abortionopinionstory (1)

Illustration by Sara Nettle.

Why is it easier to get a gun than it is to get an abortion? 


A man wants to buy a gun.

After traveling hundreds of miles, he pulls up to the gun store to see crowds of protestors picketing outside. The signs they hold read “murderer.” He weaves through the aggressive protesters, his head tilted toward the pavement. He doesn’t understand why he can’t make this personal decision without the insistent, humiliating input of strangers. He knows he will always be judged for his decision to purchase a gun — a decision that will follow him for the rest of his life.

You probably get it by now, but this scenario doesn’t usually happen at gun shops. However, while abortion is as much a constitutional right as owning a gun, it is common for someone seeking an abortion to have to deal with this.

The U.S. is ironic that way, passing with gun laws that expand gun owners’ rights and abortion laws that restrict the practice. Somehow, our society has made purchasing a gun is effortless compared to the obstacles and institutionalized shame placed on a woman faced by women prior to an abortion.

Not only that, there are unspoken social restrictions around abortion. Discussing it is taboo. There’s a certain stigma when you hear the word — if you bring it up at a dinner party, watch how people cringe. The right to carry, on the other hand, is preached and praised as a constitutional right, part of the privilege of being an American.

Yet neither of these rights existed during the drafting of our Constitution — the Supreme Court, decades after, interpreted them into existence. For example, the Second Amendment wasn’t intended to give people the right to carry a concealed weapon; that was the Court’s interpretation. The Second Amendment reads, “a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

For years, citizens debated whether the reference to a well regulated Militia guaranteed the individual right to bear arms. In 2008’s District of Columbia v. Heller, the Court decided that a handgun ban in Washington, D.C., was unconstitutional, affirming an individual’s right to bear arms. This decision is not the Court’s only interpretation of the Second Amendment, but it’s the furthest interpretation from its original meaning.

The recent 43rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade reminds us that our right to choose is also guaranteed by the Constitution — something not explicitly stated, but implied through our right to privacy. And aAlthough Roe guarantees women the right to choose, lawmakers have found new and creative ways to target abortion providers, and the women who seek them, by enacting laws designed to either make getting an abortion impossible, or shame women for their choices.

“There are more places to buy a gun in this country than there are McDonald’s.”

These laws are OK because of the “undue burden” standard established in 1992 by the Court. Essentially, it makes it constitutional to construct laws that act as obstacles, as long as the obstacles aren’t too extreme. As a result, women have had to deal with mandatory waiting periods, ultrasounds, transvaginal ultrasounds, listening to fetal heartbeats and more. Beyond the laws directed at women, specific laws targeted at abortion providers have forced clinics around the country to shut down.

But a few obstacles placed in the way of purchasing a gun? Out of the question. As abortion providers continue to shut down at an alarming rate, the already outlandish number of gun providers increases every year. There are more places to buy a gun in this country than there are McDonald’s. And that doesn’t include gun shows, where you can purchase from unlicensed gun sellers who don’t have to conduct background checks and often don’t require identification.  

In Florida, the Second Amendment buttresses a slew of laws and social norms; we’re a veritable modern Wild West. You don’t need a permit or registration to purchase guns. With a permit, you can carry a concealed weapon — And Florida has issued over 900,000 such permits, surpassing even Texas. Under state law, employers cannot ban employees from bringing guns to work. We were the first state to pass a “Stand Your Ground” law, which explicitly states that a person may use any level of force if they believe they are under threat. And Most recently, our state has maintained consistent support for guns through the Florida House’s approval of a bill that would allow individuals with a concealed weapons permit to openly carry guns on public college campuses.

And If we want to keep talking about Florida, a recent proposal (HB 865) would make performing an abortion or operating an abortion clinic a first-degree felony in the state of Florida — which would be in direct violation of the ruling in Roe v. Wade. The bill is blatantly unconstitutional, and though it is not likely to become law, it passed through the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee 8-3. If similar legislation was proposed regarding guns, people would either riot in the streets or start preparing for the next zombie apocalypse.

A recent Gallup poll revealed that 19 percent of people think abortion should be illegal in all circumstances. That statistic doesn’t sound so bad, until you think about the lack of empathy 19 percent of the United States has for any woman who wishes to terminate her pregnancy. “Under all circumstances” includes rape, incest and health complications. This public opinion, combined with oppressive laws and violent protesters, creates a culture of shame. I don’t remember the last time an abortion killed a room full of school children. But in a male-driven society, what can we expect?