Your Guide to Understanding the Current State of Abortion Rights

The issue of abortion is a heavily contested topic. Personally, it has filled my dinner table conversations as voices jumped from a woman’s right to choose to preserve the sanctity of life, and ultimately subsiding when forcing my family to consider if their daughters, sisters, or cousins were in this theoretical position we were speaking of. These dinner conversations are not confined to my family, as they consume the media, political parties, and conversations nationally. Since the 1960s, abortion became a dominating subject dividing America’s two political parties. While Roe (the Supreme Court case upholding abortion) is what has become widely accepted precedent, state legislatures in the past year have threatened its very existence; what were speculative ideas have materialized into conservative actions. What exactly is going on?  

1.     Brett Kavanaugh is appointed to the Supreme Court

I start the timeline here, as it is most significant to the preservation of abortion rights currently. Kavanaugh’s appointment created a 5-4 conservative majority on the Supreme Court bench. Kavanaugh is a staunch conservative who has made his opinions on abortion clear, and well, he is not a supporter. An important caveat in this rests in Justice John Roberts, a centric, whose record sways from opposition to support of abortion rights (discussed in more specifics later on!). 

Read more here:  https://www.vox.com/2018/9/7/17818458/brett-kavanaugh-supreme-court-nominee-abortion-confirmation 

2.     End of 2018 – 15 states enacted 23 new abortion restrictions

Following Kavanaugh’s successful appointment, pro-Life state legislatures got overwhelmingly excited. Missouri, Alabama, Mississippi, and more began to propose aggressive legislation that would chip away at Roe. This legislation varied from heartbeat bills to requiring abortion providers to have “admitting privileges” at a hospital within 30 miles, and even so far to banning abortion past 15 weeks (most women don’t know they’re pregnant until 8 weeks in). These types of restrictions are both harsh and manifest intense implications for women nation-wide 

Read more here: https://www.vox.com/2019/5/17/18628265/alabama-abortion-law-missouri-georgia-roe-v-wade or https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/06/05/729753903/early-abortion-bans-which-states-have-passed-them 

3.     Title X… got X’ed

Title X is a federal program dedicated to family planning and resources. This program is devised to help women access essential reproductive services by providing federal assistance. Up until recently, Planned Parenthood, the leading provider of women’s reproductive services in the nation, served 40% of Title X recipients (for a variety of services, including STD screening). That was until the Trump administration successfully passed a rule requiring all recipients to cease providing abortion services or referrals in order to receive funding. While abortion only consists of 3% of Planned Parenthood services, standing for all reproductive rights they rejected the administration’s law, forcing them to withdraw from the Title X program. 

Read more here: https://www.npr.org/2019/08/19/752438119/planned-parenthood-out-of-title-x-over-trump-rule or https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/8/14/20805628/planned-parenthood-title-x-trump-birth-control 

4.     June Medical Services vs. Gee: where we are going next

Speeding up to date, we turn to June Medical Services vs. Gee. Gee is the first abortion case being heard by the Supreme Court which directly challenges the aggressive proposals from state legislatures. The case challenges a Louisiana law requiring abortion providers to maintain “admitting privileges” at a hospital within 30 miles of their practice; there has only been one doctor who says she satisfies these criteria. An almost identical law from Texas was struck down in 2016, making the decision in this case momentous. How the court rules in Gee will not only indicate the viability of abortion to come in the future but it directly hurts women residents of Louisiana who are left with a singular doctor to administer abortion procedures.   

Read more here: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/04/us/politics/supreme-court-abortion-louisiana.html?module=inline 

5.     RBG, please don’t ghost us (meant quite literally)

What we are all most afraid of – losing RBG. In attempting to reserve my own personal biases, RBG does remain as one of the most liberal judges on the court, historically committed to preserving women’s rights. She has a tendency to scare us with spurts of pancreatic cancer (treated at our very own GW hospital), and the impact of a third appointment by the Trump administration would definitively turn the Supreme Court into a conservative gold mine. An additional open seat could reverse what has been 50 years of progress for women, LGBT, African American, and minority rights. 

With that being said, she does not plan on leaving anytime soon… read more here: https://www.npr.org/2019/07/24/744633713/justice-ginsburg-i-am-very-much-alive 

I include the disclaimer that this piece is in no shape or form comprehensive. I intended to keep this outline simple and concise, drawing on what I find are the largest points. What we can’t forget in all of the political and judicial jargon is that women are hurting. These attacks on abortion bring a much harsher reality for women who are left to deal with the consequences of carrying a baby; that may include childcare, health care, working mothers, and the list goes on. It is easy to isolate ourselves in the politics, biases, and Supreme Court rulings, but we must not forget the impact this has on women’s lives. My opinion is biased, and I am stating that clearly and confidently.