Your Reproductive Rights: What you Need to Know About Roe v. Wade

Since the signing of the Human Life Protection Act, Roe v. Wade has reemerged in the public’s conversation on reproductive rights. But how much do we really know about the historic case? 

For millennials, it can be like a fish describing water as the post-Roe world is all we’ve ever known. But now we have been ripped out of the water, causing shock, discomfort and a scary sense of urgency. How could this have happened? How can the ‘abortion ban,’ as the bill has been dubbed, stand alongside the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling? 

Roe v. Wade

In 1973 it was determined by the Supreme Court in a 7-2 decision that the right to choose abortion was fundamental and protected by the 14th amendment. The original Roe v. Wade ruling also based their regulations on the three trimesters of pregnancy as a way to satisfy the right to privacy while protecting the health of the pregnant woman and prenatal life. 

Previous to Roe. v Wade abortions during the first trimester were only legal in New York, Hawaii, Alaska, and Washington, which made safe abortions as soon as pregnancy is detected inaccessible to most Americans.

Here is an excerpt from The New York Times when Roe v Wade was decided to describe this timeline:

In a historic resolution of a fiercely controversial issue, the Court drafted a new set of national guidelines that will result in broadly liberalized anti-abortion laws in 46 states but will not abolish restrictions altogether.

Establishing an unusually detailed timetable for the relative legal rights of pregnant women and the states that would control their acts, the majority specified the following:

For the first three months of pregnancy the decision to have an abortion lies with the woman and her doctor, and the state’s interest in her welfare is not ‘compelling’ enough to warrant any interference.

For the next six months of pregnancy a state may ‘regulate the abortion procedure in ways that are reasonably related to maternal health,’ such as licensing and regulating the persons and facilities involved.

For the last 10 weeks of pregnancy, the period during which the fetus is judged to be capable of surviving if born, any state may prohibit abortions if it wishes, except where they may be necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.

Since then Roe v. Wade has been challenged and attacked countless times, but the most detrimental was in the case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The ruling weakened Roe v. Wade, destroying the very structure it was created upon.

In Roe v. Wade having a specified timeline was intentional in protecting the pregnant individual. However, in Casey regulating the uterus becomes a concern when a viable fetus has a less clear determination, threatening the access of having an abortion during the first trimester. 

[Read Related: Everything You Need to Know About Alabama’s Abortion Ban]

Today many within Trump administration are working hard towards overturning not only Roe v. Wade but what it stands for as well — access and the protected right to choose for all. Reinstating the Global Gag rule, attacking the ACA and protecting the Alabama Abortion Act, cleverly disguised under the name The Human Life Protection Act, are in fact all strides towards threatening the lives not only in this country but on a global scale by cutting their access to safe abortions.

Attacks on Roe v. Wade: Global Gag Rule January 2017

The Global Gag rule also known as the Mexico City Policy blocks international organizations receiving resources and funds from the U.S. from informing patients on referrals, counseling and any other type of assistance that may advocate for abortion.

First introduced by former President Ronald Reagan in 1984 the Global Gag Rule has been on again and off again, and now stands to target international NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) receiving funds from U.S. global health assistance including countries providing access to contraceptives and other family planning resources where HIV/AIDs and malaria are at incredibly threatening rates. 

The Gag Rule keeps health providers from informing their patients on all their safe reproductive health options. Not only does this rule force doctors to withhold medical options that can save lives but is also a violation of one’s right to free speech.

Alabama and Georgia

Both Alabama and Georgia outlaw abortion after 20 weeks, and now, Georgia is preventing abortions as early as six weeks with less than efficient time for women to realize they are pregnant — there are also no exceptions for cases of rape and incest. Right now breaking abortion laws in Georgia can be punishable up to 10 years in prison because the fetus is recognized as a person under the law, thus attempted abortions or miscarriages could be investigated for murder charges. 

A Life Without Roe v. Wade

Abortions did not begin with Roe v. Wade. However, it did make safe and regulated abortions accessible. According to Planned Parenthood, one-sixth of pregnancy-related deaths in 1965 were due to unsafe abortions, and those are just the reported numbers.

