Note: The following article contains content related to sexual assault.
Girls grow up their entire lives being told what to do with their bodies. We’ve been told to cover our shoulders and hide our nipples for the benefit of men despite the fact they are natural features of the human body. Being controlled is nothing new to us, but Texas has taken it to a whole new level by passing state legislation dictating what a woman can and cannot do with her reproductive system.
Organizations all across the country have come together to advocate for women’s reproductive rights since then, and Raleigh is no exception. On Oct. 2, a group of organizations are hosting a march on Bicentennial Plaza at 11 a.m. and everyone should go.
In September, Texas successfully passed a bill that banned abortions once electrical impulses from the yet-to-form heart are detectable. This happens around the sixth week of pregnancy but can happen earlier in some cases. Unlike many other abortion-related bills, the Texas bill does not exclude rape or incest situations as it only features a few, specific exceptions if the mother’s life is in severe danger. This makes the Texas bill the strictest ban on abortion in America and the most direct challenger to the current abortion precedent, Roe v. Wade.
Let's get down to the facts. Legislators picked the six-week benchmark because of two key reasons. One, this is when the fetus’ heartbeat can first be picked up on an ultrasound, so this is when the legislature deemed the fetus a living human. Abortion after this point, in their opinion, would be murder. For the sake of the argument I want to make, I will leave reason one at that.
The second reason for choosing the six-week benchmark is because of the “week count.” It starts on the last day of the woman's last period, not from conception. This means, theoretically, that a woman will be four weeks pregnant when she misses her first period and will then have two weeks to make a decision about what to do before the fetus becomes a living thing.
First off, basing the pregnancy count on number of weeks since last period instead of conception is not accurate and will only result in restricting women’s ability to make a decision about what to do with the fetus even before it has a heartbeat, which I remind you is unconstitutional based on Roe v. Wade.
Secondly, if I had a dollar for every time I got stressed over a life event and my period was one or two weeks late, I’d be rich. Medications and other health problems, such as diabetes and things as common as stress, can naturally cause women’s menstrual cycles to vary. Finally, this standard completely ignores the fact that 9-14% of women naturally don’t have regular periods.
This means most people would not even realize they have missed their period after the law's four-week benchmark, and often even after the six-week benchmark. For reference, a study done by Matern Child Health Journal found the average time it takes a woman to know if they are pregnant is 5.5 weeks after conception (note that it’s from conception, not since the last period) with a 23% chance of finding out later than that. As a result, millions of women would only have a few days, if any, to process what is happening and make life-altering decisions.
This might only be happening in Texas right now, but the very existence of this law is a threat to reproductive rights everywhere, for everyone. We all have a right to determine what we can and cannot do with our bodies, and the Texas law has stripped that right away from every person with a uterus.
If we do not stand up for ourselves here in Raleigh, then the situation is only going to get worse as more and more states will follow suit. Soon, Roe vs. Wade will be slowly torn apart and laws such as the Texas ban will be everywhere. We all deserve the same rights and we need to fight to ensure that we get them.
Come down to Bicentennial Plaza this Saturday, Oct. 2, at 11 a.m. and march in support of reproductive rights for all.
To get more involved in reproductive rights advocacy, visit Planned Parenthood Generation Action at NC State. For support on campus visit the NC State Counseling Center, Student Health, the Women's Center or the GLBT Center.