The Supreme Court’s decision is now final. Here’s what we do now.
The Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade making abortion a federal right has been under threat since the moment it was decided. From literal attacks on abortion clinics to state politicians drafting so-called trigger laws, the path of Roe’s overturn has been long. And when conservatives took control of the Supreme Court in late 2020, most people knew that Roe’s days were numbered — even before the leak last month of a hateful draft majority opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, that foretold the court’s decision.
But on June 24, the Supreme Court made it all official. In a case out of Mississippi known as Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Supreme Court decided that “the Constitution does not confer a right to abortion; Roe and Casey are overruled, and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives.” Now, as outlined by the Guttmacher Institute, more than half of the states are likely to ban abortion.
While Roe’s precedent may be overturned, that doesn’t mean it’s time to give up. After all, Roe never ended the fight for reproductive agency in the first place. As Quinn Jackson, a Kansas City-based fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health, told Mic before the Court’s decision, “The reality is in huge swaths of our country, Roe functionally does not exist.”
It’s a sentiment that was echoed by Sahar Pirzada, the manager of movement building at Heart, a Muslim-led reproductive justice organization. “Reproductive access and choice,” Pirzada told Mic by email ahead of the Court’s decision, “is already limited or nonexistent for too many people in this country: namely, people of color and low-income people.”
Neither of those statements are meant to reduce Roe’s significance. With Roe overturned, reproductive health care as a whole will be drastically restricted in the United States. But, Jackson says, “Communities hold the keys to their liberation.” People didn’t stop organizing after Roe’s original passing, and they aren’t going to stop now. Whether you’re a person who needs abortion access or wants to support movements for reproductive agency, here’s what comes next after Roe.
What does it mean that Roe v. Wade is overturned?
Before getting into anything else, let’s clear up some misconceptions surrounding the Court’s decision.
Although the Court overturned Roe v. Wade, that doesn’t mean abortion is federally outlawed. Instead, there’s just no federal protection for the right to access it, and it’s now up to each individual state to make its own decision about abortion. Some states may keep abortion legal open; others won’t. How liberal or restrictive a state decides to be regarding abortion access is up to it. This is where trigger laws come in.
Trigger laws, as Donna Crane, an adjunct professor at San Jose State University, explained to The New York Times, were passed by states to be “on the books and operative immediately in the future event that the court ever removed the protections of Roe.” There are 13 states with trigger laws, including Arkansas, Idaho, and Kentucky. So, Roe being overturned doesn’t automatically mean abortions are illegal in your state. You should look into your state’s individual laws to understand what the decision means for you.
Even if your state does have a trigger law or some comparable restriction, see if abortions are allowed up to a certain gestational period, if there are any exceptions to the law, and other vital information. This is information you should know regardless of whether you need abortion access because it’s important to know the political landscape that your communities are living in.
Luckily, people living in states without trigger laws don’t necessarily have to worry about their legal access to abortions right now. Again: Roe’s overturn doesn’t mean abortion is illegal nationwide. For example, The Washington Post reported that the governors of California, Minnesota, Oregon, and Michigan indicated they would protect abortion access in their states.
However, clinics in those states may quickly become overloaded. Lindsay Rodriguez, communications director at the National Network of Abortion Fund, told Mic by email ahead of the court’s decision, “Clinic appointments will be harder to get, and wait times for those appointments are going to greatly increase as those states receive patients from states that have made abortion illegal or impossible.
“There are already great waves of people coming from states like Texas and Oklahoma; we can see the effects of strained capacity when just a few states work to make abortion all but illegal,” Rodriguez continued.
To be frank, in states where abortion is likely to be banned, not everybody is facing the same amount of risk. As Jackson explains, “[Overturning Roe] harm[s] marginalized people the most — including Black and brown communities, LGBTQ+ people, immigrants, and anyone else who is already poorly served by our medical system.”
Rodriguez echoed that sentiment, telling Mic “restrictions on abortion hurt people who are struggling to make ends meet, including Black people, Indigenous people, other people of color, LGBTQ+ people, poor people, people who live in rural areas, and people who face documentation and language barriers. The number of people facing these obstacles is going to skyrocket.”
Does this decision only affect abortions?
While abortions will be targeted first by Roe’s overturn, its impacts are likely to spread far beyond abortion access. “Abortion is reproductive health care, and any limitation or restriction on abortion is going to impact the larger system in which it functions,” Pirzada warns. “This would open the door for restrictions on access to contraceptives, fertility treatments such as egg freezing and IVF, and criminalize pregnancy outcomes beyond abortion such as stillbirths, miscarriages, and ectopic pregnancies.”
