Now that one state has brought an argument to the Supreme Court, asking for a reversal of Roe v. Wade, it’s worth looking at the consequences of such a move.
CNN offers this analysis:
Mississippi is one area where availability of legal abortion would decline precipitously if the ruling is overturned. Abortion access would not simply end nationwide, but rather state laws would take over.
A New York Times analysis published in May suggested access would be most affected in the American South and Midwest. Abortion could become illegal in 22 states and remain largely unchanged in 28.
Ten states have passed laws that would trigger in the event Roe is overturned and automatically ban all abortions. They include both Dakotas, Idaho and Utah, and a band of states that stretches from Kentucky down to Louisiana. And some states still have laws on the books that ban abortion that would presumably revive if the case is overturned, according to the Guttmacher institute.
From The New York Times:
In more than half of states, though, legal abortion access would be unchanged, according to the analysis, a version of which we first covered in 2019. (We’ve updated our reporting along with the analysis.)
“A post-Roe United States isn’t one in which abortion isn’t legal at all,” Caitlin Knowles Myers, an economist at Middlebury College and a co-author of the research, said in our earlier report. She obtained and analyzed the new data for The New York Times recently. “It’s one in which there’s tremendous inequality in abortion access.”
Today there is at least one abortion clinic in every state, and most women of childbearing age live within an hour’s drive or so of one, the analysis found. If Roe were overturned, abortion would be likely to quickly become illegal in 22 states. Forty-one percent of women of childbearing age would see the nearest abortion clinic close, and the average distance they would have to travel to reach one would be 279 miles, up from 35 miles now.
As distances to clinics increase, abortion rates decline, research shows. Women who can’t afford to travel to a legal clinic or arrange child care or leave from work for the trip are most affected. Also, remaining clinics would not necessarily be able to handle increased demand. A study from a different research team on the effects of abortion clinic closings in Wisconsin showed a similar relationship between increased drive times and the number of abortions performed at clinics.
Without Roe, the number of legal abortions in the United States would be at least 14 percent lower, Professor Myers and her colleagues estimated. That could mean about 100,000 fewer legal abortions a year, they found. The number is impossible to predict precisely, because new clinics could open on state borders, and some people could order abortion pills by mail, or obtain illegal surgical abortions, which may be dangerous….
…“I think it’s more likely now that we would see them frontally reverse Roe v. Wade than even a year ago,” said Katherine Franke, director of the center for gender and sexuality law at Columbia. “But they don’t need to. They could certainly accomplish the same end by keeping Roe on paper, but they would have hollowed it out so entirely that it would give a green light to conservative state legislatures to enact laws that essentially overrule Roe.”
Anti-abortion activists and politicians who have sought the elimination of Roe have long pinned their hopes on this strategy, because passing abortion restrictions through Congress has proved difficult. Nationwide, a majority of Americans support legal abortion access in some or all cases. But in addition to restrictions based on time limits, as in Mississippi, states have passed laws that require abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges; require women seeking abortions to wait for long intervals; or restrict the kinds of abortion procedures that are allowed.
“It would be a whole lot better for abortion policy if the states were allowed to have their regulations stood up and unchallenged,” Charmaine Yoest, a former president of Americans United for Life, said in our earlier report. “You would have the laws reflecting the folks in those states, and that’s what American federalism is supposed to be.”