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Is abortion now illegal in America?

Updated: Jan 18, 2023

For the past 50 years, the case Roe v. Wade guaranteed the right to terminate pregnancy in America. Today, that right ended. A conservative majority of the US Supreme Court just threw out its citizens' right to safely end pregnancies - including in cases of rape and incest - in a radical legal reversal widely considered to be an enormous setback for healthcare and fundamental rights.

President Biden has called the ruling a 'tragic error.' We look at what it means for abortion access now, and what the future holds for US reproductive rights going forward.

Abortion is now illegal in Louisiana, Kentucky and South Dakota.

Almost half of states are anticipated to follow suit, with 10 other states' abortion bans taking effect in the very near team.

In reality, many states in the U.S. had already been operating with harsh restrictions on abortion, with forced births and intimidation of patients, doctors and clinic staff as the status quo for years.

As the Guardian put it:

"This has long been expected, and long dreaded, by those in the reproductive rights movement, and it has long been denied by those who wished to downplay the court’s extremist lurch."

But now the post-Roe age is here in full force, what does this mean?

What the future may hold

In short, there is no longer a federal constitutional right to abortion and states may legislate to make it illegal.

Currently, people may legally cross state lines to access the procedure, but it is unknown whether state legislatures would pass laws to make that more difficult.

Stark divisions between states are becoming clear.

In New Jersey, for instance, lawmakers have moved to protect reproductive rights. “In New Jersey, women will always have full autonomy over their own bodies and the right to make their own medical decisions,” Gov. Phil Murphy has said, calling the Supreme Court's decision “backwards and appalling.”

The ruling also indicates that the conservative-leaning Supreme Court may bring in other extreme legislative changes, given that yesterday the the US Supreme Court also opened the door for nearly all Americans to carry concealed and loaded handguns in public. These could potentially include limiting access to contraception.

The USA is one of the only countries where some lawmakers are actively seeking to make it harder for people to access contraceptives like the IUD.

19 million women are also said to live in what are termed 'contraceptive deserts', meaning they lack reasonable access in their county to a health center that offers the full range of contraceptive methods.

Commentators suggest that the Supreme Court decision could also open the door to overturn same-sex marriage. But in a concurrent opinion, Justice Thomas said the same rationale for the court's decision could overturn other major cases, including those that legalized gay marriage, barred the criminalization of homosexual sex, and protected contraceptive rights.

The decision will also likely mean that the court itself, as well as reproductive rights questions, will be a focal point in the upcoming US elections.

Could it be reinstated? And the problem with Roe v. Wade

There are three main scenarios by which abortion protections could be reinstated - though none are likely, at least in the neartime.

Firstly that a future liberal-leaning majority reinstates the ruling. Secondly, a Democratic majority could vote to codify Roe v Wade in law. Lastly, that the Republican party may decide that it needs to moderate its stance on abortion, due to critical backlash or election defeats.

The reality underscoring today's ruling is that - whatever the politics - as a piece of legislation, Roe v. Wade was flimsy at best.

Even prominent pro-abortion rights legal scholars, such as the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, called Roe “difficult to justify,” a “barely coherent” “verbal smokescreen” that “is not constitutional law and gives almost no sense of an obligation to try to be.”

Abortion as 'forced birth'

While the fetus is often the focus on conservative concern in the abortion debate, what is often missing from arguments is a clear articulation of the risk to life of pregnancy and birth.

The USA is the only industrialized nation in the world where the rate of pregnancy-related deaths is rising - and conservative policies restricting access to health for its poorest citizens are likely to make these statistics even more damning.

Similarly of concern are the mental and emotional wellbeing of pregnant people.

“Forced birth was tantamount to the rape I experienced; in some ways, the violation of it went deeper.”

Dina Zirlott was raped when she was 17 years old. She was forced to give birth to a baby when she was 18 years old, and the baby died of a medical conditions when Dina was 19 years old.

She has called the Supreme Court's decision "insane" and "barbaric".

You can read her first-person story here.

Our commitment

As a team, ELANZA Wellness stands firmly for people's rights to bodily autonomy, personal agency and a fundamental right for people to decide for themselves.

Our offer is that anyone in an affected state struggling with this decision or their reproductive future choices can access a free coaching session with ELANZA.

Simply email with the subject line 'Roe' and we will create a coupon code, no questions asked.


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