Roe v Wade: how the overturn is affecting Americans

6 mins
27 Jun 2022
Roe v Wade: how the overturn is affecting Americans

And what you can do to help those affected...

image Gayatri Malhotra (via unsplash)

words Sophie Wilkinson

Just before the weekend hit, the US Supreme Court did what it was expected to and overturned Roe vs Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that legalised abortion in the US. It is now replaced with either a law that abortion is banned after 15 weeks or altogether.

The result of this is that, according to family planning service Planned Parenthood, up to 36 million women, non binary and trans people will lose access to abortion services.

Those living in 11 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Idaho, Wyoming, Mississippi, and Utah won’t be able to access abortion like before.

And in a further 11 states: Nebraska, North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, South Carolina, Indiana, Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio

Additionally, Iowans must wait a 24 hour cooling off period before getting an abortion and Floridians can only get abortions before 15 weeks. In West Virginia, while the law is still being worked out, its sole abortion provider has closed.

It’s easy to feel helpless - an historic piece of legislation has been overturned by a small group of Trump-appointed judges thanks to a 50-year effort from dedicated campaigners. As a result, people will likely die. But there are tools like never before to help.

Last month we guided you towards ways of helping to protect reproductive rights for Americans, but now this has happened, we’ve got some more.

Over half of abortions in the US - pre-pandemic - were administered via the medical route: one pill of misoprostol and another of mifepristone. Women on Web is an organisation that gets these pills to those who live in countries where abortion is illegal. They’ve mailed them, they’ve shipped them, they’ve even droned them over borders in order to enable abortions. You can support them here.

Also, if you’re interested in what can be done politically, check out what New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been calling for, which is, in brief: a plan from the Democrats to ensure abortions are still available, a new law allowing abortions across the US - that can’t be overturned - can come into place, and, well, democracy can be saved!

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Here’s a quick overview of Roe v Wade.

What is Roe v Wade?

The Roe v Wade case made abortion a constitutional right in the USA. Now that it has been overturned, 25 million people are going to lose access to abortion services.

In 1969, Norma McCorvey, a single Texan woman in her early 20s who went by the pseudonym ‘Jane Roe’ to protect her privacy, became pregnant after an alleged rape. She wanted to terminate her pregnancy, but at that time Texas only allowed abortions if the pregnant person’s life was in danger.

Supported by lawyers Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee, McCorvey filed a lawsuit against the district attorney for Dallas, Henry Wade, arguing that the existing abortion legislation in Texas was unconstitutional. McCorvey had already given birth twice and put both children up for adoption (the first adopted by her mother, the second by another family). Without money, she was unable to travel out of Texas to where abortions were legal. It also would have been illegal to pay doctors to carry out the termination illegally. The district court ruled in McCorvey’s favour, escalating the case to the Supreme Court after Wade appealed the decision. In turn, this led to anti-abortion laws being ruled as unconstitutional by violating the 9th and 14th Amendment’s right to privacy. Awaiting the ruling, McCorvey was forced to give birth. She gave this child, her third, up for adoption.

The Supreme Court ruling worked off the back of trimesters. All abortions in the first three months of a pregnancy became legal and solely up to the potential mother, with the option for limited state regulations in the second trimester. Across the US, abortions would only be allowed in the third trimester when the mother’s life was at risk.

Why was Roe v Wade overturned

Allowing abortion on the basis of privacy is a relatively flimsy way to go about it. Rather than codify the law properly - making it something that couldn’t be overturned - Presidents Clinton, Obama and Biden decided on other priorities. Rumbling on 2018, Mississippi decided to ban abortions after 15 weeks, which was felt by unconstitutional. This court case, known as Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organisation, was taken to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is made up of 9 judges and a majority of them are anti-abortion. This is thanks to three judges appointed directly by Donald Trump during his presidency: Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett. It was them who tipped the balance and saw Roe v Wade overturned.

What can I do to help fight for reproductive rights?

Hashtags to use

#mybodymychoice #reclaimroe #reproductivehealth #shoutyourabortion #abortionpositive

Petitions to sign

Change.org

Action Network

Places to educate yourself

TikToks by Gen Z for Change provide a helpful break down of the real-life effects of overturning Roe v Wade, explaining how you can take action – they're definitely worth having a watch.

As Texas-based group Avow says, “messaging matters because it can help move people from judgment to empathy”. They have created a clear and concise guide to help people navigate conversations about abortion – from gender neutral language, to leading with facts and combatting misinformation and difficult conversations.

Amnesty International

Planned Parenthood

NHS

Instagram accounts to follow

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Helplines to call

MSI Reproductive Choices: 0345 300 8090 (England, Scotland and Wales), +44 (0) 1454 457 542 (international), 0345 122 1441 (Dedicated Aftercare Line)

Abortion Recovery and Care: 03456038501

British Pregnancy Advisory Service: 03457 30 40 30

Organisations you can donate to

Abortion Rights

ASN

BPAs

Alliance for choice

Act Blue

Indigenous women rising

Brigid Alliance

Repro Legal Defense Fund

How to protest

If you're based in the U.S., you can help by channelling your outrage into action. Organise rallies and protests.

If you can’t get out IRL to protest, think about how you can utilise your skillset and abilities to aid the pro-choice movement. Can you code? Gen Z for Change is looking to recruit coders to help build systems that could automatically overwhelm future anti-abortion rights watchdog websites with false information — even if those websites have yet to be built.

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