The Supreme Court of the United States has officially overturned the landmark abortion ruling Roe v. Wade after they ruled in favor of Mississippi’s State Health Officer in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization abortion case. The case at the center of the ruling focuses on the constitutionality of a 2018 Mississippi state law that bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Advocates have argued that the Mississippi law was unconstitutional because it violated Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which prevented states from banning abortion before fetal viability within the first 24 weeks, and Roe v. Wade, which said the right to abortion is ingrained in the constitution. Now, both landmark abortion precedents have been overruled, leaving the fate of abortion rights to individual states.
“Today, racism and tyranny prevailed. While we knew this was coming, it is no less infuriating to witness the utter contempt our Supreme Court has for those of us who seek the power to control our bodies and our lives,” said Debasri Ghosh, the managing director at the National Network of Abortion Funds.
Abortion rights advocates have been preparing for this ruling for years—after the political makeup of the Supreme Court continued veering to the right, they knew access to abortion care would be one of the first rights to go. Now, every abortion advocate’s worst nightmare has come true, with at least 22 states likely to ban abortion altogether. Advocates say the bans, which have already begun being passed in states like Oklahoma, will create “abortion deserts” where patients have to travel large distances and spend money and time to access abortion in a state where it is legal. The reality became even more apparent once the SCOTUS draft was leaked in May.
“People who have been doing this work in red states have long been screaming into the void about how this was going to come down the pipeline,” Nancy Cárdenas Peña, the Texas director for policy and advocacy at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice said in May, a day after the SCOTUS ruling draft leaked. “We’ve seen so many restrictive legislations on the ground here in Texas. But, speaking for myself, even as someone who’s done this work for so many years, it was still a gut punch. This is our worst-case scenario.”
According to some abortion advocates, there are also many mistaken assumptions that the decision will not impact more liberal states where abortion will remain legal. States where abortion care has been easier to access have already been strained by an influx of patients since Texas’ Senate Bill 8 passed in the fall of 2021. As abortion deserts grow, hundreds of thousands of people who need care will have to travel to states that permit abortion, and the waves of additional out-of-state patients mean residents of those states will face added obstacles to get into a clinic as quickly as they would like or before the state’s gestational cutoff. Oklahoma recently reported a 2,500% increase in patients from Texas due to SB 8, until Oklahoma’s governor signed their own similar abortion ban in May. Nearby Colorado expects to receive an increase in patients as a result.
“The U.S. Supreme Court has turned its back on millions of people and families across the U.S. who need abortion care. We will never do that,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, president, and CEO of Whole Women’s Health. “We are here. We are not going away. Ever.”
“The harm of abortion restrictions will now fall even harder on Black, Indigenous and people of color, people already excluded from our health care by systemic racism and economic injustice,” said Ghosh. “We will withstand this moment. This network will come together, as it always has, to make abortion access possible for anyone seeking care.”
Some states have already begun drafting legislation to protect abortion rights, such as California and New Jersey. In the meantime, abortion advocates suggest donating to local abortion funds to help support people who may need to travel for care.
“Whole Woman’s Health will continue its long and proud tradition of providing high-quality, compassionate, personal abortion care in the remaining states where pregnant people’s needs and rights are still respected and protected under law,” said Hagstrom Miller. “We will do everything we can to help obtain safe, timely, affordable care for those whose rights and access to safe and legal abortion services have been cruelly and unjustly revoked.”
To keep track of what you need to know about abortion at the national level, read news outlets that are closely covering abortion rights and focusing on impacted people, like Prism, The 19th, and Rewire. You can also follow organizers who regularly talk about abortion rights on social media like Renee Bracey Sherman, the executive director of We Testify, Abortion; public health scholar Hayley McMahon, Dr. Ghazaleh Moayedi, the founder of the Pegasus Health Justice Center in Texas, and Pennsylvania-based abortion fund organizer Crystal Gee.