The Future of Abortion Access After Roe v. Wade

WThe Supreme Court reaffirmed its decision. Roe V. WadeThe news broke on June 24th, setting off thousands upon thousands of sparks. These fires will continue to shape the legal, political and health battles for many years.

Both sides protested in Washington’s plaza near the Supreme Court. Anti-abortion advocates prayed and danced as young activists declared themselves the “post-Roe generation.” Abortion- rights supporters, meanwhile, vibrated with both rage and despair. Others wept. Many others held images of hangers as a reminder about the horrible abortions that occurred before. RoeIn 1973, it was approved.

It is true that the emotions of most Americans resonate strongly with our reality. We’re not the post-Roeneither are we being transported back to 1972, nor is it possible for us to go into the future. Technological advances have made it possible to see the future of abortion in America less terrifyingly grim than it was one generation ago. However, they also make it more scary than anyone could have anticipated.

Continue reading: Supreme Court Overturns Roev. Wade.

Abortion pills, which can now be prescribed via telehealth appointments and mailed directly to people’s homes, allow those who are up to 10 weeks pregnant to safely and privately end their pregnancies. And those who cannot, or do not want to, use pills can turn to vast networks online—unimaginable 50 years ago—where advocates are poised to help those in need pay for and travel to obtain abortions. Like most technological breakthroughs, they can also be reversed. While the internet is a great source of information, it can also be a place for misinformation. Apps and digital platforms are powerful surveillance tools that we have at our disposal.

This new complex environment will be reflected in the legal and political fight over abortion access. It is currently taking place at both the local and state levels. The anti-abortion lobby, which has spent half a century gaining power in federal courts and state legislatures is poised for new legislative measures to reduce access and increase the criminal penalties. The issue of abortion, long polarizing, has now been codified into the platforms of both major political parties, catapulting it to the fiery center of the nation’s culture wars.

This decision is not surprising. Politico published a draft in early May that was leaked. This document provided an outline. The opinion is still valid. Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health OrganizationBoth are historic and overturning them both Roe Casey vs. Planned Parenthood,It was the 1992 case, which confirmed abortion rights. In his majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito argues that “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start” because, he writes, abortion is “not deeply rooted in the Nation’s history and traditions.” The same could be said about the rights to birth control, same-sex marriage, and same-sex sexual activity—points that Justice Clarence Thomas explicitly raises in his concurring opinion arguing that the court should reconsider which rights are found in the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause.

Continue reading: Inside Mississippi’s Last Abortion Clinic—and the Biggest Fight for Abortion Rights in a Generation

In spite of the excitement and anger, historians caution against the idea that the U.S. is at the edge of another Civil War. However, it’s important to remember that a decision that repeals a key civil right may have the almost immediate effect of redrawing America’s map. Nearly half of states will prohibit abortion or severely limit it. The other half will most likely strengthen access and preserve the status-quo. What’s clear now is that the period that we are entering will not look like 1972. Instead, this futuristic steampunk American past will look more like 1972. It will feature warring factions fighting over new technology and clashing with new state laws designed to decide who’s lives are worth living within their borders.

Before the Supreme Court, oral arguments had been heard. DobbsThe mere fact that medication abortion existed in America last fall had a profound impact on reproductive rights. These pills are seen by activists as central to abortion access in the United States. In the last year providers and activists intensified efforts to produce information about abortion pills. These included guides that explain how to get them and where to buy them. They are also staffing up hotlines to answer people’s medical and legal questions, and funding programs to teach primary-care doctors and medical residents how to follow up with patients who’ve used abortion pills. Telehealth startups like Hey Jane, Choix, and Just the Pill are partnering with online pharmacies to deliver the drugs to people in states where it’s legal. Aid Access is a group based in Australia that plans to ship the pills in any country in the U.S. regardless of U.S. regulations. The packages are often small and unmarked, making them indistinguishable with other mail.

State- and local activists for abortion-rights are in full swing. The U.S. Congress failed to adopt legislation defining the right to abort, while President Joe Biden considers executive actions that may be challenged by lawyers. Abortion-rights groups and grassroots networks are fundraising money to help existing clinics. They also lobby against attempts to criminalize patients and providers, as well as building large networks to move people hundreds of miles for care. In the Mountain West, a telehealth service is launching the country’s first mobile abortion clinics—bulletproofed vehicles equipped with abortion pills, exam tables, and medical equipment that will stop in different locations each week to offer free services to patients from states where the procedure is banned. Volunteer pilots from the Midwest have joined forces to offer private flights for abortion patients.

