Exeter, Devon UK • Mar 4, 2024 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home Features Roe v Wade overturned: what does the future hold for the United States?

Roe v Wade overturned: what does the future hold for the United States?

Following the Supreme Court's vote to overturn Roe v Wade, Features Editor Maggie John discusses what this means for the country's future and women's rights.
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Roe v Wade overturned: what does the future hold for the United States?

Image: Unsplash, Gayatri Malhotra

Following the Supreme Court’s vote to overturn Roe v Wade, Features Editor Maggie John discusses what this means for the country’s future and women’s rights.

In 1973, women in the United States were given a constitutional right to abortion, which became colloquially known as Roe v Wade. The decision to terminate a pregnancy during the first trimester was ruled to be solely the woman’s choice. During the second and third trimesters, the Government had more say: they could regulate abortion during the second trimester but could not ban it and, during the third trimester, states had the individual right to prohibit abortion, unless the mother’s health was in grave danger.  On 24 June 2022, the lives of millions of women in the United States changed. The Supreme Court’s conservative majority voted to overturn Roe v Wade, eliminating an almost 50-year-old constitutional right to abortion. Also, although it was a constitutional right, it was not always plain sailing for Roe v Wade. In 1992, Planned Parent Hood v Casey implanted the notion that individual states could restrict abortions, even in the first trimester, for non-medical reasons. However, the assertion that the right to abortion in the first semester is a constitutional right remained. 

Unfortunately, the news came as no shock. Weeks earlier, on 3 May 2022, documents were leaked which suggested that the Supreme Court were about to overturn the legislation, which would give individual states the power to ban abortion if they wanted to. In anticipation of the ruling, thirteen states passed “trigger laws” which would automatically ban abortion, if and when Roe was overturned. Almost immediately after it was confirmed that Roe v Wade had been overturned, Louisiana announced that their trigger law banning abortion was now in effect. 

Can the USA really call itself the Land of the Free when millions of women no longer have autonomy over their own bodies?

The Supreme Court’s decision is a terrifying precedent for what could come next. Justice Clarence Thomas, who voted in favour of overturning the ruling, also said that the court should reconsider its past rulings on gay marriage and birth control. Can the USA really call itself the Land of the Free when millions of women no longer have autonomy over their own bodies?

The three Supreme Court Justices, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Stephen Breyer, who voted against the overturning of Roe v Wade spoke out against the ruling, calling it a “curtailment of women’s rights, and of their status as free and equal citizens”. They also explained how “a state can force [a woman] to bring a pregnancy to term, even at the steepest personal and familial costs”, which is the reality of this ruling. 

An article in The New Yorker explains how we are entering an “era not just of unsafe abortions but of the widespread criminalization of pregnancy”. In certain states, any pregnancy loss past a certain point could be investigated as a crime. Furthermore, millions of women are now under a “legal and moral duty” to continue with their pregnancy, no matter what; this will inevitably have a knock-on effect on their mental health, their aspirations and their ability to put food on the table. Can the Supreme Court really argue that is fair or morally correct for the mother and the child? According to The New Yorker, pregnancy is thirty times more dangerous than an abortion and one study estimates that a nationwide ban on abortion, could result in a 21 per cent rise in pregnancy-related deaths. 

[Abortion] happens regardless of whether it is legal or not. The only thing you can ban is a woman’s ability to access safe abortions

One could argue, though, that it is impossible to ban abortion. It happens regardless of whether it is legal or not. The only thing you can ban is a woman’s ability to access safe abortions, which is what nearly half of the States have chosen to do. Eric Adams, mayor of New York City, called the ruling “an affront to basic human rights” that puts all lives at risk, and he declared it “a war on the American people”. He went on to say that the city is open to women across the country in search of abortion care and other states have followed suit. While it is a step in the right direction, many women do not have the means to travel to New York City, for example. Experts predict that the average driving distance to abortion providers could be as far as 791 miles, meaning it is out of reach for millions of women. Tragically, it will be the most marginalised in society who will feel the consequences of this most acutely. 

Following the news that Roe v Wade had been overturned, New York Magazine posted an Instagram photo that said this:  “In May, in anticipation of today’s Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, we created a vetted, regularly updated database of abortion clinics, abortion funds, and other resources to help you locate abortion services and practical support near you. To use the abortion finder, click the link in bio and enter your state or Zip Code and answer a few questions to receive a list of professional providers, including clinics, hospitals, and independent OB/GYNs with verified contact information, as well as other support options. […] Since state laws restricting abortion remain in flux, this database will be updated periodically to reflect those changes. This is also a free resource, and not kept behind our paywall”.

Furthermore, many companies have come forward and said they will do all they can to support and fund their employees who will need to travel to access an abortion. The more companies and people in power can do to campaign and raise awareness against the Supreme Court’s decision, the better. And yet, it will not be easy. Whilst most Americans are not in favour of the ruling, they are being controlled by a small minority of conservatives, who are making these decisions.

Simone de Beauvoir once said “never forget that it only takes one political, economic, or religious crisis for women’s rights to be put in jeopardy. Those rights are never to be taken for granted; you must remain vigilant throughout your life”. These are the times we are living in. No one knows what will happen next, but it is frightening to say the least. 

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