On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on a Mississippi law that bans abortions at 15-weeks. The abortion case, known as Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, will have the most significant decision on abortion rights in the United States since Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey in 1992 which upheld Roe v. Wade.
“Nearly half of the states already have or are expected to enact bans on abortion at all stages of pregnancy, many without exceptions for rape or incest. Women who are unable to travel hundreds of miles to gain access to legal abortions will be required to continue with their pregnancies and give birth with profound effects on their bodies, their health, and the course of their lives,” said US Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, the Biden administration’s top lawyer, before the Supreme Court regarding the future of abortion rights in America.
Banning abortions altogether does not stop them from happening. As a matter of fact, they take double the lives. And the Dobbs case is tricky considering that, as Mary Zieglar at Politico put it, “to uphold Mississippi’s law, the court will have to either hold that there is no abortion right or rewrite what Roe v. Wade stands for.” Considering former-President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court justice nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, helped secure a 6-3 conservative majority for the court, the latter event is very likely to happen.
According to the World Health Organization, “ Unsafe abortion is a leading – but preventable – cause of maternal deaths and morbidities. It can lead to physical and mental health complications and social and financial burdens for women, communities and health systems.” And although a poll by the Associated Press/NORC found that more than 60% of people believe that a woman should be able to obtain an abortion during the first trimester of her pregnancy, some states are already seeking to make the procedure a felony through “trigger laws”. These laws can criminalize abortions as soon as it is constitutionally possible to do so.
Prohibiting abortions would mean many women would have to travel out of their home state to receive their basic healthcare needs. However, that’s a lot easier said than done. In regions where abortion clinics are low in numbers, traveling out of state can mean leaving your family and job for days. And, given that Medicaid eligibility and plans vary per state, not all abortions will be covered, taking not just a health toll on women but a financial one as well.
The Texas abortion ban, which is what sparked the current abortion rights debate, has nothing new to add to the state’s bad healthcare system either. It will only further fail minority communities.
“Black infants in Texas were twice as likely as White infants to die before their first birthday. While Texas does not report deaths among new mothers by race, we know the national Black maternal mortality rate was 44 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2019 compared to a rate of 17.9 White deaths,” said David Blumenthal and Laurie Zephyrin in a September article from The Commonwealth Fund on the Texas abortion issue.
A 2019 Guttmacher Institute fact sheet reveals that unintended pregnancies are more common among low-income women aged 18 to 24. So, as Blumenthal and Zephyrin also state, minority women, who for centuries have been afflicted by poverty and discrimination, will be disproportionately targeted by the upholding of this abortion ban.
Reversing Roe v. Wade will set women’s healthcare rights decades back. Women without the financial resources to support a child will have to bear the responsibility and difficulties, not the state or the legislators who have put restrictions on what a woman can and can’t do with her body. Foster homes will become even more flooded, putting more children at risk of emotional or physical abuse, and minority communities will have to face even worse health challenges.