Continue reading: What the Supreme Court’s Abortion Decision Means for Your State

In Texas and Tennessee, volunteers are teaching people how to use abortion pills to safely end their pregnancies on their own, if they cannot access a doctor—a service that advocates say is critical to bridging the stark racial, economic, and geographic disparities that are already emerging in who can access the pills. In Ohio, clergy are learning to combat the stigma around abortion, and in Florida, a synagogue has filed suit, arguing that the state’s abortion ban infringes on religious freedom. Additional protections are also being enacted by liberal state governments. California, New York, Oregon, and Connecticut have all added funds for abortion patients or safeguards for providers who treat those from out of state; 16 states now explicitly protect abortion rights—far more than the four that did so before 1973.

In order to take advantage of this moment, anti-abortion activists are making use of every tool they have, such as well-targeted Google Ads, engaging social media campaigns and TikTok videos. It’s no mistake, for example, that the top two search results for “abortion in Dallas” lead to anti-abortion pregnancy-center organizations. Students for Life of America is a group that works with youth across the nation. They have spearheaded social media campaigns and hosted virtual lobbying days. Other groups, including Live Action, use emotive videos and Facebook ads to promote “abortion pill reversal,” a supposed treatment that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says is “unproven and unethical.”

It can be confusing and even dangerous to navigate this ocean of misinformation and information. Many of the apps and chatbots and 24-hour hotlines available online collect users’ personal information—data that vigilantes and local law-enforcement officials may soon be able to use to track, shame, implicate, or even prosecute pregnant people seeking abortions, or those who help them. According to legal experts, evidence can still be presented in court by period-tracking applications, Google search histories and text messages among friends. Brick-and-mortar anti-abortion pregnancy centers, which have exploded in number in recent years, also collect women’s most intimate data, including what they plan to do with their pregnancy. Many of these centers use names like Your Choice and Women’s Health Clinic, but most are faith-based groups connected to large anti-abortion organizations and not licensed medical facilities—which means that the data they collect is not subject to federal privacy laws, legal and privacy experts say. All of these factors will likely lead to disproportionate criminalization of communities of color due to the existing racial profiling, surveillance and sexism.

Legal landscapes are also changing rapidly. Texas’ ban on abortion after roughly six weeks, for example, which has been in effect since last September, essentially puts a price on women’s personal data. Any private citizen that successfully files a lawsuit against someone who aids in having an abortion, or who gives birth to a baby, will receive a $10,000 reward. Oklahoma’s abortion ban, which went into effect in May, offers a similar reward. Idaho’s six-week abortion ban allows the fetus’ family members to sue for a potential $20,000 reward.

Mary Ziegler (an abortion-law historian at University of California Davis) says that historically, anti-abortion activists have not focused on punishing women but instead have focused their attention on the providers. She believes that this may change as abortion pill use becomes more prominent. These are the results of two recent years,Conservative lawmakers introduced new laws that effectively ban the use of telemedicine to deliver abortion pills. Some of the new laws prohibit the sending of abortion pills to residents in certain states. They also increase the criminal penalty for violations of existing abortion laws. On June 21, Louisiana’s governor, a Democrat, signed two new laws that do just that. Louisiana legislators introduced in May a bill to allow pregnant women and make abortion homicide. It failed, but could be revived.

In March, Missouri legislators introduced a measure that would make it a felony to perform an abortion on an ectopic pregnancy—a condition in which a fertilized egg implants outside the uterus and cannot survive, and that can be life-threatening to the pregnant person. This measure also would make shipping abortion pills illegal drug trafficking. Missouri legislators also proposed a bill that allows citizens to sue any person who assists a Missourian to obtain an abortion outside of Missouri. While none of those measures passed this session, there’s no reason to believe they won’t now that Roeis visible in your rearview mirror. In a warning last year by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, it was clear that there is no way to avoid being in your rearview mirror. Roe, these aggressive state abortion bans “will open the door to mass criminalization on an unprecedented scale.”

