The U.S. Supreme Court said Friday it would strike down the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in the United States. The highest court in the land announced the ruling on a case brought by Mississippi that seeks to ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Some 13 U.S. states have “trigger laws” to immediately ban abortion in those states.
“The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion; Roe and Casey are overruled; and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives,” the court wrote. Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority opinion that overturned Roe v. Wade in a 6-3 decision. It will now be up to each U.S. state to set their own laws on abortion access.
Abortion laws already vary by state. Some states require abortion seekers to wait a minimum time period between in-person counseling and their procedure, a measure that proponents argue is necessary to ensure that women are 100% sure they want to go ahead with a procedure. Opponents say waiting has shown to lead to riskier second-trimester abortions.
“Most states restrict abortion at a specific point during pregnancy, which normally lasts 40 weeks since the last menstrual period (LMP). In recent years, however, some state policymakers have attempted to provoke a Supreme Court challenge by banning abortion before viability,” the Guttmacher Institute, a public health think tank that supports abortion access, said.
“‘Millions of people would have to travel hundreds of miles to receive abortion care, with the average distance increasing from 25 miles to an estimated 125 miles. ‘”
— Rebecca Reingold and Lawrence Gostin from Georgetown University
Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming have laws that are set to “trigger” a ban on abortion now that the ruling is overturned. Meanwhile, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Wisconsin have laws banning abortion that predate and/or post-date Roe v. Wade.
Many Republican states have focused on the regulation of clinics to limit abortion access. Some 23 states have laws or policies that regulate abortion providers, all of which apply to clinics that perform surgical abortion, while 13 states have regulations applying to physicians’ offices where abortions are performed, Guttmacher added. In total, 26 states will quickly move to ban abortion, it said.
Regulations already imposed on both clinics and people who provide abortions include specifications dictating the size of an abortion-procedure room or a facility’s distance from a hospital, and requirements for an abortion provider’s certifications or hospital affiliations. Critics of such regulations argue that they go beyond necessary patient-safety measures.
C. Nicole Mason, President and CEO of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a nonprofit that supports abortions rights, said numerous state legislatures stand ready to ban abortion outright, “leaving women in those states — especially low-income women and women of color — without access to this most basic of reproductive health services.”
Low-income women will bear the brunt of Roe v. Wade ruling being overturned, as they will be least able to travel to seek an abortion if they live in a state where access to abortion is restricted, observers say. Roughly half of women who have abortions live below the federal poverty level, with 75% of them being classified as low income, up from 27% in 2000.
“Now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned, 26 states will move to quickly move to ban abortion, while 13 of those states are set to ‘trigger’ a ban on abortion now that the ruling is overturned.”
Liberal states are enhancing abortion rights, according to Rebecca Reingold, an associate director with the Health and Human Rights Initiative at the O’Neill Institute at Georgetown University, and Lawrence Gostin, a law professor specializing in public-health law at Georgetown, who wrote a paper, “Implications for Abortion Access,” in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Citing data from the Guttmacher Institute, they estimate that 58% of women of childbearing potential — roughly 40 million — will lose the right to abortion. “Millions of people would have to travel hundreds of miles to receive abortion care, with the average distance increasing from 25 miles to an estimated 125 miles. The percentage of people living more than 200 miles away from an abortion clinic would increase from 1% to an estimated 29%.”
“Historically, state officials have enforced abortion restrictions. However, Texas, Idaho, and Oklahoma recently authorized citizen enforcement. Texas and Oklahoma laws apply to anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion, including health care workers, family members, or ride-share drivers,” they wrote.
“Oklahoma’s law applies to anyone paying for, or reimbursing, abortions ‘through insurance or otherwise.’ This could make charitable donations for abortion services unlawful,” they added. “Traditionally, abortion laws are not enforced against pregnant individuals, but some prosecutors have charged people who self-induce abortion with crimes of manslaughter and fetal homicide.”
Different opinions on abortion
Last month, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, a Republican, signed into law the country’s most severe abortion ban, effectively banning abortion in that state, except in the case where the life of the mother is at risk — in the case, for example, of an ectopic pregnancy where the fertilized egg is implanted outside the uterus — or the pregnancy was the result of a rape or incest as reported to law enforcement.
“I promised Oklahomans that as governor I would sign every piece of pro-life legislation that came across my desk and I am proud to keep that promise today,” he said in a statement. “From the moment life begins at conception is when we have a responsibility as human beings to do everything we can to protect that baby’s life and the life of the mother.”
The anti-abortion group National Right to Life acknowledges that financial considerations are a factor for women seeking abortions, but says that’s not a reason for a termination. Republican lawmakers say they oppose “taxpayer-funded abortion,” and anti-abortion groups say the unborn have a right to life on moral and religious grounds.
Some abortion opponents believe abortion is wrong under any circumstances, while others believe it can be acceptable in cases of rape, incest or in cases when a woman’s life is at risk. Focus on the Family, a Christian ministry based in Colorado, says life begins at conception, and equates the protection of the unborn to the protection of the physically and mentally challenged.
“The anti-abortion group National Right to Life acknowledges that financial considerations are a factor for women seeking abortions, but says that’s not a reason for a termination.”
Politicians’ positions tend to align along party lines, as evidenced by their responses when Politico first reported that the Supreme Court was mulling overturning Roe v. Wade. California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, last month signed legislation that would eliminate out-of-pocket costs for abortion services covered by health plans.
“As states across the country attempt to move us backwards by restricting fundamental reproductive rights, California continues to protect and advance reproductive freedom for all,” he said in a statement. “With this legislation, we’ll help ensure equitable, affordable access to abortion services so that out-of-pocket costs don’t stand in the way of receiving care.”
Others say abortion access is an “economic right” for women. “Access to abortion and abortion services can have powerful impacts on abortion patients’ economic outcomes, including what kinds of jobs they can and cannot take, educational attainment, chances of being in poverty and financial distress, and so much more,” said Economic Policy Institute, a progressive think tank.
The ramifications of a widespread abortion ban go beyond the cost of an abortion, Mason said. Overturning Roe will inflict enormous damage to women’s equality, she added. “But it will also dramatically impact the ability of women to participate fully in the American economy by reducing their labor force participation, cutting into their earnings, and increasing turnover,” she said.
Related: How American politics created a tribal culture on moral issues: ‘40 years ago, if I told you that this person supports abortion, you wouldn’t be able to tell how they felt about taxes, health care and immigration’