Outlining the landmark legislation and what the hell happened
It is a scary time in America for everyone with a uterus.
On May 2nd, a leaked opinion document from the Supreme Court of the United States highlighted the possibility of the end of Roe v. Wade, a landmark law that sets a federal precedent for womxn seeking access to safe abortions across the country. On Friday, June 24th, 2022, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to overturn Roe. As America begins to process the severity of the end of this legislation, we wanted to compile an article that contains some of the best resources we’ve found that both outline the issue and provide actionable steps for all womxn.
What is Roe v. Wade?
Roe v. Wade was first decided by the Supreme Court in 1973. As Planned Parenthood highlights, the decision centered on Norma McCorvey – under the pseudonym “Jane Roe” – in her case against Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade. In 1969, McCorvey sought an abortion but was ultimately denied because her pregnancy did not pose a medical risk to her life. On her behalf, Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee, two lawyers from Texas, filed a lawsuit against Wade. On December 13th, 1971, Weddington argued the case for the first time against the Supreme Court. She fought it for a second time on October 11th, 1972. On January 22, 1973, the court voted in favor of Roe with a 7-2 ruling.
The significance of this ruling is that it made a person with a uterus’ right to end their pregnancy a federal right, and ended abortion bans at the state level. This passage led to a push for legislation that focused instead on limiting access in certain states, rather than outright bans. Most notably, Senate Bill 8, referred to commonly as SB 8, was passed in September 2021 and bans abortion as early as 6 weeks. This bill is also not publicly enforced – relying instead on civil accountability and private lawsuits – which sets a dangerous precedent for private and citizen enforcement of controversial laws.
Why is this relevant now?
Conservatives have long opposed Roe v. Wade, and for the first time since its passage, the Supreme Court is led by a Conservative Supermajority, including three justices appointed by former President Donald Trump – Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett. There are five conservative justices who were willing to overturn Roe v. Wade – the three aforementioned justices, as well as Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas.
The current Supreme Court case in question opening up the debate on Roe v. Wade is Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. This case centers around the 2018 Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks, one of the many examples of state legislation that limits access to care. The opportunity to hear this case at the Supreme Court level gave the justices another chance to examine Roe, which is especially important given the changed demographic of the court. Last, Friday’s decision marked an end to the protection that womxn have relied on for almost 50 years.
What would Roe v. Wade being overturned mean for womxn?
Roe v. Wade’s reversal shifts the power to ban and limit abortion to individual states, changing where people who are able to get pregnant have access to abortion. Women’s Health reported, following news of the leaked opinion document, that about half of the states can be expected to criminalize abortion, many of which already have “trigger laws” in place. These laws would allow for the ban of abortions to happen relatively quickly in the affected states. Many of these laws make no exceptions for medical reasons that threaten the life of the person, as well as incest, rape, and other extenuating circumstances.
13 states had trigger laws ready to be enacted following the ruling, many of which are currently being blocked by judges and held up in state courts. The Washington Post has an interactive map of which states have already banned abortion and states where bans have been attempted, but blocked, by judges. As of June 30, Ohio, Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, and South Dakota have bans in effect, with 8 more expected. The map provides information about specifics by state, including the limitations on when during pregnancy these bans are applicable and when the current state law is expected to change.
This reversal introduces questions of reproductive justice and access to care. People seek abortions for many reasons, including financial, physical, and mental health, the ability to care for a child or another child if children are already present. The ability to make this decision for whichever reason will not be equal across the country. Using socioeconomic inequality as an example, individuals in states with abortion bans seeking care would have to find areas where they can legally find an abortion, which might require traveling huge distances and facing transportation and other care-related and logistical expenses. In addition to the emotional hardship of choosing to have an abortion, this change poses a difficult and potentially dangerous socio-economic decision of bringing a child that a parent might not be able to afford into the world or being forced to cross state lines to find an out-of-state abortion clinic. BIPOC individuals from low-income communities are expected to be the most adversely affected by this reversal, emphasizing the links between reproductive injustice and racial, gender, socio-economic, and social injustice.
It’s also important to be careful with language on social media, as many users are pointing out on Twitter and Instagram. Making comparisons to Margaret Atwood’s famed The Handmaid’s Tale ignores the historical reality and stories of BIPOC womxn in America and centers the narrative on the fictional impact on white womxn. Looking to the future, it’s also white individuals who are likely to have more financial and social opportunities to seek an abortion, regardless of what state they are from. While The Handmaid’s Tale is a celebrated novel, it does not reflect the true reality of Roe’s potential impacts nationwide, and it’s best to be avoided as a legitimate comparison.
When writing about reproductive rights and access, it’s also important to remember that you don’t have to identify as a “woman” to have a uterus. There has been a movement towards recognizing this inclusivity in written media following the ruling, which expands our language to include the experiences of trans and nonbinary individuals. We use the word “womxn” to reflect this, although the term includes both people with and without uteruses. This is also why we use phrases like “people with uteruses” as well, as “womxn” doesn’t fully apply or feel resonant for people in all cases.
Good and Bad News:
Most of this news is very scary. The bad news is – beyond the government recognizing people with uteruses as “less than” and stripping them of protections and leading to unnecessary hardship for and death of womxn and their partners – we don’t know where the Supreme Court will stop. Rulings in the last weeks have also already limited the role of the EPA in addressing the climate crisis, as well as prioritized the state over indigenous sovereignty.
