Prism's One year post-Roe series features 13 sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice advocates.
Prism's One year post-Roe series features 13 sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice advocates.

In 2019, I attended a reproductive justice conference in the South—during a panel, I listened to abortion experts discuss whether it was time to begin stockpiling medication abortion and emergency contraception. “Are they going to say we’re alarmists?” I remember one of the panelists saying, mostly to herself. 

The writing was already on the wall, and it had been for years. Still, in the decade or so I’ve covered sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice, I’ve heard abortion experts express the same frustrations over and over again.

It’s like screaming into a void.

I feel gaslit.

They think we’re being hysterical. 

And then it happened, like they knew it would. The Supreme Court’s June 24, 2022 ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturned Roe v. Wade and the right to abortion. Fifty years of abortion rights down the drain. But was it really?

There is a tension often missing in how we report on Roe. Was the constitutional right to abortion of monumental importance, giving millions of people a powerful tool for freedom? Absolutely. But Roe was also the floor, built on a shaky legal foundation and so easily overridden that sizable swaths of the country—namely in the South and Midwest—only had a theoretical freedom. What has the fall of Roe meant for undocumented immigrants and poor people of color for whom abortion was already wholly inaccessible, for whom abortion already required traveling hundreds of miles—if traveling was even an option? It has meant more of the same.

As we enter one year post-Roe, Prism wanted to mark the milestone by speaking to new and veteran advocates and organizers, abortion storytellers, providers, clinic directors, abortion fund volunteers, and SisterSong’s Monica Simpson, perhaps the most preeminent voice in the reproductive justice movement. What has the last year been like for them, how has their work changed or stayed the same, and how do they feel about the future of abortion rights? You’ll hear directly from them—and chances are it won’t be anything like you expect. The abortion rights movement is a messy, beautiful, and powerful thing, full of complications, nuances, and contradictions. You’ll see all of that reflected in these narratives. Some see the end of Roe as an opportunity, one that will enable us to build toward a better world for all. But for those in the weeds of providing abortion care to thousands of people across the South, the last year has been brutal—and it is getting worse.  

The South has long been a post-Roe zone. A few outliers—North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida—served as destination states for the entire region. Still, people in need of care had to jump through significant hurdles in these states, including mandated counseling, wait periods, and parental notice for young people. But with guidance and practical support from abortion funds, abortion could still be within reach. That is quickly changing as stricter anti-abortion laws go into effect, forcing longer wait times, clinic closures, and fewer options for people in need of abortion care. 

South Carolina remains the lone holdout in the region. While Republican lawmakers have tried to pass a six-week ban, a judge temporarily halted the law in May. However, in Georgia, where abortion was once available up to 20 weeks post-fertilization, a six-week ban went into effect in November 2022. In Florida, where abortion was once available up to 15 weeks of pregnancy, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a six-week ban into law in April. In North Carolina, where abortion was once accessible up to 20 weeks, a new law is going into effect July 1 that bans medication abortion after 10 weeks and procedural abortion after 12 weeks. Known as SB 20, the law also comes with a host of new restrictions, including an additional in-person appointment for patients that is required at least 72 hours before they can access care. 

North Carolinians are heavily represented in Prism’s post-Roe series because of the impending devastating consequences of SB 20. This includes the high likelihood that the anti-abortion law’s restrictions will close desperately needed clinics in the state. Currently, only nine out of North Carolina’s 100 counties have clinics that offer abortion care. It’s important to note that North Carolinians overwhelmingly did not want further restrictions on abortion, but SB 20 was made possible in part by Rep. Tricia Cotham. The state legislator from Mecklenburg County once publicly shared her own abortion story and was re-elected earlier this year as a pro-choice Democrat. However, in April, Cotham switched to the Republican party. Not only did she vote for the anti-abortion law, but she gave Republicans a supermajority in the House of Representatives that allowed them to override Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of SB 20. 

So many of us are relying on the kinds of abortion experts featured in this series to get us out of this mess—we count on their expertise, their leadership, and their guidance to chart a path forward. It’s easy to forget there is a person on the other end of the activism. That was made abundantly clear as I carried out these interviews over several weeks. 

People who provide abortion care and support do this work with the understanding that it puts them and their loved ones at great risk of serious harm.

The people we depend on to help us navigate state-sanctioned violence are also targets for violence—and they are navigating their own personal tragedies. Experts we spoke to lost parents after the Dobbs decision, had court decisions overshadow the birth of a child, and more than one described having out-of-body experiences fueled by grief or rage—all while navigating serious threats to their lives and loved ones. 

Anti-abortion protesters have made American clinics sites of harassment, surveillance, and policing. It should come as no surprise that the fall of Roe has only emboldened the anti-abortion movement. Take, for example, the growing nationwide “abortion abolitionist” movement that advocates for the death penalty for people who access abortion care. In multiple states, they have lawmakers on their side introducing “abortion abolition” bills.

People who provide abortion care and support do this work with the understanding that it puts them and their loved ones at great risk of serious harm. Dr. Ghazaleh Moayedi, an OB/GYN and abortion provider in Texas, discussed a website that tracks her movements and essentially serves as an abortion provider hit list. Jenice Fountain, the interim executive director of Alabama’s Yellowhammer Fund, shared a story about how someone tried to kidnap her son after she appeared on a news show to discuss abortion. 

While each of these experts in the abortion rights movement is navigating the post-Roe hellscape differently, there are essential understandings to take from each of their narratives. While you may not walk away feeling entirely optimistic, we hope you take comfort in their honesty and in their commitment to continue fighting for abortion rights. They are fighting for all of us, and for too long, we left them to fight alone. 

One year post-Roe is an as-told-to series led by Prism’s Editor-at-Large Tina Vásquez, marking the milestone by featuring new and veteran advocates and organizers, abortion storytellers, providers, clinic directors, abortion fund volunteers, and reproductive justice organizers. You can read the complete series here

Tina Vásquez is the editor-at-large at Prism. She covers gender justice, workers' rights, and immigration. Follow her on Twitter @TheTinaVasquez.