Overturning our constitutional right to abortion will jeopardize other basic human rights

What to know and what you can do right now

By Lauren Himiak

Photo credit: Wikimedia

The Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn abortion rights in the United States has been confirmed and is a dangerous decision that will have devastating consequences to the health and future of our family members, colleagues, loved ones, neighbors and communities. Roe v. Wade — the precedent that guarantees federal constitutional protections of abortion rights — is connected to numerous other rights centered in constructs of liberty, making the ruling a glaring reminder that our right to privacy, to control our bodies, and to make medical, family and other life decisions without government influence or interference remains under attack.

For reproductive health, rights and justice leaders, advocates and concerned citizens, the writing has been on the wall since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. Over the past five decades, anti-abortion legislators have chipped away at abortion rights through an onslaught of restrictions — the Hyde Amendment, 20-week bans, waiting periods, mandatory ultrasound requirements, physician scripts, insurance restrictions, and more — making the procedure harder to access. In 2022 alone, 529 restrictions were introduced in 41 states, and nearly 90 percent of U.S. counties lack a clinic that offers abortion care.

What happens now?

The national abortion landscape will change very quickly. First, 13 states with “trigger bans” — designed to take effect as soon as Roe is overturned — will ban abortion within 30 days: Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Dakota, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming. Several other states where recent anti-abortion legislation has been blocked by the courts will act next, with lawmakers moving to activate their dormant legislation. In total, 26 states are set to restrict or ban abortion, affecting more than 36 million women, in addition to all people who can become pregnant, such as queer women, transmasculine people, and nonbinary people. While all of these laws make exceptions for the life of the mother, most do not include exceptions for rape and incest, causing people to bear children under violent or abusive circumstances.

Who will be affected?

Overturning of Roe V. Wade will impact us all, but will have devastating consequences on the health and livelihood of those already historically marginalized in the U.S. due to structural racism, ongoing white supremacy, classism and sexism — Black, Latino and Indigenous people and families; people in rural communities; immigrants; people with disabilities; LGBTQ+ people; young people; and people struggling to make ends meet. The ruling will seriously hinder a person’s opportunity to access education, employment and build for their future. It will overwhelm hospitals and medical facilities who are not equipped to care for the amount of pregnancies and obstetric emergencies that will occur. And when forced to carry a pregnancy to term, maternal mortality will continue to rise in the U.S., which is already one of the most dangerous high-income countries in which to give birth, especially for Black and Hispanic women who are more likely than white women to experience health complications during pregnancy and childbirth.

What can I do?

As we grapple with the changing landscape of reproductive freedom, an important step for all is to learn more about reproductive justice and how abortion is tied to so many other rights, including LGBTQ+ rights, equity and privacy. Here are a few things you can do right now to support reproductive freedom:

Not backing down

Giving states the right to outlaw abortion opens the door to restrictions on other types of reproductive health care, including birth control, emergency contraception, such as Plan B, trans-affirming health care, and fertility treatments. Legal scholars also warn of the impacts to other federal protections rooted in the same implied constitutional right to privacy, including gay rights, contraceptives and even interracial marriage. The ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade will have devastating consequences, and it must be a wake-up call for us all. Each and every person deserves access to comprehensive health care, which includes abortion, without barriers or political interference. Now, more than ever, we must take individual and collective action to fight until every person has the freedom to make their own decisions about their bodies and their lives.

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