America after Roe v. Wade
Not since the days of Jim Crow – when some states segregated African Americans in public places and others did not – have Americans’ rights been so clearly differentiated by state as they will be if, as expected , the Supreme Court annuls Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 decision legalizing abortion. States, however, do not wait for the Court’s decision; thus, the contours of the post-Roe world begin to take shape. They are quickly splitting into two camps: states that will ban all or most abortions, and states that codify reproductive health protections while preparing for an influx of women seeking abortions.
Let’s start with the best-known story: the states that seek to ban abortion. Beginning with the Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks and continuing with the Texas law that bans abortions after 6 weeks, states have rushed to enact copycat laws. As of this writing, 12 states have adopted what is called a “trigger law.” These laws prohibit abortion after 6 weeks, 15 weeks or altogether and go into effect as soon as the Supreme Court overturns Roe vs. Wade.
There are other states that have laws in effect restricting abortion, but until the Supreme Court acts, those laws have not been implemented and enforced. The only exception was Texas, where in January the Supreme Court sent a case involving Texas law to lower courts in a decision that closed many abortion clinics and was widely criticized. interpreter as indicating a favorable attitude towards texas law. Laws banning abortions typically arise in states where other laws and regulatory rulings have led to the closure of many clinics.
The following map from the Guttmacher Institute shows which states are likely to eventually ban most or all abortions.
While states enacting abortion bans have received the most media attention, states where legislatures are supportive of abortion rights are also enacting laws to expand and protect those rights and to counter the movement in the States restricting abortions. Sixteen states plus the District of Columbia protect abortion rights through state law, and other states, such as New Mexico, are expected to pass similar laws soon. California passed a landmark law protecting the privacy of women seeking abortions and addressing racial and economic inequities in access by providing abortion coverage through Medicaid. Oregon has passed a law providing financial assistance to abortion providers. Washington State has passed a law prohibiting legal action against those who seek abortions and those who help them.
Last week, the Maryland legislature passed a straight who would devote funds to the training of health professionals, such as nurse practitioners; nurse midwives; and medical assistants, to perform abortions. Expect other states to follow in Maryland’s footsteps and increase their ability to perform abortions. (The state’s Republican Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed the bill, but it was overruled by the legislature.)
What is likely to emerge from this picture is an America where women with unwanted pregnancies can still have abortions. But to do this, they will need:
- access to information about abortion providers in other states,
- the ability and discipline to keep their projects to themselves,
- the time and financial resources to travel out of state.
Let’s examine each of them in turn. First, access to information is easier for those who have financial means and those who are better educated. An upper-middle-class mother with a 16-year-old victim of an unwanted pregnancy will be able to find a clinic and buy two plane tickets to Baltimore, as many wealthy women before Roe vs. Wade traveled to Sweden. But abortion is The most widespread among low-income women in their twenties. For poor and uneducated women, local public health entities (whether public or private) have provided information on everything from birth control to abortion, and they will be shut down.
In states determined to ban abortion, lawmakers also pass or propose laws that ban or criminalize those who seek to help women obtain abortions. Texas law, which is copied in many states, allows private citizens to sue anyone who helps someone get an abortion. Plaintiffs could receive up to $10,000. In Missouri, state Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman has proposed legislation banning helping someone get an abortion, even in another state. According to St. Louis Public Radio, “Coleman’s proposed amendments would criminalize facilitating the procedure: transporting someone to have an abortion, helping pay for the procedure, or instructing them on ways to end a pregnancy .”
Nonprofits like Planned Parenthood that serve, in part, low-income women will be in great legal danger if they give out information on how to get an abortion out of state. For educated women able to find their own information, this means keeping quiet about what they are doing and where they are going, unless it prompts a neighbor or co-worker to talk about it.
Then, as the map indicates, moving from a state that prohibits abortion to one that does not mean, for many, substantial travel, whether by plane or train. Even if the woman has decided to drive, traveling to a state where abortion is legal involves time off work and loss of income, hotel or motel costs, and food costs. Not to mention that the experience will involve the trauma of having to recover from medical intervention away from home.
In states where abortion is legal, there will no doubt be many private organizations springing up to help defray travel expenses. But again, access to this information will be hard to come by for younger, less educated women. In post-deer In the United States, the hardest part for women seeking an abortion probably isn’t the money or even the geography — it’s probably the information. That’s why anti-abortion states are considering a range of options to block information that won’t impact all women equally. This will disproportionately harm less educated women, women of limited economic means, and women of color.
And so, we may be looking at a dystopian future that looks nothing like the Underground Railroad – where organizations in free states have raised funds and created organizations to help slaves achieve freedom. A state cannot impose its laws on another state, but to circumvent this, Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, which allowed bounty hunters to catch and return slaves to free states.
Are we going to face a dystopian future where the roads to abortion states become well organized and funded and where Congress tries to pass laws returning pregnant women to their states before they can have abortions ? Just days ago, a woman in Texas was arrested, charged with murder and imprisoned after a voluntary abortion. Although no one is complaining, the event sent shivers down the spines of women across America. And after? Will state police force women of childbearing age to take a pregnancy test before flying to Maryland, New York, or any other state where abortion is legal? Will local authorities hack into women’s computers and arrest those seeking information about abortions in other states or medical abortions? In a country where significant numbers of people have revolted against mask-wearing and Covid vaccines as an intrusion into their privacy and choice, efforts to stop abortion altogether risk being met with a tsunami of fury.
Enacting abortion bans is the easy part; preventing abortions will prove much more difficult.
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