January 22, 2022, marks the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Just shy of 50 years of the legalization of abortion in the United States, abortion access is under attack and at risk of being taken away. We outline how we got here, and a preview of what a post-Roe world could look like.
Over the past few months, mounting confusion has arisen surrounding the anti-abortion cases making their way through the U.S. court system, and the potential impact they will have on the futures of the nearly 36 million Americans of reproductive age who would be left without access to reproductive health care if they are passed.
Since 1973, abortion access has been protected by the Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, in which the landmark decision was made that affirmed access to safe and legal abortion as a constitutional right.
After nearly 50 years of precedent protecting the right to safe, legal abortion, these two cases pose a direct threat to Roe v. Wade, Dobbs v. Jackson out of Mississippi and SB8 out of Texas.
Dobbs v. Jackson
The U.S. Supreme Court has this week begun the hearing for Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization which will examine the constitutionality of a 2018 Mississippi state law that banned abortion operations after the first 15 weeks of pregnancy.
In this case, the Court will address whether states can ban at least some abortions before fetal viability—directly challenging its decision in Roe v. Wade. By taking this case, the Court is signaling that these rights are in serious jeopardy. This is the first time the Court has agreed to review a case that bans abortion after a certain amount of weeks of pregnancy since the Roe v. Wade decision.
On May 19, 2021, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed into law one of the most extreme abortion bans in the entire nation. Senate Bill 8 bans abortion in Texas at approximately six weeks—before most people even know they’re pregnant—with no exceptions for rape or incest.
What sets SB 8 apart from other abortion bans is its legal provision that allows private individuals to enforce the law, meaning anyone from anywhere in the country can sue an abortion provider and/or anyone who helps a patient access abortion, and allows for a $10,000 reward to those who sue successfully.
On September 1, in an overnight decision the Supreme Court with its newly conservative majority refused to intervene and stop Texas’s unconstitutional law from going into effect, resulting in millions of Texans losing their constitutional right to access abortion. The Justice Department and abortion providers in Texas have since been relentlessly fighting SB 8 in federal courts, their efforts ultimately led to the Supreme Court agreeing to hear the case on an expedited basis. No decision has yet been made in that case, meanwhile, SB 8 remains in effect in Texas.
Texas has almost seven million women aged 15–49, out of a total of 75 million in the entire country. That means Roe v. Wade is now effectively meaningless for one in 10 U.S. women of reproductive age.
What Happens if Roe v. Wade is Overturned?
If Roe v. Wade is overturned or severely gutted, the power to regulate abortion would return to individual states. Currently, 26 states have trigger laws that would instantly kick in and restrict access to abortion if the U.S. Supreme Court decides in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade. The 36 million people that live in these states will no longer have access to safe and legal abortion, unless they have the means to travel to states where abortion is legal. For the states that have legalized abortion this will mean an increase in the number of out-of-state patients seeking access to safe, legal abortion. If that happens, surrounding states will see increases in the number of out-of-state patients needing reproductive care and access to safe, legal abortions.
What Does This Mean for California?
The right to abortion is codified in California, and it is deemed a “reproductive freedom” state, making it legal for anyone to seek and receive abortion care in the state.
With this being the case, abortion providers throughout the state are expecting to see an increase in out-of-state patients. According to new data from the Guttmacher Institute, at PPOSBC, we could expect to see 2,000 new patients annually just from Arizona, equating to roughly 40 new abortion patients every week.
Many of these out-of-state patients do not have the means to travel, let alone the funds to pay for an abortion, which is why we are increasing access to abortion services and helping them arrange for travel. It is a critical period for abortion access. Still, PPOSBC is determined to meet the needs of all patients, regardless of what state they live in.
The bottom line is this: PPOSBC is here to stay, and we will continue to provide high-quality reproductive care services to all, regardless of personal circumstance or ability to pay.
If you’d like to help patients get access to safe abortion at PPOSBC, you can donate to the Abortion Aid Fund.
To stay in the know about upcoming advocacy events and ways to get involved, visit BansOffAbortion.org.