Opinion: Roe v Wade Isn’t Just America’s Problem

Opinion: Roe v Wade Isn’t Just America’s Problem

On June 24th, the conservative Catholic-dominated United States Supreme court overturned Roe v Wade, a landmark 1973 case which guaranteed the constitutional right to an abortion. The decision was met with pushback and protest, and rightfully so. Solidarity protests are being held across the globe, and social media has been inundated with messages of support for women across the US who have now lost their right to bodily autonomy and the ability to make their own decisions. 

Here in Aotearoa, we have been watching this unfold for a few weeks now. But we have a problem. And that problem is that while we can offer our support and solidarity, there remains an attitude amongst some that this is just another one of ‘America’s’ problems that doesn’t apply to us, and that ‘Jacinda should mind her own damn business’. This attitude is concerning for a variety of reasons: complacency can lead to control, and injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. 

Abortion remains a heated political debate, and was only decriminalised here in Aotearoa in 2020, so the legislation surrounding it is fairly new. Alongside this, there are members of Parliament who have expressed pro-life, conservative stances towards the issue. These politicians could very well form our next government, reinforcing the fact that next year's election is not something to take lightly. Alongside this, there is also a cultural trend that has historically demonstrated that whatever happens in the States will generally make its way to our own country. For example, extremist protests and conspiracy started cropping up here shortly after people saw how well it worked for Americans. America has a global influence when it comes to social and political culture, and that influence can spread into the crevasses of Aotearoa often without us realising. 

Aotearoa often can seem like a little bubble at the bottom of the earth, far removed from the crises and chaos that occur overseas. As Kiwis, it’s easy to find ourselves shrugging off the goings on ‘over there’ because everything here is fine, and it doesn’t seem relevant to us. Some may shrug their shoulders because we have a female Prime Minister, so therefore, respect and equality for women must exist, right? Or, some may think that no matter who is in power, things are usually pretty okay because we don’t have a nutcase like Trump or Putin in charge (yet). Aotearoa’s politics, for the most part, have indeed been relatively centrist, nowhere near as polarising as the political climate in the US. But American politics do not exist in a vacuum. 

Just look at the 2016 presidential election. We watched from afar as Donald Trump was elected in all his misogynistic glory. Down here in the southern hemisphere, we thought it was shocking, but also a bit of a funny joke that a washed-up right wing reality TV star had become the leader of the free world. But again, wasn’t that just America being America? So, many laughed it off and trivialised it as the problem ‘over there’. We were at first entertained by how stupid America was, then recoiled as we watched the long-term effects of Trump’s disastrous turn at the wheel. After all, Trump and Mitch McConnell appointed the current Supreme Court Justices. 

From there on out, we witnessed the exponential rise of the far right, whose rampant racism, misogyny and public disruption were not adequately acknowledged or condemned by the Trump administration. Then came the Covid pandemic, fueling a new wave of conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers, who were the first to get up in arms at the government for making decisions about their bodily autonomy. We saw mandate protests break out, and troubling discourses surrounding false information and conspiracy circulating in American society. Then, it all made its way here. 

The anti-vaxxer protests which took place on Parliament lawn mirrored exactly what had occured in the US, with some protestors even sporting Trump flags. We have seen political parties become more polarised. People don’t just dislike Jacinda, they fucking hate her. The once centre-right National Party which catered to business owners and agricultural workers is now, in my opinion, moving further to the right. It is apparent that there is a concerning crossover between religion and politics, with the likes of leader Chris Luxon actively sharing his religious views which clearly influence his conservative political stance, as he is openly pro-life. There was also National’s Simon O’Connor, who posted “today is a good day,” right after Roe v Wade was overturned. They’re entitled to their free speech and the freedom to practise religious beliefs, and Luxon may have made placating promises that National will uphold the 2020 legislation, but so did the current Supreme Court Justices. 

The bottom line is: overturning Roe v Wade will impact Aotearoa, and we need to be careful and conscious about this. What happens politically and culturally in the US will eventually trickle its way down here, and that isn’t necessarily a good thing. 

A grand total of 0 people voted for the current Supreme Court Justices, but you can vote for the future leaders of Aotearoa. And you need to.

This article first appeared in Issue 15, 2022.
Posted 5:07pm Sunday 17th July 2022 by Annabelle Vaughan.