The prohibition of abortion burdens low-income individuals the most. A survey conducted in the 1960s, before Roe v. Wade, shows that a staggering 80 percent of low-income people living in New York City seeking an abortion had attempted to terminate their pregnancies themselves using dangerous methods.

Since Roe v. Wade, abortion has become one of the most low-risk medical procedures with a safety record of more than 99 percent. But the ‘abortion ban’ doesn’t just revoke the access to a safe procedure. It also takes away the support delivered by medical professionals.

[Read Related: Man to Man: The Fight for Abortion Rights is our Responsibility, Too]

Since the controversial Roe v. Wade decision, efforts to chip away and weaken reproductive rights have found support, with numerous politicians persistently introducing and backing various bills in Congress that would restrict and criminalize the right to choose. 

According to Planned Parenthood, overturning Roe v. Wade would put more than 25 million reproductive bodies at risk of losing access to safe abortions, including over 800,000 Asian-Americans. The numbers are even larger for our POC allies. 

Although it seems as if we have lost the battle, the fight is not over. It is important now more than ever to stay informed, make our voices heard and take action. 

By Kashafa Khan

Kashafa Khan is a designer and illustrator based in New York. She is on the activist council for Planned Parenthood … Read more ›

Introducing Vaksana: Guyana’s First Sustainable Women’s Retreat

Menakshi Babulall

Sustainable development practices can be utilized as a model for addressing gender inequities worldwide. Empowering women with the resources to gain opportunities, learn skills and collaborate in a safe and welcoming environment is crucial to women’s growth and development as individuals. 

After witnessing the first-hand effects of gender-based violence growing up in Guyana, Menakshi Babulall founded the Canadian nonprofit A Different View Project (ADVP) to promote and implement sustainable development methods across Guyanese communities. Vaksana, which means “nourishing/refreshing” in Sanskrit, is a branch of ADVP exclusively aimed at developing Guyana’s first eco-friendly women’s retreat center.  The retreat will offer wellness activities, training services, regenerative farming and community outreach programs. 

[Read Related: Philanthropist Nirmala Ramprasad Champions Sustainable Development Through Green Dupatta]

Babulall was inspired by Guyana’s rich rugged beauty as a child. Her dual passion for preserving the environment and aiding underserved communities contributed to her studying International Development at Toronto’s York University before launching a public service career.  This eventually led her focus back to Guyana. Babulall talks to BG about her journey as the founder of ADVP, the progress of Vaksana and her perspective on sustainable and ethical charity work.

How and when did you create ADVP? 

“ADVP was founded in 2016 with the vision of empowering communities and fostering sustainable development. The idea stemmed from my desire to create an organization that could address pressing social and environmental issues through innovative and collaborative approaches. One thing that fills me with immense pride is ADVP’s unique ability to bring together diverse stakeholders, including those from the diaspora, to create impactful projects that make a tangible difference in people’s lives while also providing them with an opportunity to connect with their homeland.”

ADVP has worked on projects within Guyana’s fertile Pomeroon-Supenaam region, a vast expanse of hills and villages that dot the Essequibo Coast. Past projects include building a centralized outdoor recreation space for families and facilitating peer tutoring groups for children affected by COVID-related school closures. They also engage with the children of Queenstown Village through storytelling and interactive activities to nurture their passion for the environment. Overall, the focus of ADVP’s projects is geared toward education and sustainability while developing meaningful and positive relationships with the local community. 

Babulall’s remigration to Guyana during the pandemic to oversee Vaksana was a humbling experience. Living in rural Guyana allowed her to witness the benefits that wellness and eco-tourism can bring to a community, but also highlighted entrenched socio-economic struggles. It heightened her senses of resilience, adaptability and empathy; all key facets she believed essential to an effective leader. She soon realized the importance of cementing Vaksana as a catalyst for positive change in the region, particularly as a safe haven for women and gender non-conforming individuals who may face discrimination.

