The iconic failure Roe against Wade it is under siege in the United States. The historic ruling issued by the Supreme Court in 1973 legalized abortion in the country and became a fundamental text for women’s right to decide. Its 40 years of history are at stake. On December 1, the judges will hold the first hearing in which they will discuss controversial Mississippi and Texas laws related to the issue. If the conservative majority of the Constitutional Court were to prevail, the scope of this ruling would be weakened or could even be revoked. If this happens, several Republican-ruled states would pass laws to restrict the termination of pregnancy, initiating an exodus that would lead 36 million women of reproductive age to travel hundreds of kilometers to find a clinic to perform the intervention.
A Supreme Court ruling against women’s rights would launch a shock wave that would affect more than half of the United States. “We predict that 26 states will quickly pass or attempt to pass abortion bans,” says Elizabeth Nash, an expert at the Guttmacher Institute, an organization dedicated to research on reproductive rights. The institute has published this Thursday an analysis that tests the main consequences that could arise if the Court rules against reproductive rights.
The robes will hear arguments from the Mississippi authorities, an entity that has banned abortion beyond 15 weeks. In September, the Supreme Court allowed the controversial Texas law that prevents abortion as soon as a fetal pulse is heard, around six weeks, a time when many do not even know they are expecting a baby. “The actions of the Court indicate that the right to abort is in grave danger. The judicial threat is accompanied by hostility to these rights at the state level ”, considers Nash.
According to Guttmacher’s analysis, the endorsement of the Texas initiative would mean an almost total ban on abortion that would trigger equally restrictive legislation in Florida, where Republicans have admitted their intentions to follow the Texas example; Indiana, where 55 measures have been passed in the last decade making abortion increasingly difficult; Montana, which has restricted it to 20 weeks in 2021; Nebraska, which adopted the 22-week restriction in 2010, and Wyoming. These entities would be added to another 21 governed by Republicans that have strict laws prior to Roe against Wade that protect life from six weeks of gestation.
This scenario would prevent more than 30 million women from aborting in their home state. This would cause an exodus that would lead thousands to travel to an entity where the right remained intact. Women in the south of the country would be among the most affected. One from Louisiana, for example, would have to travel an average of 1,013 kilometers from her state to find a clinic where abortion is legal, in Illinois, North Carolina or Kansas. The rest of neighboring states would consider abortion illegal.
A Florida woman would be 912 kilometers away from a clinic, a distance similar to the trip the Texans would have to make. The trip for the Mississippi would be somewhat shorter, 688 kilometers. 400 kilometers for those of Utah. A drastic change from current conditions. “Right now, patients in most states can access an abortion about 20 miles from home. The impact on the availability of care would be enormous, ”says Nash.
Guttmacher’s analysis identifies that the exodus would mainly target 13 states. These are California, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington. The capacity of the health clinics and abortion centers in these places would be put to the test against millions of potential new patients. Illinois, for example, which today can serve about 100,000 women from other states, would go on to serve about 8.9 million from Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio and eight other southern states, a socially conservative area of the country where abortion would be punished. California, on the west coast, could receive up to 1.3 million women of reproductive age from Arizona.
“And Roe falls or is weakened, Kansas, North Carolina, Minnesota or Illinois would suddenly have the closest clinics for millions and millions of women of reproductive age. Many of these destinations would have to see how they manage to absorb an extraordinary volume of patients almost overnight ”, adds the expert from Guttmacher. The most profound transformation of women’s rights over their bodies is in the hands of the Constitutional judges. The decision may come in the first half of 2022.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.