One month later, what is the impact of the Roe v Wade overturn?

On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court handed down Dobbs v. Jackson that confirmed the draft opinion leaked in May. All but one Republican justice overturned Roe v. Wade which established the Constitutional right to abortion. Although the main opinion distinguished between abortion and other rights based on the Constitutional right to privacy (contraception and same-sex relations and marriage), Justice Thomas went further and suggested all these rights could be reconsidered [1]. It would be wrong to blindly trust the majortiy opinion due to the Supreme Court's record of going back on its promises on issues like gun rights [2]. Dobbs' justification was that the right to abortion has no historical basis and raise critical moral questions [3]; it is unclear how contraception and same-sex relationships are any different. The current political climate exacerbated such fears: Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee [4], and Republicans running for office in Michigan [5], and Arizona [6], have denounced Griswold v. Connecticut which established married couples' right to contraceptives. Texas has banned public funding for Planned Parenthood and emergency contraception, while Missouri legislature has indicated they may follow [7]. This suggests a trajectory from restricting abortion rights before Dobbs, to banning it, and to eventually restrict birth control as well. The counterforce to women and pregnant people's fundamental human rights is advancing and shows no sign of slowing.


Dobbs' immediate repercussions have been felt nationwide. Women and pregnant people are seeking ways to regain control, such as moving out of conservative states and replanning childbirth [8]. Amazon sellers' stocks of emergency pills quickly emptied a day after the decision. Unprepared, they have sought reassurance from manufacturers to increase supply. This, coupled with the price surge, made the pills more difficult to access [9]. Abortion providers in states where abortion is still legal have seen an "insane" surge in patients from abortion-banning states. Patients have been making appointments in different states, so they have other choices when one state fell [10]. Legislation-wise, abortion bans, and restrictions have either taken effect or are forthcoming. Florida's 15-week ban took effect on July 1 [11]. On July 25, Indiana is set to legislate to greatly restrict if not ban abortion [12]. Hours after Dobbs, Ohio's six-week ban commenced, with no exception for rape or incest. Consequently, a 10-year-old Ohio girl who was raped had to travel to Indiana for abortion [13]. Initially discrediting the news, conservatives took aim at the doctor: the Indiana attorney general began investigating whether she violated their strict reporting requirements for abortion [14]. The tragedy partly resulted from the absence in the Dobbs decision about what may constitute the exception of medical necessity, as pointed out by the dissent [15]. Legal uncertainty has also forced activists to train in "sharing" information about self-managed abortion without "training" people to do it to avoid rule-breaking [16]. The legal uncertainty, coupled with government and activist pressure, also made hospitals and pharmacies reluctant to offer regular miscarriage treatment, exacerbating the risk of serious injury, or death, with patients treated like a bad person for seeking a safe miscarriage [17]. All of these showcase Dobbs' extensive and destabilising impact on women and pregnant people's human rights.


Politicians and the community have endeavoured to protect women and pregnant people's reproductive rights. State courts such as Michigan have blocked local abortion bans [18]. States like Connecticut have enacted laws to consolidate reproductive rights and protect abortion-seekers from other states from lawsuits [19]. California have made it mandatory for public Universities to provide medication abortion. Community-wise, activists have been providing rides, shelter, funding, and doulas to abortion seekers [20]. People who stocked emergency pills have indicated that they will give them to friends, children and their classmates, and even strangers if needed [21]. The fight, though an uphill one, is far from over.



Written by Haocheng Fang, Thrive Research Hub Member


Read Hoacheng's previous article, 'Dobbs v Jackson: The Death Knell for Women and Pregnant Persons' Human Right to Abortion' (1 June 2022)


 

References:


[1] Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, 597 U.S. __ (2022).

[2] District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008); New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen, 597 U.S. ___ (2022).

[3] Dobbs (n 1).

[4] Blackburn, M. (2022) 21 March.

[5] Boucher, D. (2022). ‘Michigan GOP AG candidates criticize case that nixed law banning use of birth control’, Detroit Free Press, 21 February.

[6] Tangalakis-Lippert, K. (2022). ‘A Republican Senate candidate endorsed by Peter Thiel is campaigning on a pledge to vote only for judges who oppose the SCOTUS ruling establishing the right to birth control’, Insider, 8 May.

[7] Stolberg, SG. (2015). ‘In Missouri, Battles Over Birth Control Foreshadow a Post-Roe World’, The New York Times, 13 June.

[8] Belluck, P. (2022). ‘They Had Miscarriages, and New Abortion Laws Obstructed Treatment’, The New York Times, 17 July.

[9] Rosman, K. and Cherelus, G. (2022). ‘Women on Why They’re Stocking Up on the Morning-After Pill’, The New York Times, 27 June.

[10] Rudavsky, S. and Fradette, R. (2022). ‘Patients head to Indiana for abortion services as other states restrict care’, Indianapolis Star, 1 July.

[11] Kasakove, S. (2022). ‘What’s Happening With Abortion Legislation in States Across the Country’, The New York Times, 28 June.

[12] Rudavsky, S. and Lange, K. (2022). ‘'It's your problem not mine.' Hoosiers share why they had abortions after Roe reversed.’ Indianapolis Star, 30 June.

[13] Rudavsky and Fradette (n 10).

[14] Robertson, K. (2022). ‘Facts Were Sparse on an Abortion Case. But That Didn’t Stop the Attacks.’ The New York Times, 14 July.

[15] Dobbs (n 1).

[16] Hartocollis, A. and Saul, S. (2022). ‘Some Students Want Colleges to Provide the Abortion Pill. Schools Are Resisting.’ The New York Times, 19 July.

[17] Belluck (n 8).

[18] Hartocollis and Saul (n 16).

[19] Kasakove (n 11).

[20] Hartocollis and Saul (n 16).

[21] Rosman and Cherelus (n 9).