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After abortion ruling, what does this loss of bodily autonomy mean for women?

Published: Tuesday, October 11, 2022 - 1:31pm

Last week, the Arizona Court of Appeals temporarily blocked enforcement of a near-total ban on abortion. Despite this latest ruling, access to abortion care is still uncertain. What does this loss of bodily autonomy mean for women and feminine-presenting people?

Dr. Rocio Garcia is an assistant professor of sociology in the school of social and family dynamics at ASU. She says overturning Roe didn’t usher in a new era of inequality.

"But rather, it's I see it more as exacerbating the already unequal social position that women and other feminine presenting people already occupied," she said. 

And by seeing certain groups like those she referred to as less than human, she said "[it] helps to justify right these types of legislative procedures — like the overturn turning of Roe v. Wade."

She says this isn’t the only time certain groups have had their bodily autonomy attacked. " A lot of folks are actually unaware that between 1997 and 2014, over a thousand women were forcibly sterilized in California prisons, and most of them were black."

Garcia said it was heartbreaking "to hear them describe how they had no idea that they were sterilized while they were incarcerated until they were released from prison."

Men have also been victims forced sterilization, though she said that often needs to be examined through a lens of race and racism.

"So there are histories, just as an example, in California, Mexican origin men being forcibly sterilized right in the early 20th century. So really tied to these ideas of who's actually considered as desirable populations to reproduce when we're thinking about US citizenship."

As for white men, there have been "moments where people who are mentally disabled and poor [that] have been forcibly sterilized. So even if they're white because of, again, who were thinking as productive and desirable  in this country, that also at times includes poor white folks."

Perhaps not surprising, she says, are the folks who are pushing for abortion bans or limited reproductive autonomy: they tend to be cisgender, heterosexual, wealthy white men. 

Garcia said at this point, we are "not seeing any kind of policy measures or even any kind of debates among the folks that have the most decision making power," regarding accountability. "If you're going to force certain people to carry out a pregnancy to term, what does that mean then for the other person involved in that scenario?" 

Lastly, she said there's research that when people are denied abortions, they actually experience greater levels of anxiety, depression, PTSD, lower life satisfaction and self esteem.

Abortion Gender