Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 10, No. 9, September 2022
University of Cape Town
It is often assumed that progress is linear. This assumption is seen when looking at human rights. The usual formula begins with an activist group. Members of civil society take action to change injustices that they see within society. At the point where civil disobedience and protest becomes unmanageable, government officials are pressured into making legislative changes. From there, a societal mind-shift occurs. At this stage, disenfranchisement becomes frowned upon. This is the formula to progress. However, the reality is not so straight-forward. Rather, progress ebbs and flows. It is in flux.
This is keenly seen when looking at the world’s attitude towards women’s rights and bodily autonomy. For one, the US is now reversing the steps forward taken by feminist activists in the 1970s. More specifically, in 1973 the US Supreme Court ruled that the Texas ban on abortion was unconstitutional. This case, known as Roe v. Wade, paved the way forward. The ruling did not only apply to Texas. Rather, any undue state restriction on abortion became unconstitutional. On June 24th, 2022 this all changed. The US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which removed 50 years of legal protection for women seeking safe abortions. Due to legislation in place prior to the 1973 ruling, abortion was automatically outlawed in many states as a result of the overturning. Other states took action to implement bans. As a result, abortion is now banned across a number of US states, namely Idaho, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Wisconsin, Louisiana, South Dakota, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, and Kentucky. The consequence is that women today find themselves fighting the same battle fought by the activists of the early 1970s. Continue reading