The loss of Rights to Abortion in the US

Abortion as a human right

Today Row vs. Wade was formally overturned by the United States Supreme Court. Dividing the rights of the population in two – biological men and women – sets in train not only a loss of legislative rights but a point of bifurcation, a logic of dividing in two.

Binary division of rights

A division of the rights of bodies into two entails a logic of binary division which extends from this right to other rights and to duties thence to practices and ultimately to sites and spaces and daily schedules. If the US fought to impose the women’s right to education in Afghanistan it has ultimately lost: it not only withdrew (surrendered) but has adopted the Taliban’s own gender logic.


Rights have been differentially applied and have been unequal accessible, however this decision breaches principles of universality. In this division men also loose because the principle of universality is breached, even if the right to abortion applied directly to biologically-female bodies it shaped the contours of reproduction rights *and* practices for every member of society, biologically male and female and old and young.

Changing sex practices

Without the flexibility of ultimately having recourse to abortion, women are forced to adopt medical birth control techniques to prevent pregnancy in the first place. As these are not 100% reliable, practices will have to change by increasing precautions around sex. To prevent unwanted pregnancies amongst daughters, families will further surveil and restrict the interaction of young women and girls. Unexpected pregnancies are signaled by a feared figure: the unmarried pregnant woman and the female headed household. These are new outcasts for polite, fearful society.

The end of modernity

A dreadful division of society follows from such a division. Aspirations to universalism in all its legal and moral forms is placed in question by this decision. The erosion of human rights is a global matter, not just an American concern. It must be resisted.

-Rob Shields (Univ. of Alberta)