Op-ed: Women’s reproductive rights are in jeopardy


"SB5 (Abortion Bill) Protest at the Texas State Capitol" by Do512.com is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

A case winding its way through the U.S. Supreme Court threatens to overturn federal laws protecting abortion.

Alyssa Endres, contributor

Content warning: discussion of sexual assault

Editor’s note: The Huntington News wants students to know Northeastern University and elsewhere provide sexual assault resources for students.

  • WeCare: [email protected], 617-373-7591, 226 Curry 
  • University Health and Counseling Services (UHCS): [email protected], 617-373-2772, Forsyth Building, 1st Floor
  • 24/7 Mental Health Support: for students by phone ([email protected]) – 877-233-9477 (U.S.), 781-457-7777 (international)
  • Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
  • Sexual Assault Prevention and Survivor Services (SAPSS)

Abortion has always been a topic of debate in the United States, but it has recently become an even more prevalent topic of discussion after state legislatures passed laws restricting access to abortion. Although a Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy was enacted in 2018, it was blocked by a federal court challenge. However, it’s being brought to the forefront once again to be decided on by the highest court in the country. This past May, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review the legal case known as Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The Supreme Court’s review, which is likely to be completed next year, could potentially overturn the 1973 decision of Roe v. Wade, putting the reproductive rights of women in the United States in serious jeopardy. 

If the Supreme Court finds the Mississippi law to be constitutional, then the legal protections that came with Roe v. Wade could be eroded as more states would attempt to pass their own restrictive abortion laws. Conversely, if the Supreme Court decides that the Mississippi law is indeed unconstitutional, then Roe v. Wade will continue to protect federal abortion rights. Since the process of an abortion deals with the respective anatomy of a woman, it should ultimately be up to the woman in question to decide what she does with her own body. Outlawing abortion in certain states and decreasing abortion access in others could prevent many women from being in control of their own bodies and futures. 

The timing of the decision, however, is not a coincidence. With Justice Amy Coney Barrett replacing the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg last year, the Supreme Court now has a 6-3 conservative majority, meaning it’s more likely that the Supreme Court will rule in favor of anti-abortion legislation like the Mississippi law. It does not help that Coney Barrett has not attempted to hide her religious views throughout her career, such as when she voted to hear arguments that would possibly overrule a lower court’s decision to block anti-abortion laws in Indiana. It’s evident that Coney Barrett allows her personal beliefs to cloud her legal judgement, despite claiming that, “It’s never appropriate for a judge to impose that judge’s personal convictions, whether they derive from faith or anywhere else on the law.” 

Justices of the Supreme Court are not supposed to rule based on their own respective political values. They are supposed to make rulings based on their interpretations of what is constitutional and what is not. Since some Republicans serving on the Supreme Court may be unable to separate their personal religious beliefs from rulings, they pose a threat to many cases including the current issue of abortion.  

The Supreme Court’s conservative leaning majority is likely to vote in favor of the Mississippi law being constitutional, considering the right to life is a key component of conservative values. Even chief justice of the United States John Roberts, who has not disclosed his political affiliation, showed his stance in the case of June Medical Services LLC v. Russo, regarding Louisiana Act 620, where he demonstrated uncertainty about whether or not abortion rights should be protected by the Constitution. It’s not entirely clear how Roberts may vote this time, but his decision is certainly important.

If Roe v. Wade is overturned in the future, abortion laws would then be up to the states to decide. It’s likely that a majority of southern states, including Mississippi and Alabama, would quickly outlaw it. If this were to come to pass, it would be devastating. 

However, those who are pro-life tend to argue that abortion is immoral. The First Amendment allows all Americans to practice whatever religion they choose. There is nothing wrong with people exercising their own religious beliefs, as it’s their constitutional right. However, a potential problem lies with how certain views can affect people who need an abortion for their own mental health. Some people, such as rape victims, need an abortion for this reason, as being raped or sexually assaulted involves a complete loss of power and control for the victim that can result in long-term trauma. A woman who may become pregnant by being raped truly has no choice in the child’s conception. A pregnancy with a child that was conceived during rape presents many emotional challenges for the woman involved. 70% of sexual assault survivors endure trauma, 45% face symptoms of PTSD, and women who are forced to remain pregnant could cause the mother to resent the child

Extensive government overreach is important to consider. Government officials inserting themselves and making very personal decisions for people they do not even know is extremely problematic and unfair. It not only involves a lack of privacy for women in this position but also autonomy. In addition, government overreach, as well as party overreach, can be attributed to the intentions advancing the position of either political party. If mask mandates are considered to be government overreach by many Americans, then these very same people should consider anti-abortion laws excessive government involvement as well.

This case, and others like it, represents a lot more than just the act of abortion. It represents a woman being able to have control of her own anatomy. A woman’s future should not be decided for her. This is why everyone at Northeastern needs to understand the impact abortion has on the NU community, especially the population here on campus that will be impacted by future abortion laws. Northeastern students can help do their part by keeping up to date with proposed abortion-related legislation, educating themselves on reproductive rights and planning peaceful protests to combat such legislation. Student clubs and organizations including Net Impact of Northeastern University, which focuses on discussing and bringing attention to climate and social justice, as well as Strong Women, Strong Girls, could advocate for those on campus impacted by such legislation and help educate the Northeastern community. 

Alyssa Endres is a second-year political science and communication studies double major. She can be reached at [email protected]