It’s been just over one year since the Supreme Court announced its ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The case overturned the ruling on Roe v. Wade, a landmark case from 1973 that ensured the rights of a pregnant person to have an abortion. Roe was preparing to reach its 50th anniversary before it was overturned on June 24, 2022. One year later, how exactly has this abrupt ruling impacted Americans? Unfortunately, the answer is bleak. Here are some of the major effects of the Dobbs ruling and a roadmap for what is to come as abortion restrictions grow tighter across the country.
What was Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization?
In March 2018, the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a case on behalf of Jackson Women’s Health Organization to challenge Mississippi’s laws, which banned abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. In a 5-1-3 ruling four years later on June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court came to the conclusion that Roe v. Wade, the case guaranteeing the right to abortion in the United States, was unconstitutional.
Justice Samuel Alito, of the Majority opinion, stated, “The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision…” Justice Alito was joined in the majority opinion by Justices Thomas, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett, with Justice Roberts concurring in judgment.
The dissenting opinion stated, “…one result of today’s decision is certain: the curtailment of women’s rights, and of their status as free and equal citizens.” The dissenting opinion was made up of Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan.
the public reaction was mixed.
Although the official ruling was made on June 24, the Supreme Court faced an unprecedented event in May 2022 when their draft opinion was leaked. Americans on all sides of the political spectrum reacted immediately.
Many conservatives reacted positively to the news. Prominent Republican and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis tweeted, “The prayers of millions have been answered” shortly after the ruling was announced. Senator Ted Cruz had similar thoughts, stating that the reversal was “nothing short of a massive victory for life, and it will save the lives of millions of innocent babies.”
However, the majority of Americans disagreed with the court’s ruling. As of July 2022, 62% of citizens believed abortion should be legal in all or most cases, according to the Pew Research Center. Many citizens took to their local capitol buildings to protest; there were thousands of attendees at a protest in New York City alone.
Several major organizations spoke out about the ruling as well. Planned Parenthood, the country’s largest provider of reproductive health services including abortion, was one of the first to make a statement. “The Supreme Court has now officially given politicians permission to control what we do with our bodies, deciding that we can no longer be trusted to determine the course for our own lives,” said CEO Alexis McGill Johnson in a statement reacting to the news.
Abortion bans rolled out across the country.
Nearly half of the United States have banned or restricted abortion since the Dobbs ruling. 14 states have full bans, where abortion is not allowed in any case: Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Other states, like Georgia, allow abortion up to six weeks of pregnancy.
The issue here is that the majority of people do not even know they are pregnant at six weeks. Doctors actually measure a pregnancy beginning from the first day of the person’s last menstrual period, and being six weeks pregnant means you’ve only missed your period for two weeks. Many people, for a variety of reasons, don’t have regular periods, so by the time they realize they are pregnant, the six-week window is likely to have passed.
The decision impacted everyone from patients to doctors.
Millions of Americans have been negatively impacted by the court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Doctors, for example, have reported feeling “trapped” by the new legislation. According to NPR, 40% of doctors reported facing limitations on care for miscarriage and pregnancy emergencies, with 61% of those practicing in states with bans expressing concerns about facing legal consequences for the medical decisions they make.
Worse still, pregnant people who get abortions may face legal action. Just months before the Supreme Court decision, a Texas woman named Lizelle Herrera was arrested for allegedly self-inducing an abortion. In the aftermath of Dobbs, Herrera has not been alone. Many women have been arrested for “feticide,” whether they intentionally tried to have an abortion or experienced a miscarriage. This crime of “fetal assault” has mostly been used to punish poor women or women of color who use drugs. Instead of being provided support for substance use disorders, these women are being further punished.
Intersectionality plays a role, too.
The overturning of Roe v. Wade has disproportionately impacted poor women and women of color. Residents of states with abortion bans sometimes need to travel to a state with more relaxed abortion laws to receive healthcare, and unfortunately many women are not able to financially or safely do this. After the 2022 decision, Axios predicted that about 100,000 women will not be able to receive abortions due to financial and logistical constraints.
In 2019, over half of abortions were among women of color, with nearly four in 10 being Black women. To make matters worse, Black women already face egregious mistreatment in healthcare, specifically when it comes to reproductive health. Maternal mortality is three to four times higher for Black women than it is for white women.
To put it bluntly, the blatant lack of care for marginalized communities means that pregnant people will die — and many already are.
So what’s Next?
The anti-abortion movement didn’t end with overturning Roe v. Wade. Many conservative politicians want to enact a complete federal abortion ban, or at least a ban after a certain number of weeks (similar to heartbeat laws). However, this plan is highly unpopular among even other Republican politicians. Several have expressed their fears of dividing the party by promoting extreme legislation. Still, abortion is likely to be a hot topic for the 2024 presidential elections, where several anti-abortion candidates, like former Vice President Mike Pence, have already announced their intention to run.
However, all hope is not lost. Organizations like Planned Parenthood have announced their intent to continue fighting abortion bans across the country. Other groups, such as the Women’s Reproductive Rights Assistance Project and the National Network of Abortion Funds, are committed to providing financial, logistical, and emotional support to pregnant people in need of reproductive healthcare.
The route this country has been going on is scary, but the fight is not over. There are still many things you can do to promote abortion rights, including protesting, contacting your legislator, and donating to abortion funds. If you’re looking for a way to get involved with the cause, check out the ACLU’s suggestions for fighting for reproductive rights. For more information, also check out the Her Campus “Our Bodies, Our Rights” package.