Since the Supreme Court ruled in 1973 in Roe v. Wade that restrictive state regulation on abortion is unconstitutional, several state legislators and groups have continued to try and limit women’s access to safe and legal abortions.
These restrictions have included physician and hospital requirements, gestational limits, public funding limits, state mandated counseling, parental involvement and waiting periods.
While these restrictions are not an outright ban on abortion, they have made access to abortions increasingly difficult, especially to more vulnerable communities.
In 2019 alone, four states have passed “heartbeat bills” that make it illegal to have an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, often before most women know they are pregnant. While the bills won’t be enforced until 2020, recently filled Supreme Court justice seats have raised fear over whether the bills will be challenged.
Alabama made headlines last week after trying to pass what is thought to be one of the most extreme bills brought forward on abortion. Before being tabled Thursday, the bill proposed a near total ban on abortion after a doctor could detect the embryo “in utero.” Unlike other legislation brought forward, this bill would not exempt victims of rape or incest.
Under the proposed bill, doctors can be prosecuted as a felon for performing an abortion, punishable by up to 99 years in prison.
The Coast Report editorial board finds it shocking these legislators are callously using women’s reproductive rights and health as a means to overturn Roe v. Wade when studies show that banning abortions only leads to a marginal decrease in abortions, while other unintended financial, emotional and health complications often increase.
A study by the University of California San Francisco’s Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health showed countries where abortion is illegal have significantly higher rates of unwanted pregnancies and the women who are denied an abortion have higher rates of poverty than women who are given access to abortions. Women who are denied abortions also have a higher rate of domestic abuse and destabilization of families.
In Colorado, a different approach was taken to try to reduce abortions. The state passed legislation for a five-year pilot program where contraception was free, leading to a 42 percent drop in unwanted pregnancies and a 40 percent drop in abortions state-wide.
The Coast Report editorial board applauds Colorado and other states for their morally and medically up-to-date approach to reducing abortions.
Monday’s Supreme Court ruling in Franchise Tax Board of California v. Hyatt has worried many supporters of Roe v. Wade. The more conservative majority voted to overturn four decades of precedent.
“Today’s decision can only cause one to wonder which cases the court will overrule next,” Justice Stephen Breyer said, or as Jeffrey Toobin of the New Yorker said, “Roe v. Wade is doomed.”
The Coast Report editorial board believes if conservative lawmakers are successful in overturning Roe v. Wade it will be a huge step backward for women’s rights, women’s autonomy and women’s health.