Continue reading: The Anti-Abortion Pregnancy Centres Collect Troves Of Data that Could be Used Against Women

Anti-abortion lawmakers’ ambitions mirror the larger anti-abortion movement. This has been happening in response to wider trends in American politics. Politicians have become more motivated to win primaries than general elections as the number of electoral districts has declined. That, in turn, has led to “more extreme abortion policies,” Ziegler says. A highly conservative Supreme Court majority also had the effect of emboldening lawmakers to test once-fringe ideas—like abortion bans without exceptions for rape or incest. In May, the Supreme Court draft had been leaked and Republicans in Congress suggested a federal abortion ban. This proposal would have been widely viewed less than a full year ago.

This is it! Roe While the official decision has been overturned, anti-abortion national groups have started to move. Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America was rebranded to increase state legislative advocacy. Students for Life of America has also changed its organization structure in order to lobby for restrictions on abortion that are state-based. The National Right to Life Committee, the country’s largest anti-abortion organization, also recently released a so-called model bill, providing a legislative template for states to criminalize nearly all abortions, as well as people aiding an abortion, distributing abortion pills, and sharing information or hosting a website about abortion. Six conservative legislators have asked for special legislative sessions in order to enable their states’ adoption of new abortion laws in light the Supreme Court ruling. Local law enforcement officers could take immediate action against those they believe are violating the new laws.

If these laws and enforcement measures are new, the idea of policing a particular group’s behavior is not, says Michele Goodwin, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine. Post-Roe America will likely have deep parallels to the post-Civil War Jim Crow laws, which were, she says, “both substantively and symbolically, meant to relegate people to a second-class citizenship.” All of the new anti-abortion legislation cropping up in states is designed not only to stop most abortions, she explains, but to intimidate. “​​The way in which the state shows suspicion rather than care and respect for, leads people to internalize shame and guilt. And it means that people then will resist turning to the state when they actually need the state support and when they should get it,” she adds. These effects, like data collection or surveillance, may be most detrimental to people of color and poor, as well as those who have been marginalized.

Physicians and healthcare providers warn that new anti-abortion legislations will result in women receiving treatment for miscarriages and pregnancy complications. OBGYNs from Texas reported that pharmacists refused to refill miscarriage medications. An article in the New England Journal of Medicine published June 22 revealed that Texas law led hospitals to refuse patients care while others suffering complications during pregnancy were forced to wait for their condition to become life-threatening. Doctors say this reality compounds an already terrible problem. The states that have banned abortion are said to have the highest rates of maternal mortality in the country.

Continue reading: Meet the Pharmacist. Expanding access to abortion pills across the U.S.

Meanwhile, as women travel to liberal states for abortions and other reproductive health care, they’re driving up wait times and straining already stretched infrastructure, according to Yameslie Rodriguez, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri. Fairview Heights, Illinois, which is just over the Missouri border, already has a 130% rise in Planned Parenthood patients. The week before the ruling, it was looking into whether it can keep its doors open seven days a week to meet Illinois’ expected 8,600% increase in out-of-state patients.

Anti-abortion advocates are planning to start their post-Roe advocacy with “prayerful” rallies in state capitals around the country on June 25, according to Students for Life. However, the group is ready to capitalise on their victory. While advocates are urging new legislation is in the works, Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America has invested in its program to connect pregnant women with material, medical and social resources via anti-abortion centers and other non-profits. However, Republican lawmakers have yet to embrace legislation that Democrats or reproductive rights advocates believe would support families.

Anti-abortion groups and supporters of abortion rights fear that violence will increase as the nation reacts to Supreme Court’s decision. Public opinion is not supportive of Roe’s decision to be overturned. A majority of Americans believe the Court should keep Roe intact and have seen support for abortion rights rise to new heights in recent months. But the conservative Justices did not agree, and despite Alito saying their decision would simply return the question of abortion to the states, it’s clear the ripple effects are already reaching much farther.

After nearly 49 years of wait, both sides are preparing for a similar outcome. But with the wheels in motion and the legal landscape in much of the country uncertain, it’s difficult to know precisely what will happen right away. For the many millions of Americans who are still waking up to the implications of the Court’s decision, the reality will be harsh. This was the point at which the anti-abortion activists reached. It took nearly a century to achieve this, and almost twice the time for Blacks to obtain a Civil Rights Act after the Jim Crow era. This isn’t temporary, and it is just the beginning of a new series of battles that will be fought for at most the next generation.

Here are more must-read stories from TIME

To Abigail Abrams at


Related Articles

Back to top button