By Giavonni Nickson
Indiana Senate Democrats sparked heated debate over incidents that threaten to strip women’s rights, calling the acts “pro-oppression.” This struggle to overcome oppression in the battle for women’s rights, and civil rights, is all too familiar in the United States.
Just a few years after The Voting Rights Act of 1965, which directed the U.S. Attorney General to enforce the right to vote for African Americans and suspend the use of literacy tests and voter disqualification devices, the U.S. Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment, which guaranteed equal protection of the law to all Americans, also protected an individual’s right to privacy.
The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution (1868) also granted African Americans the right of citizenship. This did not always translate into voting rights because Black voters were systematically turned away from state polling places.
When Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in the United States in 1973, it changed the lives of women across the nation by giving them the right to choose. All women were granted the right to govern their bodies and the liberty to make personal decisions regarding abortion.
Roe v. Wade and The Voting Rights Act mark pivotal moments in history when African Americans and women courageously marched and protested to shift the legislative paradigm in the United States.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. organized and led protests to shift the tide of political opinion when African Americans were turned away in Selma, Alabama during an attempt to register. Prior to this, only an estimated 23 percent of voting-age African Americans were nationally registered.
Today, women’s reproductive rights are being threatened by conservative lawmakers who stand on religious objections. The fundamental liberties recognized and upheld in Roe v. Wade, are now being challenged and slowly being stripped away in state legislatures.
Many states including Alabama, Ohio, Mississippi, Georgia, and Indiana have passed or attempted to pass restrictive abortion laws this year.
On Wednesday, June, 12, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed into law sweeping new abortion rights legislation that aims to establish the procedure as a “fundamental right” for women in that state.
Each of these states has approved legislation that makes it illegal for a woman to get an abortion once a heartbeat is detected. This almost abolishes abortion, as the fetal heartbeat can be detected around six to eight weeks of pregnancy, the time when women usually learn that they are pregnant.
In Alabama, attempts to pass an amendment that granted an exception to this law in cases of rape or incest were unsuccessful, as Republican majorities voted them out.
Alabama is close to home for many Northwest Indiana and Chicagoland area residents as The Great Migration, one of the largest and most rapid mass internal movements in history, moved 6 million African Americans from the 14 states of the South, especially Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, and Georgia, to cities like Chicago, Gary, Detroit, and Pittsburg.
The new law in Alabama is the most restrictive in the country and nearly bans all abortions making it a crime for doctors to perform the procedure. Attempts to provide abortions are punishable with up to a 99 year prison sentence.
Senate Democrats Response
According to Indiana Senate Democrats, “The Statehouse Republicans are unconstitutional, restrictive and oppressive and end up costing taxpayers in each state hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend lawsuits brought forth by organizations like the ACLU. Any attempt to infringe on women’s reproductive rights is inhumane and actively works to undermine the U.S. Constitution. Moreover, these laws are dangerous—outlawing safe, legal abortions will result in the resurgence of unsafe abortions that further threaten the lives of women. Stripping women of their rights, forcing them to carry out a pregnancy against their will and penalizing a woman or her doctors for making suitable medical decisions isn’t pro-life; it’s pro-oppression. America has already lived through this dark reality, and going back is not an option.”
In response to legislative attempts to revert women’s rights, groups across the nation have come together to rally. Recent demonstrations on the steps of the Indiana State house have given voice to protest what many view as regressive legislation. Protestors deemed their stance necessary considering two restrictive abortion related bills put into law and signed by Indiana’s governor.
Senate Democrats in Indiana hope to stop the persistent efforts of the GOP to strip women of the fundamental right to determine what happens to their bodies, “we must continue to fight such laws.” Indiana Senate Democrats vow to fight against what they deem to be oppressive legislation attesting that women’s rights are human rights.
Giavonni is a passionate freelance writer native of Gary IN. She covers business, politics, and community schools for the Chicago/Gary Crusader.