In light of the leaked SCOTUS majority opinion draft that was published by Politico a few weeks ago, which essentially declares the overturning of Roe v. Wade, I couldn’t sit silent and not address this. A few years ago, I vividly remember discussing with others that a women’s right to choose could become a lot more complicated. Some disagreed with me and said that Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, (a 1992 decision that upheld Roe) were “settled law”. If Roe is overturned, it means the Supreme Court is saying that the decision should be left up to each individual state, undoing 49 years of a federal constitutional protection that women in the U.S. had.
The case that is front and center, which the Supreme Court has yet to officially rule on, is Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. If they rule against Mississippis’ last abortion clinic, they will be overturning Roe, a decision that will have disastrous consequences. Even though it’s 2022, it feels like we’ve stepped into a time machine and gone to a much darker place in terms of women’s reproductive rights.
I’m lucky enough to live in a state that values women’s healthcare, rights, and privacy. But sadly, not everyone lives in a place that feels that way. Certain states want to take control of a woman’s body and tell her what she can and can’t do. In fact, 26 states want to ban abortion, some, even in cases of rape and incest. 13 states have “trigger laws” meaning that as soon as the Supreme Court overturns Roe, abortion would become illegal. Nine states have pre-Roe abortion bans which could make abortion illegal. Then, there are states with Constitutional protections, but abortion rights are still at risk due to the hostile political climate.
Many states have already imposed hurdles to make terminating a pregnancy more difficult. They’ve added biased counseling, forced ultrasounds, unnecessary waiting periods, and closed down multiple clinics so women have to drive far or out of state. Some states also have TRAP laws which requires abortion service providers to maintain unnecessary licensing and hospital privileges. When access to having an abortion is limited, there are serious economical consequences like an increase in experiencing poverty, unemployment, lack of further education, and dependence on public assistance programs.
Texas and Alabama are prime examples of what could come if SCOTUS overturns Roe. Texas just passed a Senate Bill 8 (SB8) which forbids an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy (when most women don’t know they’re pregnant). In Alabama, the Human Life Protection Act bans nearly all abortions and makes it a Class A felony for any doctor that preforms the procedure. Both bills have no exceptions for rape, incest, or fetal anomaly diagnoses.
A women’s right to choose
On January 22, 1973, the landmark decision Roe v. Wade was issued when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Texas statute that banned abortion. This made the procedure legal in the United States. The court held that a woman has the right to privacy, which is protected by the 14th Amendment in the Constitution. Before 1973, abortion was illegal throughout most of the country.
Reproductive rights timeline
Here is a timeline that highlights the history of reproductive rights in the U.S. (You can read the full events here.)
- 1820s and 1830s—Risky (and often fatal) drugs are used to induce abortions. Even though they are dangerous, they are still advertised and commonly used.
- Late 1850s—The American Medical Association calls for criminalizing abortions. The reason for this is to stamp out doctors’ adversaries, like midwives.
- 1869—The Catholic Church bans abortion at any stage of pregnancy.
- 1873—After congress passes the Comstock law, it becomes illegal to mail abortion-inducing drugs and contraceptives in the U.S.
- 1880s—Abortion is banned in most of the U.S.
- 1950s – 1960s—The estimate of “back alley” or self-induced abortions in the U.S. is anywhere from 200,000 to 1.2 million per year, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
- 1960s—A pivotal time for women’s rights. Various court cases involving contraceptives lay the framework for Roe v. Wade.
- 1965—The Supreme Court strikes down a law that prohibits the distribution of birth control to married couples, ruling that it infringes on their right to privacy under the Constitution.
- 1967—Hawaii becomes the first state to legalize abortion, but only for its residents. Later that year, New York follows, but for anyone seeking an abortion.
- 1970—A Texas district court rules that the state’s ban on abortion is illegal because it violates a constitutional right to privacy laying the framework for Roe v. Wade.
