If the Supreme Court follows through on its draft majority opinion that overturns Roe v. Wade, it will open the floodgates to extremist new laws and court rulings that could cost all Americans the right to make intimate decisions about their own lives — from the medications they take to the partners they choose to marry.
To begin with, abortion access in at least 26 states will vanish almost overnight.
Women seeking abortions — a constitutional right for the last half-century — could soon face steep prison sentences, along with the medical professionals who care for them. Many more will face trauma and deprivation, and some will die.
For a look at the future, consider Texas. That state’s law bans abortions at six weeks, before most women even know they’re pregnant — and even in cases of incest and rape.
As a result, women have been forced to seek abortions at clinics outside the state, which have seen an 800 percent increase in patients. Resources are stretched thin, extending wait times and over-burdening staff. Abortion funds in Texas now spend six times more resources on travel expenses for these patients.
Patients who are unable to travel have sought other means, including terminating their own pregnancies, by seeking abortion-inducing medicine in Mexico — a risky alternative. Banned from offering abortion services after six weeks, Texas clinics have begun to offer counseling for trauma and grief support instead.
Even more troubling, doctors in Texas are reporting that they’re unable to discuss abortion even with patients carrying nonviable pregnancies that could threaten their lives. This will inevitably lead to complications and deaths. A 2017 study from Texas itself found that maternal mortality rates are nearly double in states that restrict abortion access.
Other states are considering laws even more extreme than Texas. Louisiana, for example, is trying to charge women who get abortions with murder — which is punishable in the state by death. And most states looking to ban the procedure include no exceptions for rape, incest or life-threatening pregnancies.
These extreme laws will be especially harsh for Americans who are already marginalized. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the Global Justice Center warn that overturning Roe will harm Black, Indigenous and other Americans of color — as well as poor people of all races who already lack equitable healthcare access.
LGBTQ+ people will also be seriously harmed. These communities already face higher rates of medical discrimination, which are getting worse thanks to vicious new anti-trans laws throughout the country, and abortion bans will only intensify the problem.
But this assault won’t stop at abortion. Once you repeal people’s right to privacy and bodily autonomy, other bans will follow.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., has called the basis for legal birth control “unsound,” while Senate candidate Blake Masters, R-Ariz., says he’ll vote only for judges who would criminalize birth control. Idaho Republicans are pushing for bans on intrauterine devices and the morning-after pill, while Louisiana seeks to ban in-vitro fertilization, which millions of Americans have used to conceive.
These extreme positions are wildly out of step with American public opinion, and still other rights could be at risk.
Rulings like Loving v. Virginia, which prevented states from banning interracial marriage in 1967, and Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriages in 2015, rest on a similar foundation as Roe. People’s rights to make other personal decisions — such as the right to take custody of one’s children, to divorce, to refuse or accept medical care and countless others — would also be threatened by the court’s draft opinion.
Regardless of whether you support or oppose the right to abortion, overruling the constitutional rights to privacy and bodily autonomy will have far-reaching effects. Who we marry, whether we take birth control, how we care for ourselves and our children — all of these decisions could end up in the hands of extremist lawmakers.
Undoing Roe will affect everyone’s lives, including those who oppose it. As intimate, private decisions become criminal offenses, we must demand the protection of Roe v. Wade and legislation that codifies the basic human rights it guarantees.
Generations have fought for these fundamental rights, and now is not the time to regress. No one is immune to this abuse of power, so all of us need to fight it.