By: Terri Arsinian
June 24th, 2022 was a devastating day for Americans. Abortion is no longer a right protected by the federal government, and 1 in 3 women in the US have lost access to this medical procedure. The overturning of Roe v. Wade is an alarming indicator for what could come, such as potential restrictions on gay marriage, interracial marriage, and contraceptives. UN human rights experts have officially denounced this decision and criticized the SCOTUS for “jeopardiz[ing] women’s health and lives.” Without access to this medical procedure, people who are capable of becoming pregnant will be harmed.
In 1973, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 to give women a right to choose whether abortion was right for them. SCOTUS ultimately ruled it was woman’s right to carry out an abortion before the 24th week of pregnancy. The right to abortion was interpreted from the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which “protects against state action the right to privacy, and a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion falls within that right to privacy.” Other rights included in privacy can be the right to be in a same-sex relationships or marriage, contraception access, or even interracial marriages.
Recently, President Biden signed an executive order to protect other reproductive health services such as the right of the patient’s privacy and to push for the “implementation of Federal efforts to protect reproductive rights and access to health care.” This executive order will also protect access to certain abortion medication, emergency abortion, and contraception. It could also make strides in protecting some health services in states that have instituted trigger bans, like Mississippi and Arkansas. The White House has also been trying to take initiatives to protect the rights of people in the LGBTQI+ community, and this executive order will protect LGBTQI+ people’s access to medical necessities, encourage family counseling and group support, and fund mental health services. While this inatitive has many positive components, such as protections on contraception access or LGBTQ+ health, it cannot affect or interfere with state laws than are increasing restrictions on abortion.
As restrications on clinics increase, more “at-home” methods such as medication abortion are being discussed. According to the Guttmacher Institute in 2017, medication abortion was accounted to be the abortion method for 39% of abortions in the US. It has been deemed to be a noninvasive procedure and has gained the support of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Although, there is an FDA protocol for medication abortion to take place within 70 days of the patient’s last menstrual cycle, but with clinical guidance it’s been used within the first 11 weeks of pregnancy. Under FDA protocol, only one visit is required to obtain the abortion pill. Medication abortion also has a success rate of 95% or more with a .4% rate of hospitalization due to serious complications. Though this procedure has strong evidence supporting its safety, but women may not be able to access this medication because of the state they live in.
States are trying to pursue bans on all types of the procedure. As of September 16, 2022, Governor Jim Justice of West Virginia has enacted a state law prohibiting abortion with exemptions for rape and incest with adults before 8 weeks and children before 14 weeks. The victims of these circumstances only have 48 hours to report the assault to law enforcement before the procedure. In most cases, women aren’t able to find out they’re pregnant until at least 6-8 weeks along. Laws such as the one passed in West Virginia will only increase the likelihood of women harming themselves, or put them in vastly difficult positions of raising a child they may not be able to provide for.
Ultimately, the overturning of Roe v. Wade is not enough to stop women from carrying out an abortion: it will only push them to find other, less safe methods. A woman’s available options become even more difficult if the closest clinic is hundreds of miles away. For example, if a woman from Jackson, Mississippi needed an abortion, she would have to travel 337 miles to Columbus, Georgia. The logistical and financial difficulties of this procedure include about a five and a half hour drive, the cost of the care and finding a place to stay, missing work, and then of course, physically recovering. Getting an abortion in a post-Roe world requires finanicial resources or even social connections (housing or other support).
Bodily autonomy is a significant right for all. To decide whether a woman should get an abortion is the choice that the individual alone can make. The consequences of Roe v. Wade being overturned are drastic and could have negative effects on the daily life of Americans from the most basic level of increasing one’s stress around tracking their period, to the perpetuation of poverty, to even the loss of life. Women with lower socioeconomic backgrounds will lose significant access because they don’t have the resources, such as financial means to pay for airfare, temporary housing, or the ability to take time off from work. It is a shame to see women’s rights to bodily autonomy being stripped away.