Dr. Carmen Schaye, National Women’s Political Caucus, Vice President of Diversity
As the politically divided nation approaches November midterm elections, the Supreme Court has radically transformed federal abortion laws. By officially overruling Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court has eliminated the constitutional right to abortion, making access to abortion care determined state by state. By fully overturning Roe, 26 states are likely to outlaw all abortions, home to about half the country’s population. President Biden called the Supreme Court decision the “realization of extreme ideology,” a legacy of President Trump’s appointment of three appointees vowing to overrule Roe, who were in the majority 6-3 ruling.
The ruling will have a more modest effect on what it will mean for abortion practices across the states. According to an analysis by Caitlin Myers of Middlebury College*, the projected number of abortions will fall by less than half, legal abortions will fall by around 13 percent, and the fall in illegal abortions using medication sent by mail will be even less. Abortion is already rarer in states that may outlaw abortion than in states where abortion will remain legal. Abortions in New York are 17 times as high as abortions in Missouri.
The rise of medication abortion makes it harder to regulate. More than half of abortions are conducted through medication rather than surgical procedure. Pills are relatively easily accessible online, and state laws are hard to enforce because the pills are sent by mail.
The fall of Roe will look very different for different people. The effect will likely be largest among lower income women who don’t have resources to travel, or access to doctors who can help access abortion pills, which could lead women to seek out physically dangerous methods of ending pregnancies. Black, Hispanic, and younger women who don’t have as many resources will be the most affected.
In addition, the 16 states that have fully committed to protecting abortion will be impacted by a domino effect potentially decreasing medical access to abortion, as residents of those states who offer abortion take in the overflow from other states. Residents of those states offering abortion will likely be impacted in their ability to access medical care and resources, as the incoming of residents from states that do not offer abortion affects the ability to secure timely appointments for any medical procedure. Costs for services in states that protect abortion are likely to increase, putting extra burdens on already overloaded organizations and networks. With an expanded number of people coming into states that offer abortion, we need innovative and creative solutions that will not penalize residents of states offering abortion.
Overturning Roe after almost 50 years is a radical legal change, but it will not end the political fight to end abortion. Medication abortion has made possible a strategy that didn’t exist decades ago. Advocates of abortion will continue their efforts, while abortion opponents will continue their efforts.
Now more than ever we must confront this legal challenge to our rights and privacy by demanding our elected representatives protect a woman’s right to choose her own healthcare decisions. Undermining women’s legal rights to divide the nation politically paves the path to undermining rights for everybody. Controlling reproductive health leads to controlling other aspects of life and privacy. The pre-Roe years included rampant misogyny, sexual harassment, and gender inequality as cultural norms, where young women were expected to move from their father’s house to their husband’s, drastically limiting our freedom, autonomy, and career opportunities. *
As in the United States Civil War of 1861-1865, powerful interests have pitted state against state, neighbor against neighbor, family member against family member, resulting in political division of the electorate. To stop this undermining potentially leading to a catastrophic crisis in women’s civil rights, for the November midterm elections, we need solidarity with freedom fighters organizing to vote for innovative candidates in Congress and the Senate. We need to elect effective pro-choice women and pro-choice candidates who will promote and support a woman’s right to choose across the nation.
We need to demand from candidates what specifically they plan to do to ensure every woman has access to uninterrupted abortion services. What must states do to ensure that all women have access to medical services and abortion? With the increased likelihood of a recession, increased income inequality, and potentially increased lack of access to medical care across the states, we need to ask candidates specifically how their plan solves these problems specific to their state, and how it promotes a federal resolution. By demanding answers from candidates, the November midterm elections hold the opportunity to elect legislators to initiate innovative constructs that unify the electorate around women’s freedom and equality. Most important is that all women vote in the November election and vote for Pro Choice candidates – Protect a Woman’s Right to Choose.
*Myers, Caitlin Knowles (2017). The Power of Abortion Policy: Reexamining the Effects of Young Women’s Access to Reproductive Control. Journal of Political Economy, volume 125 (Number 6).
*Jong-Fast, Molly (2022). What My Mom Told Me About America Before Roe. The Atlantic, June 22, 2022.
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