By Gabi Franca
On June 24, 2022, in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which claimed the 14th Amendment’s right to privacy protected abortion as an intrinsic right. The Court’s 5-4 decision has triggered laws in 13 states—Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming—that immediately ban abortion. Additional states have also followed suit by pushing for anti-abortion legislation.
A poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation in July 2022 found that two-thirds of Americans are against the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. This lack of support for the Supreme Court’s decision is especially evident in the sheer number of people who took to the streets to protest in June and July. Thousands came together in places such as Washington D.C. to express their anger and disapproval at the Supreme Court’s decision. Current Events club head Raina Sohur ’23 said that the Dobbs decision “certainly had an impact on midterms in 2022. Many analyses suggest that the overturning of Roe v. Wade was one of the reasons the predicted ‘red wave’ was only a ‘pink splash.’”
Two months after the decision, there were, on average, more than 10,000 fewer abortions recorded nationally compared to pre-Dobbs estimates. Texas in particular accounted for a significant portion of this decrease, with more than 2,500 fewer abortions recorded. However, as Valeria Gil ‘23 notes, restricting abortion access “does not decrease the number of abortions, but instead decreases the number of safe abortions.” Indeed, as multiple studies have already suggested, many women who have been denied the right to an abortion are trying to find other ways to access the procedure. For example, Aids Access, a nonprofit in Austria that delivers abortion-inducing pills to people in the U.S., has seen an increase in requests for their pills, with Texas specifically seeing the greatest number of requests. Additionally, Texas also saw the greatest number of increases in travel time to get to abortion-providing facilities. In fact, in states such as North Carolina, Kansas, Colorado, and Illinois, where abortion remains legal, the number of requests for appointments in abortion clinics has seen a dramatic increase since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, with a majority of some clinics’ clients being from outside the state. In these four respective states, abortion rates have risen more than 25%. In some clinics that saw an increase in visitors post-Dobbs, actions have been enacted that prevent the access of abortion for out-of-state patients. The Planned Parenthood of Montana clinic in Helena, for example, has implemented policies restricting the access of abortion pills to out-of-state patients.
In the legal sphere, the overturning of Roe v. Wade has also caused a great number of disputes surrounding the constitutionality of banning abortions. In more than 10 state courts, for example, challenges on Dobbs v. Jackson have caused temporary lifts on abortion bans. On a federal level, the Biden administration has issued executive orders that work to protect access to reproductive healthcare. The objectives of these orders include protecting the privacy of patients and providers, ensuring emergency medical care, convening volunteer lawyers to offer support to people seeking or providing abortions, launching public outreach efforts, and protecting access to contraception and medication abortion.
With increasingly limited access to abortion, the future of reproductive rights in the United States is facing uncertainty. Though many have struggled as a result of the decision in Dobbs, there has been significant pushback, as well as hope to make change and educate others about the decision’s impact. Winsor’s Amnesty club, for example, welcomed Nandini Sangarasivam, a reproductive health equity specialist, to the Upper School to give a presentation on reproductive justice earlier in the year. Upper School English teacher Ms. Ryan, who teaches a course on Feminism, notes that “it’s imperative for students to understand the history of issues around women’s health and women’s rights in this country, so that they have a rich context for understanding what is happening and what is at stake now.” Indeed, opening discussions surrounding the effects of Dobbs in classrooms, as well as inviting people such as Sangarasivam to speak to students about reproductive justice, is one of the many crucial ways that schools and other communities can spread awareness about reproductive rights in the United States, and advocate for those who are impacted.