The conflict over abortion laws will not end if Roe v. Wade falls


On both sides of the abortion debate in the United States, activists are convinced that Roe v. Wade – the 1973 Supreme Court ruling establishing a national abortion right – is in jeopardy like never before.

Still, it doesn’t matter how the current conservative-dominated tribunal treats high-profile abortion cases pending. – maybe weakening Roe, maybe eviscerating it completely – there won’t be a nationwide monolithic change. Stormy state-to-state battles on abortion, access will continue.

Roe’s disappearance would likely prompt at least 20 Republican-ruled states to impose sweeping bans; perhaps 15 states ruled by democrats would reaffirm their support for access to abortion.

More complicated would be the politically divided states where the fighting over abortion laws could be fierce – and likely become an unstable issue in the 2022 election.

“Many of these states are one election away from a very different political landscape when it comes to abortion,” said Jessica Arons, reproductive rights lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union.

These states include Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, which now have Democratic governors and Republican-controlled legislatures. GOP’s gubernatorial victories next year could position those states to join with others in imposing bans if Roe is rescinded.

The net effect on the prevalence of abortion is difficult to predict, given that many people in prohibited states would persist in seeking to terminate unintended pregnancies. Some could face journeys of hundreds of kilometers to reach the nearest clinic; others might get abortion pills in the mail to terminate a pregnancy on their own.

Among the briefs filed with the Supreme Court as it reviews a Mississippi law banning most abortions after 15 weeks is one of the contributions of 154 economists and researchers. If abortions were to become illegal in 23 states, they calculate, the number of abortions in clinics nationwide would drop by about 14%, or about 120,000, the following year.

Abortion rights activists predict that women of color, rural residents, low-income women and LGBTQ people would be disproportionately affected.

In this scenario, economists said, the bans would affect 26 million women of child-rearing age, and the average distance to the nearest abortion clinic would drop from 35 miles (56 kilometers) to 279 miles ( 449 kilometers).

Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights, said a ousting of Roe would galvanize some Democratic states and abortion rights groups to speed up programs helping people get through state borders to abort.

“But things are going to get complicated and difficult very quickly,” she said. “You are disrupting the entire abortion care network across the country, and people will seek abortions in places that may not already have enough capacity for people in their condition.”

One possible preview is taking place at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Fairview Heights, Ill., Just outside of St. Louis. It opened in 2019 as an abortion option for people in Missouri and other neighboring Republican-ruled states. More patients coming from further afield are seeing rise as strict Texas ban creates appointment delays in south-central US

Dr Colleen McNicholas, Planned Parenthood’s chief medical officer for reproductive health services in the St. Louis area, said the clinic is preparing for a possible influx of 14,000 additional women per year seeking abortion services if post-Roe bans are proliferating.

“We’re absolutely thinking about what operational changes we would need – staying open seven days a week, operating two shifts a day – to absorb that many patients,” she said.

Already, patients are “super frustrated” with trips of up to nine hours from their homes, she said.

Michael New, an abortion opponent who teaches social research at the Catholic University of America, said the possible increase in out-of-state abortions and “mail order abortions” would be among the many challenges facing the anti-abortion movement even as its dream of Roe’s Disappearance has come true.

Another potential challenge is that some Democratic-leaning prosecutors may refuse to enforce the bans.

Michigan, for example, has a 90-year ban on books. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, said she would not enforce it if it becomes law; a local prosecutor, Democrat Eli Savit of Washtenaw County, tweeted, “We will never, ever prosecute a person for exercising their reproductive freedom. “

While there is consensus that Roe is more vulnerable than ever, there is no certainty on how the Supreme Court might proceed. Clues will surface on December 1, when judges hear arguments in Dobbs against the Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

In this case, Mississippi asks the court to overturn Roe and a 1992 follow-up decision that prevents states from prohibiting abortion before viability, the point around 24 weeks of pregnancy when a fetus can survive outside the womb.

If the court simply upholds the Mississippi ban, other Republican-ruled states will likely adopt similar measures. The Guttmacher Institute claims that between 6.3% and 7.4% of abortions in the United States, or 54,000 to 63,000 per year, are obtained at or after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

However, activists on opposite sides believe the High Court – whether in the Mississippi case or another – is about to go further, overturning Roe so states are free to impose bans. radical.

“For nearly 50 years, states have been prevented from passing abortion laws that reflect the values ​​of the people who live there,” said Mallory Quigley of the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion group. “Dobbs is the best opportunity since 1973 to correct this. “

Wisconsin could become one of the most contested battlegrounds, as it still has in its statutes an 1849 law criminalizing abortion. But even if the law takes effect, it may not be enforced if next year’s election leaves Democrats as governor, attorney general, and district attorneys in Milwaukee and Madison, which house health clinics. ‘abortion.

The 2022 election is likely to energize activists on both sides, says Julaine Appling, an abortion opponent who heads the Wisconsin Family Council.

“Smart candidates running on either side will say it makes a huge difference who is governor and who is attorney general,” she said. “Wisconsin is very purple – and we have a real fight over this issue.”

When Roe was decided, abortion was largely legal in four states, permitted under limited circumstances in 16 others, and prohibited under almost all circumstances elsewhere. In 1974, a year after Roe, there were approximately 900,000 abortions in the United States, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Abortions have increased steadily, peaking at 1.61 million in 1990, before declining steadily – dropping to 862,000 in Guttmacher’s latest survey, covering 2017. The decline is attributed to increased availability of effective contraception and a drop in costs. unwanted pregnancies, especially among teenage girls.

Women also have safer and easier options for terminating a pregnancy; medical abortions now account for about 40% of abortions in the United States. Advocacy groups are spreading the word about abortion pills that can be used at home without the intervention of a healthcare professional.

The increased use of mail-order pills could pose a dilemma for the anti-abortion movement, as its leaders typically say they are not in favor of criminalizing the actions of women seeking abortions. The pills are often shipped overseas; these vendors are an elusive target for prosecutors.

Arons, the lawyer for the ACLU, says anti-abortion activists are deluding themselves if they think post-Roe bans can allow them to live in states without abortion.

“People who want to terminate their pregnancy will find a way to do so, whether it is legal or not,” she said. “The need will always be there.


The Associated Press’s religious coverage receives support from the Lilly Endowment via The Conversation US. The AP is solely responsible for this content.


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