- NPR.

 “At Oklahoma abortion clinics, each day could be the last for care as new laws loom”- the 19th.

And as of May 2nd, 2022- a headline that shook America to its core. “Leaked Supreme Court Draft Would Overturn Roe v. Wade”- The New York Times. For Erenberg, Moone, and Levine, this news is unfathomable, yet not surprising.

Nothing is official, but individuals are preparing, ever more so than before. 

“Because of these laws and trigger bans, time is something that we don’t have” said Moone. “It is high stakes.” 

If the verdict overturns Roe, time is something Louisiana will not have.

 Protests are occurring, and people are outraged. It’s a sea of chaos. 

 Even after the Supreme Court ruling, the fight is nowhere near over. There’s always going to be the next politician or legislature pushing for more. Bills will continue to be proposed, further elongating the nation-wide debate between what some think is right, and what some think is wrong. This divide, along with many other relevant issues happening in the US, continue to break away our country’s unity, as well as its basic rights of democracy. 

Levine said how it’s scary to live and go to school in a state where such restrictions could be soon imposed, and to navigate in a world that is so divided. Her generation of young adults are living in a world where they must be politically aware and educated, growing up in the age of the internet and countless technology. 

“I feel very upset about all the divide we have in our world. To me, it’s obvious that women should have freedom over their bodies, and I often struggle to see the other side of it. It’s also very upsetting to see so much divide over an issue that seems so simple. It shouldn’t be political at all.”

 Levine, from Simsbury, Connecticut, travelled 1432 miles to go to school in New Orleans, Louisiana, and many students have travelled here from even farther.

“I am definitely in a position of privilege, and I think a lot of students at Tulane are too. If I needed to get an abortion, I would be able to fly home, or to a different state to receive one. There are a lot of people who can’t do that, so I am extremely grateful. It is very upsetting that there are so many people who can’t.”

 She is currently studying environmental studies and is very excited to see where her journey in college takes her. She, along with thousands of other college students, are in the stage of life where their futures are just beginning, lifelong careers yet to come.

 And an unwanted pregnancy can end them just like that.

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