The Right’s Slow Reversal of Roe v. Wade

Last week many of us were alarmed by news of Texas’ SB8, a state law that would allow anyone to sue anyone involved in providing abortion care more than six weeks after conception, which is about two weeks after people generally realize they may be pregnant. Signed into law by Texas governor Greg Abbott in May, the law took effect last week after the Supreme Court declined to stay it. Given that this law has been on the books for months, we were struck by how many news reports on this topic took on a panicked tone: “Is this the end of Roe?!” Meanwhile, organizers working on the ground to help poor and rural people access abortion care would tell you that “the end of Roe” has been proclaimed many times: was it in 2013, when Texas passed yet another law restricting access to abortion, which was overturned but still resulted in the permanent closure of half of the states’ clinics; or perhaps 2015, when two women faced criminal charges for seeking abortion care; or last month, when the state of Mississippi altered its arguments to explicitly call for Roe’s reversal in a case the Supreme Court will rule on later this year. While Texas’ newest law certainly is a setback, it’s one of many in the Right’s agenda to undermine access to reproductive healthcare for millions nationwide. While Oregon, California, Illinois, and a handful of other states have passed laws explicitly protecting abortion even if the Supreme Court overturns Roe, several states have “trigger” laws that will immediately outlaw any abortion procedure if the Court rules against Roe this fall.

women's rights protest in Dallas in 2013
Protestors in orange clothing (the Texas pro-choice movement’s signature color) gather at a rally in Dallas in 2013. Courtesy Steve Rainwater (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0).

As we continue to navigate this moment, it’s important to remember that abortion access is about much more than just Roe, and to put abortion access itself within its broader frame of reproductive freedom for all. Last year, a whistleblower revealed the forced sterilization of immigrants held in detention by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a reminder of how the state sometimes intervenes to force childbearing, sometimes to prevent it, but always in service of a racist, sexist status quo that benefits Christian patriarchs and predatory corporations, not our communities. We reaffirm our solidarity with incarcerated people who have seen their relationships with their children stolen from them, as well as our conviction that all who labor as parents deserve adequate resources and a welcoming community for their socially valuable work. We remember more people (disproportionately Black women) die in childbirth in the United States than in any other wealthy country in the world. We commit ourselves to continuing to connect the dots between these issues, embracing a vision of reproductive freedom in which all people, regardless of race, gender, dis/ability, income, or documentation status, can freely choose if, when, and how they will parent, and in which all children are guaranteed the care they need to thrive.

Don't Tread On Me protest sign with image of uterus
A protest sign reading “Don’t Tread On Me” with an image of a uterus and fallopian tubes at a protest in Washington, DC following the Supreme Court’s 2016 ruling in Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt. Courtesy Adam Fagen (licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

Here are some ideas of actions to take if you are interested in supporting reproductive rights for the long haul:

>>Learn more about the abortion laws in your state and any effects the overturning of the Roe precedent could have on your community. Check out these resources from the Guttmacher Institute to get started!

>>Even in a state like Oregon where abortion care is legally protected, folks still struggle to have access to basic reproductive healthcare, particularly for those living in rural communities far from the nearest clinic. Consider organizing or supporting an existing program to help rural people fund and arrange travel and other logistics needed for them to access abortion care.

>>Set up a monthly donation to an abortion fund in a vulnerable state like Texas to help sustain local organizations access to abortion care as these fight continues next week, next month, and next year!

>>Women’s March is calling for a nationwide day of marches in defense of reproductive freedom on October 2nd. Consider finding or organizing a march in your area! Let us know at ROP and we’ll help spread the word about your event!

How are you or your group responding to these ongoing attacks on reproductive freedom? What connections do you see between those threats and other issues you’re working on in your community? We’d love to hear what you’re thinking and what you’re working on!