- 1973—On January 22, 1973 the Supreme Court, in a 7-2 decision, strikes down the Texas law that bans abortion, which legalizes the procedure nationwide. In the majority opinion written by Justice, Harry Blackmun, the court states that a women’s right to an abortion is implicit in the right to privacy, which is protected by the 14th Amendment.
- The court divides pregnancy into three trimesters, establishing laws for each. In the first, a woman has the right to end her pregnancy. In the second, the government can regulate abortion but not ban it if the mother’s health is at risk. In the third, the state can prohibit abortion if the fetus can survive on its own outside the womb (unless the mother’s health is in danger).
- 1992—In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the court upholds the key ruling of Roe v. Wade but authorizes states to pass more restraints on abortion as long as they don’t cause an “undue burden.”
- 2022—The Supreme Court agrees to hear Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, regarding the constitutionality of the Mississippi law outlawing most abortions after 15 weeks. The case directly challenges Roe v. Wade.
- 2022—On May 2, 2022 Politico publishes a 98 page leaked majority opinion draft penned by Justice Alito regarding the upcoming case Dobbs v. Jackson. In it, he writes “we hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled.” (Here are some of the key passages.) The draft is confirmed to be authentic by Chief Justice Roberts.
- 2022—The official ruling in the case is expected to happen in late June or early July.
Abortion Statistics in the United States
According to Guttmacher Institute, here are some statistics from their 2019 fact sheet.
- 18% of pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) ended in abortion.
- About one in four (24%) of women will have an abortion by the time they’re 45 years old.
- Approximately 862,320 abortions were performed in 2017, which was down 7% from 2014.
- As of September 2019, 29 states were considered hostile towards abortion-rights. In those states, 58% of women that are of reproductive age (nearly 40 million) lived in those states. There were 14 states that were considered supportive of abortion-rights, where 24 million women of reproductive age (35%) lived.
- Adolescents made up 12%: Patients aged 15-17 made up 3%, patients aged 18-19 made up 8%, and those younger than 15 accounted for 0.2%.
- More than half of U.S. abortion patients were in their 20s: Patients aged 20-24 made up 34%, and patients aged 25-29 made up 27%.
- White patients accounted for 39% of abortion procedures, Black patients for 28%, Hispanic patients for 25%, and other races and ethnicities for 9%.
- Some 75% of abortion patients were poor (having an income below the federal poverty level for a family of two), or low-income (having an income of 100-199% of the federal poverty level).
- 38% of those who had an abortion reported no religious affiliation, 24% identified as being Catholic, 17% identified as mainline Protestant, 13% identified as evangelical Protestant, and 8% reported some other affiliation.
- 51% of abortion patients used a contraceptive method in the month they became pregnant. The most common were condoms (24%) followed by a short-acting hormonal method (13%).
- 72% of clients obtained abortions up to 12 weeks’ gestation, 25% up to 20 weeks, and 10% up to 24 weeks.
- Two-thirds of abortions occurred at eight weeks of pregnancy or earlier. 88% occurred in the first 12 weeks.
- In 2000, the FDA approved the drug Mifeprex (mifepristone) to be marketed in the U.S. for nonsurgical abortion. Currently, it is provided for up to 10 weeks’ gestation.
- In 2018, a committee of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine affirmed that abortion is safe and effective.
- The U.S. and UK governments have determined that there is no association between abortion and breast cancer or that having an abortion is a risk factor for other cancers.
- The Hyde Amendment currently prohibits the use of federal funds for abortion coverage for anyone enrolled in Medicaid, which is the U.S.’s main public health insurance for low-income individuals. States, however, may use their own non-federal funds. Fifteen states have a policy that obligates the state to provide abortion coverage under Medicaid.
- There are other federal programs that refuse abortion care or coverage to Native Americans, prison inmates, low-income individuals in the District of Columbia, people with disabilities, military personnel, and federal employees.
- Greater distance to abortion facilities put an increased burden on the patient. Some of these are out-of-pocket costs associated with travel, including lodging, food, and child care. Then, there are factors like delayed care, lost wages, and difficulty getting to the facility.