Explain the concept behind Vaksana

“The idea of Vaksana was born out of extensive research and a deep-rooted passion for creating a transformative space that combines wellness, eco-tourism and community development. The journey began with a vision to create a place where individuals could experience holistic well-being, connect with nature and promote sustainable living.

Vaksana’s foundation is built on three essential elements: tourism, community outreach and regenerative farming/agriculture. These elements were thoughtfully chosen to ensure a holistic approach to personal growth, community empowerment and environmental stewardship. By integrating these pillars, Vaksana becomes a powerful force for positive impact, both within the retreat center and the wider community.”

Vaksana is an ode to Babulall’s Indian heritage that was originally displaced and irrevocably transformed upon arrival to the Caribbean. Like its namesake, individuals have the opportunity to reclaim and reinvigorate themselves. Future plans for Vaksana include a kitchen/restaurant alongside sustainable farming, a workshop/training facility and a multipurpose room offering wellness classes such as meditation and yoga in consultation with a behavioral psychologist and holistic therapist. Collaborations with local businesses and partnership with the University of Guyana ensures that Guyanese citizens are actively involved in every aspect of the project, providing employment opportunities and allowing them to take on leadership roles.

What is the current progress of Vaksana, and where do you hope to see the project in one year? 

“As of now, Vaksana is in an exciting phase of planning and development. We have made significant strides in securing the land and are eagerly awaiting the approval of the lease for our carefully chosen site. Our dedicated team is diligently working on the architectural design and construction plans to bring our vision to life.

In one year, we envision Vaksana having completed its initial construction phase, with the retreat center standing proudly amidst the natural beauty of Guyana. We anticipate being fully prepared to open our doors and welcome our first guests to experience the transformative journey that Vaksana offers.”

Babulall believes in transparency regarding the difficulties faced with running a non-governmental organization. She has overcome several obstacles such as limited resources and bureaucratic hurdles by seeking collaborations, leveraging available resources and engaging in open dialogue with members of the community.

When asked about the misconceptions of running an NGO, she replied, “Many NGOs actually strive for financial independence by implementing income-generating initiatives and fostering partnerships that create long-term sustainability. Another misconception is that NGOs are not as efficient or effective as for-profit organizations. In reality, NGOs often have lower administrative costs and are driven by a strong sense of purpose and commitment.” 

She also disagreed with the belief that NGOs only focus on aid/handouts and says, “Many NGOs prioritize community-driven development approaches, working with local stakeholders to identify their needs/strengths and supporting capacity-building initiatives that enable communities to thrive independently.”

By debunking these perceptions, NGOs such as ADVP can continue to attract like-minded individuals to participate in the diverse work they undertake to address social challenges and advance a more equitable future.

How would you suggest those get involved in ethical public sector/charity work?

“I would recommend starting by identifying your passions and areas of interest. Research and connect with organizations that align with your values and goals. Volunteer your time, skills or resources to make a tangible impact. Stay informed about social and environmental issues and advocate for positive change. Collaboration and learning from others in the field are also crucial for personal and professional growth.”

What is your ultimate goal and future plans for ADVP and Vaksana?

“My ultimate goal is to continue building ADVP as a leading organization in sustainable community development, promoting social and environmental justice. With Vaksana, we aim to establish a renowned wellness and eco-retreat center that serves as a model for sustainable tourism, community empowerment and holistic well-being. We envision expanding our impact, fostering collaborations and creating positive change at both local and global levels.”

Guyana’s raw and authentic lifestyle has left a profound impact on Babullal as an individual and a leader. While embarking on the Vaksana project has not been without roadblocks, she is grateful to have gained the strength to confront difficult realities head-on in hopes of creating a safe place for individuals to learn and flourish. She has found contentment in the beauty of Guyana’s lush surroundings and hopes that others find its premise rejuvenating and inspirational. 

To learn more about ADVP visit their website here or follow them on Instagram.

To donate to the Vaksana project, visit their GoFundMe page.

Featured Image: Menakshi Babulall | Photo Courtesy of Menakshi Babulall

By Priya Deonarine

Priya D. Deonarine, M.S, NCSP, is the quintessential Pisces who has been dramatically shaped by her experiences and emotions. She … Read more ›