Abortion has been in the news as Texas passed SB 8, and the Supreme Court upheld it. By upheld, I mean that they refused to take up the case, letting the precedent stand. Had they taken the case, the law would have temporarily paused. Many of my friends on Facebook and Twitter have posted quite a few memes and articles about abortion and why they support it. I think I’ve seen one cisgender, white man say anything about abortion, so I wanted to be the second one to say something! It’s a sad commentary on society that so few men have nothing to say about the subject as it affects us too.
SB 8 bans abortion after six weeks. The law cleverly gives supporters of the law cover, frustrates judicial review, and functionally, not literally, prohibits abortion. Most women do not know of their pregnancy until eight weeks, so it would be too late if banned after six weeks. This distinction is essential to remember as politicians can say that they aren’t prohibiting abortion. However, the service will be out of reach unless Texan women start taking a pregnancy test every time they have sex as a precaution.
The judicial implications of SB 8 and the Supreme Court’s decision not to intervene are just as troubling as the law’s impacts itself. I hate saying this, but if Roe v. Wade were a person, that person would be on life support. The hardest part about Ruth Bader Ginsburg dying was knowing that Republicans would rush to fill her seat as fast as possible. With 6 Supreme Court justices appointed by Republicans, it is a matter of when, not if, the federal right to abortion ends.
I mentioned the way the law frustrates judicial review due to its clever design. It sets a new precedent of “vigilante justice,” Any individual can bring a woman to court if they even suspect that she had an abortion. The Court fees and pain of going through the legal system is the enforcement system, not the state banning the practice. Since the state is not enforcing the law, the courts don’t know what to do with it since there’s no one to bring to court to sue.
Could you imagine the opposite of this happening? California passes a law stating that the state is not banning guns, but instead, anyone and everyone enforces the no-gun rule. Companies or individuals could seize guns with vigilante justice. There would be more shootouts, but individuals would be scared to have a gun over the potential punishments. Do you think that the radical right-wing judges on the Supreme Court would let this stand? The Supreme Court is a potent and partisan institution.
In the short term, access to abortion services across the country is still available. However, let’s dive into access. Contrary to popular belief, it is tough to find an abortion provider. Most people live more than 100 miles away from a clinic. Blue-leaning states have easier access, but many red states only have one clinic. If a woman lives in a rural area, driving to the closest clinic isn’t easy, and SB 8 is likely to exacerbate the problem. It’s possible that rural women in states that lean Republican are less likely to want an abortion in the first place, but the fact remains that it’s not necessarily easy to get one.
Abortion clinics need patients to survive. While most of those clinics probably do more than one medical service, functionally banning the procedure puts even more financial pressure on them, and some may close down entirely. Since the Supreme Court said that SB 8 is fine, more conservative states will likely follow and pass similar laws. Twenty-six states have a Republican Governor and Legislature, and other states have existing abortion bans on the books that are defunct due to Roe v. Wade.
The other threat to access to abortion services is what is known as so-called TRAP laws, or the Targeted Regulations of Abortion Clinics. These laws are primarily unconstitutional at the moment, but the Supreme Court’s decision that SB 8 is fine will likely give way to this. TRAP laws place heavily burdensome regulations on abortion clinics, like regulating the size of hallways. It’s not easy to change the size of a hallway, so clinics often have to shut down and generally don’t just have the money lying around to build a brand new clinic that meets state regulations.
To be clear, overturning Roe would not ban abortion in its entirety. It would make it a state issue so states would define who could have the procedure. However, as previously mentioned, TRAP laws, stricter access to birth control, and other women’s issues could become easier to regulate away with this new radical Supreme Court. Another critical point, eliminating women’s privacy would not end the practice. Wealthy women would still drive long distances or fly to an area more friendly to the procedure. While this would increase wait times for everyone, the practice wouldn’t end. Having access to abortions is critical, as the Pro-Life movement does not want abortion to become a state-level issue. They want it banned in its entirety, so they aren’t likely to stop once Roe v. Wade ends.
Prohibition doesn’t work; it moves “sinful” practices into the shadows and black markets. Abortions wouldn’t end, but more women would resort to dangerous alternatives to the process. I envision abortions becoming a lot like legalized marijuana. There are ways around laws like selling goods that are federally illegal with cash only, which avoids federal-level banking rules and regulations. The only reason that marijuana dispensaries exist is that the federal government agreed not to prosecute the owners. The Washtenaw County, MI Prosecutor, has already said that his office would never prosecute anyone performing an abortion procedure.
One practical alternative to abortion clinics is the abortion pill. It works, though not as safe or effective as what a clinic would provide. It could become a lot more prevalent as telemedicine regulations become more streamlined. There are niche telemedicine resources for men with low testosterone and erectile dysfunction. These companies send me the products they need in discreet boxes and don’t work with insurance. I could imagine websites honing the process of providing the abortion pill and working with cash only in states that try to restrict abortions by mail. I can currently buy prescriptions from Canadian pharmacies, but they won’t accept a credit card.
While the abortion pill would be harder to regulate out of existence, it’s not a perfect medication or alternative either. What the abortion pill does is induce a miscarriage. Hypothetically, if a woman were to try this and have heavy bleeding, she would need to go to the hospital. In Texas, she could be handcuffed, questioned by the police, and all while having just aborted her pregnancy. In the midst of one of the most complex decisions of her life, most likely done out of financial necessity, she is now in trouble with the legal system.
One piece of news to me that I was not aware of is that even a “good” pregnancy is damaging to the body. An “easy” pregnancy is still challenging. For example, my mother is a more petite woman, and I was born a month early with a massive head for a baby. Many women are in pain throughout the pregnancy. Morning sickness is guaranteed. While I believe that most parents grow to love their children, some die in the process. The problem with answering the moral question of abortion always comes back to dealing with two lives, not one. One of the benefits of Roe v. Wade was that it gave some rights to the mother and some to the unborn. It wasn’t perfect, but there is no ideal solution to this issue.
There isn’t anything we can do to fight against the Supreme Court. They’re going to do what they’re going to do, and they don’t bow to public pressure. I don’t want to mince words. Overturning Roe v. Wade would be awful. However, it’s not the end of the world. Alternatives and nonprofits would step in, and abortion is currently legal in Mexico and Canada. I also imagine its prohibition being destructive for Republicans in the long run as Evangelicals are one-issue voters. While they wouldn’t stop voting overall, with some of their mission completed, it’s likely they wouldn’t be as powerful of a voting bloc. Without that one issue on the ballot in every election, it would be much harder to turn them out to vote.