Believing that women should have complete autonomy over their own bodies shouldn’t be a controversial thing to believe or voice support in. But in the United States, legislation surrounding reproductive rights continues to surface again and again, with some states eager to outlaw the practice entirely, and others seeking to only allow it in extremely specific circumstances.
Roe vs. Wade, the landmark 1973 legislation, has always protected abortion rights even as states contort themselves to find ways around them. After a leaked opinion from the Supreme Court showed it was likely to be overturned in the very near future, abortion could soon be outlawed in multiple states across the USA.
It’s immoral, disgusting, and just plain wrong, with elderly, privileged men using outdated religious beliefs (itself unconstitutional, given the idea of the separation of Church and State) and passages in the Constitution to enact control over women's bodies. Taking agency away from who we are as human beings is barbaric, and a direct route to a dystopian vision of the future.
Very plausible and, sadly, common scenarios like contraception going wrong or sexual assaults that result in pregnancy are overlooked in favour of this false righteousness. Those who don’t wish to raise children or simply aren’t in a place to are forced to find a way to terminate or ruin their lives in the process. The US has one of the worst maternal mortality rates, the lowest maternity leave options, and highest healthcare costs in the western world, yet it is forcing women through dangerous and expensive pregnancies in the name of religious righteousness. Outlawing abortions doesn’t stop people seeking them out, it just makes the act of doing so more dangerous and damaging to those who will.
The leaked decision by the Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs. Wade is a direct attack on freedom in America that so many politicians claim they stand for, an attack on human rights in a country where healthcare is already both prohibitively expensive and ludicrously sub-par. Instead of moving forward, we’re lurching backwards with our only hope being to vote and fight back. Biden urging us to speak up is rich too; your supporters won you the administration over Trump, now start delivering on your promises.
Gaming studios have embraced politics before, but often only in the most populist ways. You will still get detractors when you put Pride flags in your game or tweet that Black Lives Matter, but most of the pushback is from trolls. With abortion rights, the issue is less clear, and that’s why we’ve only seen one solitary triple-A studio brave enough to stand up and be counted. Bungie published a blog post earlier this week making its stance on the issue abundantly clear, and has called out its own playerbase for trivialising the Supreme Court opinion. In its view, not using its platform to speak up against it would be irresponsible. The clear-cut language in its post is admirable, the opening sentence immediately providing context and condemning the overturning so even those unfamiliar with the situation can grasp what’s going on.
It’s refreshing to see a triple-A studio be so firm and immediate in its stance on such an issue. Normally you’d see publishers and developers remain silent, wanting to remain neutral to ensure it keeps on appealing to all audiences. Eventually we might get a single slogan, one which seems to lend support for whichever group is affected but with enough deniability to lean away from politicising the issue. Few of those who glibly tweeted ‘Black Lives Matter’ had anything to say about the negative portrayals of Black people in their own media, or in the institutionalised racism and police brutality which frames the race relations politics of America. Politics and video games have a controversial past together, with ill-informed fools often asking studios to stick to their medium instead of involving themselves in issues that shouldn’t concern them.
But they do, and neglecting their platform and a chance to do the right thing just feels wrong to me.
This goes beyond shutting out toxic idiots seeking to harass minorities, it speaks to a decision that affects everyone whether they realise it or not. Chances are you know someone who has been through an abortion, or connected to them in some way where having access to such treatment made their lives easier. Imagine not having that and needing to find some other way to save yourself because your country doesn’t believe you deserve that level of personal autonomy.
This is not just an issue which affects women. Trans men and non-binary people are also included in the erosion of Roe vs. Wade, but more than that, this is not a single issue. The wind has been blowing in this direction for a long time. This is all part of a pattern which has also seen anti-trans sentiments rise in the US and the UK, that has seen Nazis walk the streets with tiki torches, that has seen a President campaign on a Ronald Reagan slogan while calling Mexicans “rapists and drug dealers” and brag about grabbing women by the pussy, and then still be elected.
Republicans will outlaw abortion, but will they take responsibility for those hurt seeking an alternate solution or the children brought into this world as a consequence? Of course they won’t, and Bungie understands this.
We’re so used to political apathy in this industry. A number of publishers, developers, and notable individuals continue to stand up for LGBTQ+ rights and Black Lives Matter, but these issues often result in a concrete divide that is easier to recognise. Roe vs. Wade is different, with even one of the judges in the Supreme Court choosing to abstain entirely from the vote to overrule. Our lives will always be shaped by political circumstance and failing to accept that is a recognition of both your own privilege and an unwillingness to change things for the better. Bungie wants to fight for what’s right, as should other companies, as should we as people caught up in all the bullshit. Do what you can, and cheer on those brave enough to put aside their commercial viability in favour of hoping to make the world a better place.
To reflect Bungie’s blog post, here are some charities you can donate to that support full rights to healthcare:
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