One sliver of hope could come through Congress. President Biden is trying to pass Roe v. Wade to become a federal law. While this process might be drawn out, it provides another power to act. Unfortunately, Democrats could still face problems getting approval from the Senate because of the division that exists between the ideologies of the two largest political parties.
One of the most reliable sources of information is Planned Parenthood, a non-profit and nationwide provider of information on sexual health and wellbeing across the United States. Planned Parenthood provides information on the closest abortion clinics, as well as preventative sexual care such as birth control, testing methods, and the dissemination of factually accurate information on sexual health.
The National Abortion Federation Hotline offers free, anonymous abortion information and consultation to callers. In addition to the hotline, there is a referral line to help direct callers toward care targeted towards their individual situations. The hotline is not operated 24/7, but the 2022 hours are marked clearly on their website.
The Miscarriage + Abortion Hotline also provides support to individuals actively experiencing both miscarriages and abortions, including finding and using abortion pills.
The National Network of Abortion Funds focuses on providing financial resources to those seeking abortions who are posed with financial and logistical barriers. They center intersectionality and racial justice in tandem with promoting reproductive justice and have a list of funds on their site.
The Abortion Care Network provides information on independent providers.
For even more specifics, the non-profit Provide gives resources by state, as well as an exhaustive list of financial resources for those seeking an abortion.
plancpills.org is a great resource for abortion pill access online, even in states with extremely restrictive laws.
Plan B can be found online from major providers such as Amazon and at most local pharmacies. It has a shelf life of 4 years and can be cheaper with a GoodRx coupon. Some good sites for birth control also include the following:
Here is also a list compiled by CBS that lists companies willing to pay for abortion-related travel expenses for employees.
Delete apps specifically designed for tracking your period. They can sell your data to third-party sites. This could be particularly dangerous if you are involved in a criminal investigation in a state where abortion is illegal. Deleting these apps helps you maintain a bit more of the privacy you signed up for when downloading the apps to begin with.
EVEN IF YOU LIVE IN A STATE WHERE ABORTION IS LEGAL:
1. Take all period trackers off your phone NOW. Track in a pocket calendar & use a code phrase (“Lunch w K,” “call Mom”) or symbol (star, circle)
2. Wear a mask if you go into ANY healthcare facility for repro care. Why?
— Melissa Hillman (@bittergertrude) June 24, 2022
This also extends to taking extra care with search patterns and history as abortion becomes more criminalized in certain areas. If you want to be abundantly cautious, consider using encrypted messaging apps. I have experience with some of these climate justice groups that sought to keep protest plans from the press or local authorities ahead of their scheduled dates. These apps are a good way to protect individuals who may be partaking in actions where they are risking arrest, although this isn’t something I have direct experience with, and I never personally tested their efficacy (Don’t worry, mom!).
Additionally, while seeking an abortion, it is important to trust doctors and professionals as much as possible. There are many doctors who have been trained to perform abortions in the US, despite individual state laws, and their work is safer and more reliable than through other means. This extends beyond medical care – don’t trust people publicly offering housing and transportation without clear, legitimate motivations and professional ties. Use the links above to find doctors and reputable organizations who can prioritize your safety!
Also, when booking out of state, make an appointment before securing the finances for travel and medical care, as appointments might become harder to come by and abortion is a time-sensitive procedure. Funds such as those listed above under “Resources” can help with financial burdens.
I haven’t seen any threads doing this and I know pregnant people are terrified right now so here’s what I would tell a cash strapped pregnant friend to do, in order, if they needed a surgical procedure in a state with no clinics:
— Charlotte Shane (@CharoShane) June 26, 2022
Finally, beware of crisis pregnancy centers that can filter into searches for resources. These sites are advertised frequently with the word “pregnancy” in the title and try to mislead people away from getting abortions. While these centers have no business being in searches for care, in many states, they are not the only local option. Any of the resources listed above are a great place to start to find any information or receive care.
A Few Personal Concluding Thoughts:
Ultimately, we live in a country where old white men seek control, and… right now, it appears that they have it.
They are setting precedents for womxn’s bodies for years to come, on LGBTQIA+ rights, on climate change (we don’t have much time left to act on this), on indigenous rights and so much more. As a 21-year-old college student, I am infuriated about the implications for my entire generation.
I am dumbfounded over the increase in inequality, death, and the loss of protection from our own government, which should be an institution that prioritizes everyone without questioning who is “worthy” of basic rights. I feel exasperated. While I am in no position to tell anyone what to do, I encourage womxn everywhere to lean a little extra on their support systems in the coming weeks. That support could mean making donations to local abortion funds – if you are able, prioritizing care-work and the mental health of yourself and your community and finding joy in the ways you can in this dark time.
As womxn, we are taught to stifle our opinions for fear of being perceived as angry, bossy, emotional, and just about every other negative qualitative trait you can imagine. Now is not a time when we should be afraid to ask for help when we need it. Through this ruling, individuals with judicial power have expressed publicly and explicitly that they do not care about us, and so it is our time to show our solidarity and strength, and engage in genuine care-work to protect and nourish both those with and those without uteruses around us. We need each other now more than ever.