Sarah Bauman: With the end of Roe, life as we know it is on the chopping block

What were once private decisions are now fair game for police and prosecutors.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Protesters gather at the Utah Capitol for a “Bans Off Our Beehive” rally in support of abortion rights on Saturday, May 14, 2022.

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, I am – like so many people across the country and the world – reeling with sadness and anger. This decision not only ripped away reproductive rights and access to health care, but also the right to privacy.

Suddenly, reproductive activity and decisions once deeply private are in the public domain to judge, distort and criminalize. And when the right to privacy is gone, we no longer live in the land of the free. We (women and transgender people who can become pregnant) are now second-class citizens. Our right to privacy and protection against discrimination has been taken away.

We now live in a world, in the state of Utah in the year 2022, where our government and its law enforcement have the authority to examine what transpires on a personal level – our menstrual cycles (or lack thereof), the medications we take, and the medical advice we seek. And it won’t stop there.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill stated, “As is my duty as an elected prosecutor and representative of Salt Lake County, I will enforce the laws of the state of Utah faithfully.”

What does this mean in real terms? I don’t think anyone has a clear answer to that, but we can say with certainty that to enforce the laws triggered by this ruling, there will be investigations and there will be prosecutions. What was an autonomous decision between a person, their family, and a health care provider is now fair game for our law enforcement and the district attorney’s office.

Imagine a person — or, even better, imagine yourself — facing a decision about your reproductive health. You can imagine this despite your gender or sexual orientation. If the pregnancy ended (for whatever reason), imagine your medical records subpoenaed by the district attorney’s office. And your phone. And the calendar you used to track your monthly cycle. Imagine being interrogated by law enforcement – you, your partner, medical providers and family members. Or the very real possibility of jail time. Please let that sink in.

Furthermore, our criminal justice system is overburdened and under-funded. Thrusting innocent people (i.e., those seeking medical care and their medical providers) into that system is bad morally and bad for the entire system, and we all pay for that.

In 2011, I served on a City Council in Moab that passed an ordinance regarding unlawful discrimination in employment practices based on sexual orientation or gender identity. This ordinance was furthering protections for people to create a safer city for everyone.

Considering the latest ruling by the Supreme Court and the Utah trigger law, a person’s pregnancy or pregnancy-related condition is no longer their business to be protected. It is fair game for not only discrimination, but criminal charges. The safety of the anti-discrimination act is gone, the right to privacy related to reproductive health is gone and, with it, the privacy we have relied upon for all our medical conditions. The implications of this are staggering.

And what is next to go? Access to contraception? Or the right to same-sex marriage, or privacy in the bedroom. Is this far-fetched? I wish it were. But just read the comments made by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas suggesting that the court re-examine precedents (and “correct errors”) in cases related to birth control and same-sex marriage, putting at risk settled law related to privacy, due process and equal protection rights.

We have been comforted in the past by the action of the highest court in the nation to solidify our rights under the Constitution, but a majority of these justices are advancing an agenda aimed at undoing settled law specific to the rights of women, LGBTQ communities and our privacy. This is frightening and (make no mistake) it affects every single person living in this country.

If we care so much about the sanctity of life – if that is truly the argument – then why don’t we extend that to all the life forms (e.g., birds, animals, insects) that are disappearing at alarming rates here in Utah, and around the world. Instead of working to save life around us, the human race, and our planet, our government will spend its resources invading the most intimate moments in our lives to determine if there was a pregnancy and, if so, why that pregnancy ended. And soon – yes, this is not out of the realm of possibility – our government (that we all pay for) may be spending resources to prevent people from accessing contraception or from choosing who they have sex with and marry. And who knows what will happen beyond that.

Without a respect for settled law regarding individual privacy and the rights of women and LGBTQ communities, life as we know it is on the chopping block.

Sarah Bauman

Sarah Bauman, Millcreek, served on the Moab City Council from 2008 to 2011.