Reproductive health care is not valued nearly as much as it should be. From poor sex education in schools to stigmatizing and ostracizing those who need reproductive health care, reproductive health care is immensely glossed over. This summer, reproductive health care rights will come under fire once again when the U.S. Supreme Court makes a decision on the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, which could overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that legalized abortion based on a trimester system.
The Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case essentially refers to a 2018 Mississippi law called the “Gestational Age Act,” which prohibited almost all abortions after 15 weeks of gestational age. This challenges Roe v. Wade because if the U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of the Gestational Age Act, it would set a new precedent of the state controlling abortion laws.
In addition, Roe v. Wade also allows abortion up until the point of viability, which is at about 24 weeks; the Gestational Age Act prohibits abortion before the fetus is viable. Therefore, the Gestational Age Act directly challenges the regulations set forth by the Roe v. Wade case.
The consequences of overturning Roe v. Wade are significant. Abortions are a necessary part of reproductive health care that will no longer be protected nationwide if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the Gestational Age Act.
If Roe v. Wade is overturned, it is predicted that abortions will no longer be protected in about 26 states — currently, 22 states already have laws or amendments in place that would ban abortions as soon as the right to an abortion is not protected nationwide. Sixteen states as well as Washington D.C. have laws in place to protect abortion rights.
Prohibiting and criminalizing abortions will not make them less likely to happen; instead, it will promote unsafe abortions, which often cause serious infection, hemorrhaging and death. According to the Guttmacher Institute, rates of abortions in countries where abortion is illegal are comparable to rates of abortions in countries where abortions are legal; the difference is that where abortions are illegal, people seek unsafe methods. In El Salvador, for example, even though abortions are illegal, one in three pregnancies still end in abortion.
Things that are more likely to decrease the number of abortions include accessible contraception, better childcare and paid family leave options, livable wages and affordable housing — all things that support children and families after they are born and work to decrease incidences of unplanned and unwanted pregnancies.
However, this is not a conversation many anti-abortion advocates are willing to have, choosing instead to focus on outright bans, rather than making abortions less necessary altogether. Many of these anti-abortion advocates call themselves “pro-life,” but they cannot truly be pro-life if they are working so hard to harm the lives of people with a uterus and when they do not care to support children and families after they are born.
Other states are creating their own abortion bans, such as Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill banning most abortions after 15 weeks and in Oklahoma, where Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill making performing an abortion a felony except in the case of medical emergencies. In Missouri, a recent bill also attempted to criminalize abortions in most cases, including when a pregnant person was experiencing an ectopic pregnancy.
Although when the bill was signed, ectopic pregnancies were not mentioned; thankfully, it is worth noting that even the mere thought of criminalizing abortions in the case of ectopic pregnancies is despicable. Ectopic pregnancies occur when the fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus, usually on the fallopian tubes. A fertilized egg cannot survive outside of the uterus; thus, this pregnancy would not and could never be viable, and, if not treated soon enough, it could cause severe hemorrhaging and possibly even death.
These abortion laws clearly have severe consequences for people with a uterus. Many of these laws do not take medicine and science into account and are solely concerned with creating overt bans rather than taking actionable steps to decrease the frequency of abortions.
These laws are especially harmful to those from lower-income families. When states criminalize or limit access to abortions, those who can afford to travel elsewhere to seek abortions often do so. However, those who cannot afford to travel or lose income from taking time off work, may not be able to receive an abortion. It is a sheer denial of reproductive health care based on class.
With the upcoming decision on the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, it is more important than ever to pay attention to this issue. People must realize how important having access to abortions is to comprehensive reproductive health care and must work to ensure that these rights are protected by creating awareness and supporting reproductive justice organizations. Access to safe and legal abortions must be fought for.