OPINION | My body, Louisiana’s choice

Kaitlin Lowe, Contributing Columnist

With the tightening of abortion laws, bodily autonomy in Louisiana only applies to COVID-19 measures. (Maggie Pasterz)

Texas recently signed a law that outlaws abortion after six weeks into a pregnancy. This is before many women even know they are pregnant. As other Southern states like Florida debate similar restrictions, many women fear being stripped of their right to choose. With Louisiana clinics already experiencing an influx of Texas abortion seekers, the matter will surely be under heat in Louisiana legislature amidst pandemic health concerns

The reproductive rights of many in Louisiana are already under pressure, as 94% of its counties, and 74% of its women do not have access to abortion clinics. The three standing clinics are located in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Shreveport. While New Orleans is lucky to have a clinic, it is increasingly difficult to access abortion throughout the state. 

Louisiana found itself in a legal battle recently with the Center for Reproductive Rights. The state moved to outlaw all abortion practices with the rise of COVID-19 cases, stating that “elective abortions are not essential procedures.” 

Louisiana abortion legislation was also struck down in the Supreme Court of the United Stated when trying to pass a law that mandated doctors to counsel women seeking abortions and encourage them to have the child even if they already took an abortion pill. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court decided there was insufficient research to fuel the possibility of this claim. 

Anti-abortion groups believe that outlawing abortions or making them unavailable to this degree will “save lives.” In reality, it just eliminates the professional, safe options for handling this essential service. The option is necessary healthcare for victims of rape, incest, medical emergencies or those with incapability to endure child birth or to provide a stable home. 

Underground and unprofessional abortions are unsanitary, unsafe and life threatening to women. Not to mention, abortions not performed by a physician in Louisiana carry a ten-year jail sentence.

As Louisiana so heavily regulates abortions, it poses questions to many as to why they do not oversee other health concerns in the state as stringently. Why is Louisiana so strong in its endeavors to protect an unborn fetus, yet is failing to save the lives of many from the deadly Coronavirus? 

During the most recent surge in COVID-19 cases in the state, as Hurricane Ida traversed through Louisiana, 2,500 patients remained in intensive care units ill with COVID-19. Louisiana ranks third in deaths per capita with nearly 13,000 lives lost and over 700,000 cases since the start of the pandemic.  

Even with these staggering numbers, the vaccination rate of Louisiana is dangerously low — among the lowest in the nation with only 45% of the eligible population fully vaccinated. The death toll in children has risen to stark numbers, and doctors report that each of these children have an unvaccinated parent at home. 

The most recent dashboard reports that 87% of those hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated and that over 81% of those who died from COVID-19 in recent weeks were also unvaccinated. 

The debate relating the two issues of freedom to choose to have an abortion and the freedom to choose to vaccinate oneself and one’s children sparked protests across the nation. Conservative advocates and state legislatures willingly express that getting the vaccine is their choice as a medical option. Some echo the statement “my body, my choice,” but reject the concept when it comes to abortions.  

Getting an abortion and receiving a vaccine are entirely dissimilar actions. Abortion is a medical decision that impacts only one life, that being the woman. Getting a vaccine affects the health conditions of not just oneself, but others and the general public. 

Louisiana refuses to differentiate the importance of both actions as the healthcare system fails. Lawmakers make strong efforts towards restricting abortion access, while not stressing the importance of getting vaccinated. The state’s COVID-19 death toll nears 14,000, and the number of cases nears 750,000. If Louisiana is holding these facts in their hands and knows how many lives are at stake, then why are they not doing better?