US midterms: Why abortion never gets old as a hot election topic

Belén Fernández

Fifteen years ago, I had an abortion in the southwestern Turkish town of Fethiye, where I had been intermittently residing as part of my self-imposed exile from the United States. The procedure was performed in a gynaecological clinic by a Turkish doctor who whistled, sang songs and joked about my distinct lack of fortitude compared with his patients from surrounding villages – who, he said, were in and out of his office with no anaesthesia or whining.

While this will not be music to the ears of the so-called “pro-life” crowd, the experience remains one of the high points of my entire existence – which would have undoubtedly gone swiftly downhill had I been forced to reproduce against my will.

Had I pursued the abortion in the US, the extraction of a blob of cells from my uterus would have entailed far more bureaucracy, stigma, and money (and probably no whistling). Still, I would have had it much easier than a poor woman, especially if she was not white. Such, after all, is the nature of “equality”, “women’s rights”, and similar empty concepts that the US specialises in.

Indeed, in the self-appointed land of the free, reproductive freedom was never fully born; you might even say it was aborted.

In 1973, the landmark Supreme Court ruling Roe v Wade ostensibly enshrined abortion rights nationwide, but there was always the problem of inequitable access. As renowned scholar Angela Davis noted in a 1982 essay, the subsequent elimination of federal funding for abortions in 1977 resulted in an arrangement in which “Black, Puerto Rican, Chicana and Native American women, together with their impoverished white sisters, were … effectively divested of the right to legal abortions”.

Free surgical sterilisation was, however, still an option for the socioeconomically oppressed – as was the option to add another defenceless human to a national landscape of racist and patriarchal capitalism and egregious state neglect. How is that for “pro-choice”?

Fast forward to the US midterm elections of November 2022, and abortion is once again a hot topic. In a capitalist patriarchy, controlling women’s bodies never gets old.

And the candidates have plenty of material to work with. In June, the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade, removing the federal constitutional right to end a pregnancy and inducing a collective conservative orgasm. With abortion law now delegated to individual states, Wisconsin, for example, has reinstated its abortion ban of 1849.

Democrats are banking on the abortion issue to drive voter turnout and retain control of Congress – which, were they to succeed, would defy the US political tradition of midterm elections being bad for the president’s party. Not that the Democrats have done anything over the years to reverse the racism and classism that govern abortion policy and everything else in America. Usually, what Democrats are good at is sounding less transparently nutty than Republicans, while dutifully helping to sustain the whole odious system.

In some states, voters will weigh in on abortion rights directly on the ballot; in others, the abortion vote will come down to the positions of the respective candidates. According to the Pew Research Center, 56 percent of registered voters said in August that abortion would be “very important in their midterm vote”, whereas only 43 percent had said the same in March.

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