The Supreme Court Stuck Down Roe v. Wade. Here’s What Happens Now
Once considered a conservative pipe dream, a Friday ruling from the Supreme Court ended constitutionally guaranteed access to an abortion. The 6-to-3 decision struck down Roe v. Wade, which protected abortion access across the entire country for nearly 50 years.
Here’s what happens now.
Laws Will Be Set By States—And Abortion Is Now Illegal in Many of Them
While safe abortion access enjoys widespread support from voters, conservative domination of many state governments and the convoluted politics of the Senate mean many Americans will be without safe access to abortion.
Thirteen Republican-led state governments have been at work passing “trigger” bans, restrictive abortion laws in anticipation of a ruling that ends Roe. In three states, South Dakota, Louisiana, and Kentucky, those laws go into effect immediately. Literally overnight, millions of residents have lost the right to an abortion—and in weeks, it’ll be tens of millions more. Thirty days from now, similar bans are set to take effect in Tennessee, Idaho, and Texas. (The other trigger law states simply await confirmation from a designated official before gaining force.)
On the other side, blue states have taken action to codify the rigtht to an abortion as law in place of federal protections.
This Will Hurt Many People—Poor Women in Conservative States Most of All
The research is unambiguous that abortion bans harm women: Unwanted pregnancy is associated with poor physical and mental health and lower life satisfaction.
Around half of women of childbearing age live in states posed to roll back abortion rights. Collectively, the women living in those states are more likely to be experiencing poverty than the states where protections aren’t threatened. Poor women will also have a harder time accessing care where it is legal; with clusters of states passing restrictions, a legal abortion might be a plane ride away. For example, a pregnant person in Louisiana will have to travel more than 600 miles to reach a provider.
It seems likely that women seeking abortions who can afford to will travel to receive care, and corporate executives have begun to announce that their companies will fund trips for employees working in states with bans to states where abortion remains legal for the procedure. This is obviously not an ideal solution: The percentage of the US workforce employed by those companies is small, and corporate-sanctioned abortion trips raise a whole host of questions around privacy. As David Plouffe, a former Obama Administration adviser, pointed out, “How fucked up is it that women will now have to file expense reports to their colleagues for their abortion?”
There Are Already New Legal Fights Brewing
The most common way to get an abortion these days is with oral medication, which is safe and FDA-approved for self-administration at up to 10 weeks. Medication abortions will almost certainly be considered illegal in states banning abortion, but it’s not yet clear whether access to the pills through out-of-state telemedicine will be impossible. Attorney general Merrick Garland was quick to contend that FDA-approved medications could not be banned by individual states.
In liberal justictions of conservitive states, progressive prosecutors have indicated that they won’t prosecute residents for getting an abortion, potentially setting up inter-state legal fights.
It is also possible that conservative states seem likely to try to ban travel for abortions in places where they are legal, potetntially a question of constitutional law that will be settled by the same court that struck down Roe.
Other Basic Rights Are At Risk
In a concurring opinion to the decisions overturning Roe, Justice Clarence Thomas argued that the court “should reconsider” other decisions with similar logic to Roe v. Wade, specifically naming three existing court rulings which guarantee married couples access to contraception, same-sex marriage, and ensure the legality of same-sex sexual activities.
The majority opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, seemed to indicate that rulings with similar arguments to Roe aren’t threatened by the court’s recent decision. Of course, Alito earlier contended that earlier decisions on abortion rights did not have any bearing on Roe.