One week ago today, a draft opinion was released that indicated that a majority of the Supreme Court is ready to overturn Roe v. Wade—the nearly 50-year-old precedent supported by a strong majority of the public that established Americans’ right to an abortion. While the country is still waiting for the final opinion to be released in the upcoming weeks—if the opinion remains largely the same—it will have a catastrophic impact on the country.
In the meantime, here’s what you need to know about Roe and abortion in America.
Abortion rights are still protected by the Constitution—for now. While the danger that Roe will soon be officially overturned is clear, no opinion has yet been officially released; abortion is still constitutionally protected. Abortion providers are still providing care.
But make no mistake: Extremists want to drag America back into an unjust past. Overturning Roe is a direct attack on women’s advancement in the United States. Under Roe, women’s labor force participation, educational attainment, and earnings have increased while maternal mortality, teen pregnancy rates, and child poverty have all fallen. Roe has allowed all people to live with greater autonomy and dignity and better able to make essential decisions for themselves and their families. Politicians want to end that progress.
The bans on abortion are becoming more and more cruel. Just months ago, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed Texas’ near-total ban on abortion to stand—the law that is enforced by incentivizing neighbors to sue neighbors they suspect of helping people get care. This appears to have been a watershed moment, as states began passing abortion bans at a rapid clip with increasingly vile provisions. For example, while exceptions for rape and incest survivors to abortion bans used to be commonplace, in at least one state, Idaho, politicians have explicitly empowered a rapists’ family to sue the doctor who provides an abortion to the survivor. Every person deserves to access abortion, regardless of their reasons, but the fact that Idaho’s Gov. Brad Little (R) acknowledged his state’s ban could “retraumatize” victims—before signing it anyway—speaks to the callousness of those leading the efforts to ban abortion.
Roe has allowed all people to live with greater autonomy and dignity and better able to make essential decisions for themselves and their families.
Opponents of abortion rights are lying when they say they don’t want to criminalize women. Headlines were recently made when Texas officials arrested a 26-year-old woman for murder after she had a self-managed abortion, meaning she ended her pregnancy on her own. The charges were dropped when it was clear officials didn’t have the authority to make such an arrest, but anyone who cares about basic fairness and compassion should see that arrest as a sign of what may be to come. And, while currently rare, the arrest in Texas is far from the only example of a woman being prosecuted for having—or being suspected of having—an abortion.
We can’t give up. Emboldened by their state counterparts’ actions, Republicans in the Senate have increasingly begun talking about banning abortion nationwide. While this is a frightening prospect, it also demonstrates the power policymakers have to influence the availability of care. Even before the draft opinion, some states have already started announcing initiatives to try to protect abortion rights within their borders. And proactive measures to protect abortion nationwide, such as the Women’s Health Protection Act, exist as well. Efforts to ensure abortion is safe and accessible—including access to medication abortion that can be taken at home in a private and loving environment—as well as protecting those providing and receiving care from criminalization will be critical. Regardless of the Court’s ultimate decision, progress is still possible.