Women’s reproductive rights in America have been set back nearly 50 years.
On Friday, June 24, 2022, the judicial case Roe v. Wade was officially overturned by the Supreme Court of the United States. This decision came after the draft of the decision leaked to the public back in May and has been met with polarized reactions. What does a court case from 1973 have to do with women’s reproductive rights today?
This landmark case made abortion, the termination of a pregnancy by the removal of an embryo or fetus, a Constitutional right. In effect, Roe v. Wade nearly gave every woman had the right to an abortion in any state. State rules varied in how late in her term a woman was allowed to obtain an abortion, but nonetheless she still had the right to one if need be. Many ask why this right needed to be validated by the Constitution.
A Pre-Roe America
Prior to the establishment of Roe v. Wade, abortion was not a Constitutional right. Therefore, each state had the choice to decide if they would ban abortions or to which gestational week, they would allow abortions to be performed. Naturally, the number of women who needed abortions was not drastically different than in the post-Roe v. Wade era. This meant that women in states where abortion was illegal still sought ways to end their pregnancy by illicit means including self-operation. According to the Guttmacher Institute, in 1930 abortion was the official cause of death for 1/5th of the maternal deaths that year. These numbers varied year-by-year and along racial and economic lines with low-income, black, and minority women suffering disproportionately from the rest of the population. The unfortunate deaths of so many women could have been prevented if the right to abortion had been established prior to 1973. This right, however, was then successfully established when the Court debated and came to a conclusion on a heated question argued time and time again up until June 2022: Does the Constitution recognize terminating a pregnancy through abortion as a woman’s right?
The Answer: No
Nearly 50 years later, the case was overturned by the Supreme Court with a 6 to 3 vote that essentially ended the federal Constitutional right to an abortion. According to a study done by the University of Colorado Boulder, “banning abortion nationwide would lead to a 21% increase in the number of pregnancy-related deaths overall and a 33% increase among Black women.” As women continue to have unwanted pregnancies the need for abortions will not diminish; thus, there will be an increase in unsafe abortions by women in states where their right to abortion has been taken away. The Supreme Court was flooded by dissenters all wondering the same thing: How have 50% of the country’s population lost their own bodily autonomy?
So, Now What?
Abortion clinics, Planned Parenthood, and anyone who does not support the decision made on Friday are scrambling to understand what each state is going to decide for its women. A waterfall of anti-abortion legislation has now entered the scene where states across the U.S. have been anticipating and hoping for this day to come. Currently, there are 13 states with “trigger bans” that will prohibit abortion immediately or within 30 days.
For example, if a woman in Texas would like to have an abortion at 15 weeks she no longer can. Within 30 days from June 26 abortion will be fully illegal in Texas and woman need to obtain one must travel across state lines. In the case of Texas, all neighboring states – except New Mexico – also now have abortion bans. If a woman lives in Dallas, she has to travel 10+ hours to be able to access an abortion; a week ago the journey would have been 10 minutes.
Lingering Questions For America
This decision effectively means that any pregnancy — whether induced by rape or incest, or which threatens the life of the mother — cannot be terminated in close to half of U.S. states. Although it was stated by the Court that limiting travel for abortion is not Constitutionally sound, many women wonder if their state will allow them to leave for the operation or not. Additionally, the basis for this decision has the ability to impact three other monumental cases protecting same-sex intimacy, same-sex marriage, and access to contraception were established. These cases rely on the due-process clause that gives women and the LGBTQ+ community “access to privacy” as seen in the 14th Amendment. These aforementioned rights are now potentially at risk of being overturned in the similar fashion of not being protected by the Constitution.
Many women need help accessing abortions now, and this will only continue into the future which is why groups such as Planned Parenthood are explaining what one can and can’t do. There are growing lists of websites with abortion resources regarding Plan B, Plan C, how to travel to other states, and what abortions in your state mean for you. There are also funds that to which anyone can donate to help women gain safe access to abortions they need, no matter what their case may be.
A Post-Roe world has America entering new waters with regard to how the Constitution is interpreted and how the nation’s judges are perceived by its people. No one knows where this decision will lead or how it will affect the future of American rights. What we are seeing, though, is a collective female voice louder than ever before in America.