With the Supreme Court agreeing to hear a major case that could potentially roll back Roe v. Wade protections, conservative states are prepping to strip abortion access overnight. The 6-3 conservative-leaning court will listen to arguments about a 15-week abortion ban passed in Mississippi that two lower courts have already blocked. If the court rules in favor of the ban, they could overturn Roe v. Wade or, at the very least, dramatically change abortion access.
In preparation for a possible conservative-party win, some states have put trigger laws into place that would effectively rid these states of abortion access within 24 hours of the court’s ruling. These laws are currently unenforceable until the court makes a decision, but they make it abundantly clear which states will revert back to a pre-Roe era if given the opportunity.
Current barriers to abortion access
Despite Roe v. Wade legalizing abortion at the federal level in 1973, access and rules vary from state to state. Currently, there are already several barriers that exist in an effort to complicate the abortion process. Below is a list of current abortion barriers that many face.
- Time Limit: Depending on the state, the latest a person can get an abortion changes. In some states, a person can only get an abortion until the 20-week mark. Others have limits set at 24 weeks, 25+ weeks, or no limits on when the latest is possible. Keep in mind, 99% of abortions happen before 21 weeks. Those that happen late in the pregnancy are almost always for dire circumstances.
- Location: The number of abortion clinics also varies from state to state. Some states only have 1 abortion clinic to service the entire population, making it difficult to access this care.
- Harassment: According to the National Abortion Federation’s report, there has been a significant increase in the number of people who have tried to obstruct and disrupt patient services, including online hate speech and picketing.
- Mandatory Regulations: There are numerous regulations on both the abortion provider and abortion seeker. Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers, or TRAP, laws specifically target these clinics and impose tedious rules in an attempt to interfere with the abortion process. For example, these laws specify inch-by-inch dimensions for exam rooms and janitor closets in an attempt to make it more difficult for abortion providers to find a suitable place. For abortion seekers, some states require that patients receive counseling and complete a waiting period of at least 24 hours before the clinic visit.
Potential future barriers to abortion access
If the Supreme Court does decide to overturn Roe v. Wade, the United States will not outright ban abortion across the country. Instead, that choice goes to the states and they can individually choose what laws to put in place. For states with trigger laws, they have preemptively made their decision about abortion access and what the future of abortion could look like for their state. Here’s what the United States could be like in a post-Roe world.
- Access: If Roe v. Wade is struck down, 22 states would either ban or severely restrict abortion access. 10 of these states have passed trigger laws for immediate action.
- Location: If the number of abortion clinics decreases, the locations of those clinics will become even farther from those in need. Many will need to travel far from home to access an abortion clinic, creating an unnecessary financial burden.
- Safety: Even if abortion is outlawed, the number of abortions will not decrease. Zara Ahmed, associate director of federal issues for the Guttmacher Institute, says the only change that will really happen is the number of safe abortions declining. In fact, abortions occur at virtually the same rate in countries where the procedure is legal versus countries where the procedure is prohibited altogether.
What you can do to help
The majority of American adults believe that abortion should be legal in some or all cases. However, since the three Trump-appointed additions to the Supreme Court, there is a real possibility that the case they hear in October could affect abortion as Americans know it. While conservative states prepare with trigger laws, there are ways that feminists can fight back.
Many organizations are already prepping for this situation and need help! Places like Planned Parenthood, NARAL, the ACLU, and the Center for Reproductive Rights are all doing work to help prevent unconstitutional abortion bans and limits. Many of these organizations have several ways that you can get involved.
For example, you can donate, volunteer, and join local chapters for education and outreach. You can also write letters to lawmakers, sign petitions, and share information with your social circles. Whatever time you have to give, whether it’s a couple of minutes to sign a petition or a couple of hours to join a protest, your voice is important and deserves to be heard!