That much has already been seen in states like Texas, where in Starr County a woman named Lizelle Herrera was indicted for “intentionally and knowingly caus[ing] the death of an individual” through induced abortion. While charges against Herrera were dropped, they highlight how people of color, in particular, will faced increased surveillance and criminalization threats when pursuing reproductive health care.
“The existing surveillance technologies used to track the movement and actions of targeted populations will now be used against those seeking abortions,” Pirzada says. For Heart, this is particularly concerning given that several states likely to outlaw abortion, including Michigan and Ohio, have significant Muslim populations.
“More funding and power will be given to law enforcement and policing entities, such as the Department of Homeland Security, to label abortion advocacy as domestic terrorism and not only criminalize those seeking abortions but those supporting efforts to increase access and protect reproductive freedoms,” she says.
Are all abortions affected by Roe’s overturn?
There are basically two official options for abortions. Most people are familiar with procedural abortions, which require a patient to go into a clinic. “After 11 weeks of pregnancy,” Jackson tells Mic, “procedural abortion is the only option available in the medical setting.”
If it’s earlier than 11 weeks of pregnancy, though, medication abortions might be available. You might’ve heard references to “abortion pills”: Medicated abortions involve taking one pill, mifepristone, which blocks one of pregnancy’s main hormones. This is often taken in the presence of your medical provider. Then, a patient will take a second pill called misoprostol at home to make the uterus cramp and expel the pregnancy.
Most anti-abortion legislation is comprehensive and will include restrictions on both forms of abortion. The anti-abortion law in Texas, for example, even prevents physicians from providing abortion medication through the mail — an extension of access (at least in theory) that the FDA approved last December. In December 2021, NPR reported that six states had passed laws against mail-order abortion medication in a move that Elizabeth Nash, a state policy analyst with the Guttmacher Institute, told the outlet was “a squeeze play on abortion.”
My state has trigger laws in place. How can I get an abortion?
The short answer is: Go to the nearest state where abortions are legal. Sanctuary states like California may become the go-to for many. But this is far from an ideal solution. As Jackson pointed out, people may have to travel hundreds or thousands of miles to access abortion if it’s illegal in their state.
“The time and resources required, including cost of gas or airfare, food, lodging, and child care, makes this out of reach for many people,” Jackson says. “These laws put people without resources in an impossible situation.”
However, several large companies have promised to help employees access abortions. For example, Starbucks announced it will cover travel expenses for U.S. employees who cannot access abortions and gender-confirmation procedures within 100 miles of their home. Conservative politicians have signaled they’ll come after companies making such offerings.
But even with support from companies, friends, or abortion funds, Rodriguez noted that many people will just never be able to travel for abortion access. And even if they could, it requires people to be especially vulnerable in what may already be a taxing time.
“It’s an incredible burden and injustice to ask someone to put their life on hold for several days, to risk their employment or safety, to travel out of state perhaps for the first time, to find child care, to confide in others about their medical needs, to get their abortion when it should never have been hard to get in the first place,” Rodriguez said.
How can I support people in need?
It might seem daunting to figure out how to support communities right now. Money is an obvious place to start. “Your monthly donation to your abortion fund, at any dollar amount, helps funds plan for the future, and that's stability they can provide for callers in the midst of an uncertain, often hostile abortion access landscape,” Rodriguez says.
There are plenty of abortion funds out there, like the Florida Access Network, Kentucky Health and Justice Network, and The North Dakota Women in Need Fund. The National Network of Abortion Funds has compiled a list by state — but Rodriguez specifically issued a callout for organizations serving minority communities. “If you’re a Black, Indigenous, or people-of-color-led group of organizers who see a need in your community landscape for a new abortion fund, we want to hear from you!” she wrote.
You can support movements in nonmonetary ways, too. While the fight for reproductive agency is national, local and grassroots organizations will need support more than ever. That might look like volunteering your time (Can you help drive people to abortion clinics? Can you become a clinic escort?) or supplementing abortion access in other ways, like hosting people who might be traveling across state lines to access abortions.
Ultimately, Pirzada recommends connecting with “reproductive health, rights, and justice organizations in your local area who are doing state and local policy advocacy to defend reproductive agency in the upcoming election cycle and beyond.”
And, of course, there will be plenty of protests to attend. Keep in mind that the Department of Justice was preparing for possible violence ahead of the Supreme Court decision. In addition, a May 2021 joint report by the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI named abortion-related violent extremists (this includes pro-abortion crowds) as potential sources of domestic terrorism.
So if you head out to protests, don’t be startled if you spot federal law enforcement. You should also expect for there to be opposition from anti-abortion crowds. Lastly: Before attending any protests, make sure you know what to do if you’re arrested.