- If Roe v. Wade is overturned or weakened, the increases in travel distance (the average being 97 miles) would restrict anywhere from 93,500 to 143,500 women from accessing abortion care each year.
Who and what will they come for next?
Whether you yourself agree (or disagree) with a women’s right to choose, years of legal cases and rulings have brought us to where we are today. For anyone who thinks that “this doesn’t affect me” couldn’t be more wrong. If SCOTUS can set aside a landmark decision enacted 49 years ago, who and what will they target next? Judge Alito, the author of the draft opinion, said “what sharply distinguishes the abortion right from the rights recognized in the cases on which Roe and Casey rely” is “the critical moral question posed by abortion.” Well, some people use term moral as a way to justify their discriminatory stance on same sex marriage, racial justice, discrimination in the workplace, equal pay, I could go on and on. Should we expect those laws to soon be overturned and sent back to the states?
Christian conservatism has no place in the government
I see women all over social media who voiced their support for Trump and now they’re outraged at the thought of their rights being taken away and the government having control over their bodies. I’m honestly confused by this. Trump promised during his campaign to put pro-life justices on the Supreme Court and he choose three Christian conservatives. What did they expect? Even though we all knew (or should have known) the main reason they were chosen by him was their pro-life stance. During each of their confirmation hearings, they were asked about Roe and said what they had to say to get confirmed. Not one of them said the decision should be overturned.
The first to be nominated was Neil Gorsuch. During his confirmation hearing, he said he “would have walked out the door” if Trump asked him to overturn it. He also said, it is the “anchor of law,” and “a good judge will consider it as precedent of the U.S. Supreme Court worthy as treatment of precedent like any other.”
Next was Brett Kavanaugh. He stated, that “It is settled as a precedent of the Supreme Court, entitled the respect under principles of stare decisis.” Also, “The Supreme Court has recognized the right to abortion since the 1973 Roe v. Wade case. It has reaffirmed it many times.”
After Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away, Amy Coney Barrett was nominated to fill her seat. One of her statements that really stood out, simply for the blatant lie she told millions of Americans, ”Judges can’t just wake up one day and say I have an agenda—I like guns, I hate guns, I like abortion, I hate abortion—and walk in like a royal queen and impose their will on the world.” Unfortunately, many people believed her.
I’ll leave you with this
When I committed to writing this post, I made a point to include as many facts as I could. As you can see from the outlined statistics, women of all ages, races, income levels, and religious beliefs can find themselves in the position of wanting to terminate a pregnancy. I would assume for most, this isn’t an easy thing to face and the government has no right to make it even harder. The decision should lie between a woman and her doctor with her constitutional right to privacy protected under the 14th Amendment. If you take that away, you’re stripping away a woman’s freedom. The freedom to choose to terminate a pregnancy because of a sexual assault. The freedom to have an abortion because her child will be born with a medical anomaly. The freedom to choose to have children when she and her family are financially secure. The freedom to choose not to bring a child into this world because she’s severely depressed or addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. And lastly, the freedom to choose when and if she wants to have a child at all. No matter what the reason is, it’s none of my (or your) business.
Right now, it’s a scary time for women’s rights but there are things that we can do. As the midterms approach, first make sure you’re registered to vote. Then, educate yourself on which candidates in your state are pro-choice. On November 8th, no matter your political affiliation, vote for the candidates that value women.
- Hey Jane—Order abortion pills online and get them delivered to your home.
- Women’s March—Support women.
- Center for Reproductive Rights—A global human rights organization.
- Misoprostol—Order the pill online via Amazon’s pharmacy.
- Planned Parenthood—Confused About How to Get an Abortion? We’re Here For You.
- Plan B—Information about the “morning after pill” and where you can find it.
- ACLU—Six ways you can fight for abortion rights.
- I Need An A—A directory on where to find an abortion provider.
- Planned Parenthood—You can order birth control from their app.
- Guttmacher Institute—Sexual health and research policy organization.
Cover photo: Women’s March 2017 in Los Angeles, CA.