Ever since a leaked draft opinion from the Supreme Court indicated that a majority of justices on the bench stood poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, aghast abortion advocates in the U.S. have been scrambling in search of ways, however preposterous or implausible, to derail the looming decision.
Some Democratic politicians and progressive mainstream media personalities immediately pushed for the codification of federal abortion rights before they could be rolled back in the aftermath of Roe’s reversal. Others resorted to bad-mouthing and scaremongering in hopes of pressuring certain conservative justices to change their minds. Still others took to the streets — apparently in violation of federal law — to picket and protest against the forthcoming decision outside several Supreme Court justices’ homes.
Over and against the findings expressed in Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion, countless abortion advocates vehemently argued that a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy was clearly spelled out on the pages of the Constitution and is, in fact, “deeply rooted in the country’s history and traditions.”
One might expect that advocates would herald an individual’s right to privacy as found in the 14th Amendment — the 1973 court’s determination — to bolster their support for legalized abortion. Many did.
But this week, left-wing news outlet Ms. Magazine cited a different constitutional amendment in its argument against restrictions on the procedure: the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery and involuntary servitude.
“Abortion bans force pregnant women to endure the dangerous work of pregnancy, labor, and childbirth against their will. Abortion bans place pregnant women seeking abortion under state control and require them to perform involuntary labor,” wrote contributing editor Carrie Baker, also a women and gender studies professor at Smith College, in an article published by the magazine on Monday.
“This is a violation of the 13th Amendment,” she asserted.
In order to make her point, Baker argued that “pregnancy, labor, and childbirth” should be interpreted merely as “difficult forms of work.”
“Pregnancy causes nausea, fatigue, tender and swollen breasts, constipation, body aches, dizziness, sleep problems, heartburn and indigestion, hemorrhoids, itching, leg cramps, numb or tingling hands, swelling, urinary frequency or leaking, varicose veins — and many more deeply invasive and painful experiences,” she offered as evidence.
“Pregnancy takes over the entire body, affecting the cardiovascular system, kidneys, respiratory system, gastrointestinal system, skin, hormones, liver and metabolism. It increases blood volume by about 50 percent and depletes calcium from the bones, decreasing bone density. Risks of pregnancy include high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, anemia, depression, infection, and death,” she continued.
“To force these experiences on an unwilling person is a form of involuntary servitude,” Baker concluded, given the side effects.
Elsewhere, she compared forcing someone to continue their pregnancy to “bodily assault” and even “rape,” adding that such behavior has “surprisingly similar dynamics to domestic violence and sexual assault.”
It’s unlikely that Baker and Ms. Magazine’s radical arguments will persuade any of the court’s conservative justices, however, or anyone on the conservative side of the issue, for that matter. If anything, the arguments might weaken abortion advocates’ standing on the issue.