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by Mariah Feria

Roe vs Wade: Does McCorvey’s death symbolise America’s failing abortion rights?

Norma McCorvey – the ‘Roe’ of Roe vs. Wade – died on the 17th February of this year. Best known for helping to establish the legal right to have an abortion in America, after the trial, she had a complete shift in her opinions. She spent the remainder of her life advocating the pro-life movement, campaigning for the 1973 ruling to be overturned.

McCorvey insisted that she was ‘used’ by her solicitors in the fight against anti-abortion laws. She campaigned heavily for the claimed lives she had taken since abortion was made legal in the first trimester in the United States. Even as her illness progressed, she admitted she could never forgive herself for ‘what she had done’.

Her death comes at an important time in America’s history. Donald Trump himself has been clear about his attitudes towards a woman’s ‘right to choose’. The ‘Mexico City policy’ – also known as the global gag rule – was signed just days after he was officially sworn in as President. The policy prohibits giving U.S. funding to international NGO’s, if they include abortion as part of their family planning and reproductive health options. Sadly, this means that millions of women in high-conflict or poverty areas, will have to resort to dangerous (and possibly deadly) methods if they do find themselves with an unwanted pregnancy.

Whilst McCorvey may have provided the vital push the pro-choice movement needed, getting an abortion the U.S. still remains a challenging, contested, and controversial act. Some States have a ‘grace period’ in which the woman must wait, truly think about her decision, and read leaflets about abortion before she can go through with it. Given the short window in which an abortion can be carried out legally, many women face not being ‘eligible’ for an abortion once this grace period is up. The cost of an abortion is also extremely high, restricting women from low income backgrounds. Even entering an abortion clinic, a woman faces getting heckled, abused, or even shot. The already unpleasant act of abortion is made even worse.

However, the way that Trump is progressing, this may be worsen even more so. During his campaign, he stated that he will introduce more pro-life judges in an attempt to overturn the Roe vs. Wade ruling. Perhaps McCorvey’s wish may come true after all.

Women’s bodies and their reproductive rights remains a contested political arena in the United States. Some feminists have spoken out about the shift abortion has made into the political sphere; as women progress in other areas of life, a need to control their wombs has seemingly become more prevalent. There have even been cases of women being taken to court by their spouses/partners because of their decision to abort a foetus. The woman is spoken about as if she were simply a vessel, her personal rights worth less than the rights of a foetus.

Sadly, it seems that cases like this are only going to increase. With a pro-life President in the White House, a President who also speaks-out against birth control and promotes abstinence only education (proven to be extremely ineffective – Texas has the highest rate in the U.S. of teenage pregnancies), it has become normalised for a vicious debate about a woman’s right to choose, to exist. McCorvey’s death reminds us how much America has had to fight, but also how far it still has to go, in ensuring a safe, protected environment where a woman can govern her body, not the State.