Decision to overturn Roe v. Wade creates unsafe abortions, exacerbates racial and economic disparities

Zay Yontz, Features Editor

A Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) draft surrounding abortion laws under the court case Roe v. Wade was leaked May 1. The opinion document voted to strike down the SCOTUS case Roe v. Wade, a court case that ruled any state laws that banned abortion were unconstitutional. This ruling has sparked widespread controversy, and for good reason.

SCOTUS Justice Samuel Alito delivered the opinion to the court in February with support from five of the nine justices, according to nytimes.com. The document contains 98 pages, and within it, Alito criticizes Roe v. Wade, stating Roe was egregiously wrong” because it’s not a right explicitly stated in the constitution. The possibility of an overruling of Roe v. Wade Leaves other important SCOTUS cases, like Obergefell v. Hodges, vulnerable to change as well. Other cases that are already protected are now on “shakier” ground like the Obergefell v. Hodges case that legalized same-sex marriage. Since Alito criticized Roe v. Wade’s case, it suggests that other cases might be reexamined according to an article by npr.org. According to supreme.findlaw.com, it has been the SCOTUS’ job to decide what is and is not constitutional after their decision on Marbury v. Madison. During Marbury v. Madison, SCOTUS established judicial review, “the power of federal courts to declare legislative and executive acts unconstitutional” making them eligible to overturn Roe v. Wade today. While the SCOTUS legalized abortion 49 years ago, and it is uncommon for SCOTUS to change its own decisions, the case has been one of high contention amongst voters since the court established its first ruling. Scotus has not yet finalized the opinion, but it still poses the question: What will the U.S look like if SCOTUS overruled it? The overturning will not ban abortions. Rather, it will give states the power to decide, which is still extremely dangerous. Both federal and state governments should have power, however this particular law should not be a state by state issue,but a national law that is available to everyone. Trigger laws in states such as Arkansas, Missouri, Idaho and Kentucky would immediately start criminalizing abortions because of precedent laws, according to an article by nytimes.com.

Before Roe v. Wade, 16 states banned abortion in certain circumstances, while 30 states criminalized abortions with no exceptions, according to an article by The Washington Post. If SCOTUS overturned the case, it would not stop abortions. It would simply stop safe abortions. Between the 1950s and 1960s, there were more than 200,000 illegal abortions in the U.S, according to guttmacher.org. This led to a high death toll for women who received an illegal abortion, with approximately 2,700 women dying in the 1930s because of the lack of access to safe abortions. Overturning Roe v. Wade would affect not just women but also various marginalized communities. Transgender people, non-binary people and anyone who is able to receive an abortion will be affected by this overturning. For years, citizens have advocated for freedom and democracy, yet the government is now choosing to overturn a decision on abortion rights that 59% of the U.S. agrees with.  People with the money and resources to leave the state they are currently in to obtain an abortion would be easily able to, while people impacted by poverty, racism and inaccessibility to healthcare do not have the means to do so. 

A movement focusing on defunding planned parenthood emerged in previous years and was brought up by pro-lifers once again after the Politico leaked the draft. The pro-life movement is against people choosing wether they can terminate their pregnancy according to a definition by collinsdictonary.com. Aside from performing abortions, Planned Parenthood offers STD testing, birth control and cancer screenings, and the idea that defunding this organization would save fetus lives again takes away from the safety and security of citizens’ healthcare. It will create further disparities between marginalized groups because the healthcare system already has implicit bias. A study done by the University of Colorado Boulder found that maternal deaths among Black women could increase by one-third, and Black women are already three times more likely to die of pregnancy-related causes than white women. An overruling of Roe v. Wade would only increase these numbers because approximately 37% of women receiving abortions are Black women. 

According to rchsd.org, a person has the right to “govern what happens to their body without external influence or coercion,” and this should lay the foundation for any argument against abortion. No one has the moral obligation to allow something to live off them, and thus, bodily autonomy justifies abortion, no matter one’s stance on the morality of the issue.”

“Life,” according to the Oxford dictionary, is “the existence of an individual human being or animal,” and is hard to counter on the pro-choice side t because the idea of personhood is undecided by many scientists. Scientists have discussed the moral dilemma of deciding whether a fetus has personhood for many years. Bodily autonomy is significantly more morally justifiable than pro-lifers have made it out to be. According to rchsd.org, a person has the right to “govern what happens to their body without external influence or coercion,” and this should lay the foundation for any argument against abortion. No one has the moral obligation to allow something to live off them, and thus, bodily autonomy justifies abortion, no matter one’s stance on the morality of the issue. Thus, bodily autonomy is the main focus of many pro-choice activists, effectively changing the argument to focus on bodily autonomy rather than personhood and morals.

SCOTUS is expected to implement the final jurisdiction in late June or early July, while unlikely, there is still time for the court to adopt a different ruling. Despite public outrage, protesters won’t be able to change the court’s opinion because of impartiality. If SCOTUS were to change their mind because protestors convinced them to, it  would undermine their legitimacy; however, Congress has been looking at possible ways to codify the law. The introduction of laws, like the one Chuck Schumer proposed, which would entail further protection of the Women’s Health Protection Act, are already failing because of a filibuster. There is no specific law that is being blocked right now, but a majority of the pro-choice side predicts it would occur if there were to be any law passed after SCOTUS overrules Roe v. Wade. The government created the filibuster to stop certain legislation that goes against a majority of the court’s opinion and the senate continues to abuse it according to an article by brennancenter.org. Since a majority of the senate would vote against any kind of law that could codfiy Roe v. Wade, or a law that would protect abortion rights,  it wouldn’t make it any further within the courts. According to washingtonexaminer.com, a large majority of voters that will be voting in the congressional elections do not fully comprehend what striking down Roe v. Wade would mean, leaving a dangerous situation for the last efforts to save abortion rights. 

The only thing left to do is educate the public and understand what this ruling would mean for not only the people who need access to abortions, but for the large majority of our constitutional rights. Educating oneself and voting in the congressional elections for representatives who will help enshrine the decision has the best chance of maintaining the status quo and keeping abortion rights safe and legal.

What did you think about the leaked draft? Let us know in the comments below.