The news out of the Supreme Court this week is shocking at many levels. From the unprecedented leaking of a draft majority opinion to the incendiary content of that draft opinion, jaws from coast to coast are agape.
Quite simply, when the opinion is filed later this year, the Federal government will no longer weigh in on the legality of abortion. The matter of regulation will be left to the states. 26 states will all but ban the practice. New Mexico will not. Texas and Oklahoma already have. Arizona and Utah are likely to follow suit.
This will force women seeking abortion care to travel. This has been the case in Texas, which has banned all abortions after six weeks (before most women know they’re pregnant) since Sept. 1, 2021. According to the Texas Policy Evaluation Project, about half of the women seeking abortion care after the ban went to Oklahoma and a quarter of them to New Mexico. As of last month, Oklahoma is no longer an option.
Banning the practice does not eliminate demand.
Nor does making it legal make it mandatory.
I think, as with many issues, resolution to the abortion issue rests somewhere in the middle. I would wager a guess that maybe 80% of us think that abortion on demand up to the day of delivery is not okay. Simultaneously, I imagine 80% of us think a wholesale ban is not appropriate either (more than 60% of Americans do not support overturning Roe v. Wade).
Unfortunately, the laws taking shape in most states regulating abortion are coming down harshly against women. Many are banning abortion after six weeks, which is essentially banning it altogether. Then there are add-ons which seem only to serve the purpose of punishing or humiliating women in crisis: allowing private citizens to sue anyone leaving the state to terminate a pregnancy (Missouri), no exceptions for rape or incest (Texas).
As a medical practice, obstetrics is already beset by malpractice risk. Draconian statutes like these will discourage medically necessary terminations—i.e., those to save the life of the mother. If practitioners aren’t concerned about criminal charges, they will worry about their insurance premiums.
Is this the America we want for our daughters?
One could look to Europe, where in most countries abortion is legal, with common-sense limits that align with the general values of society. Abortion is generally available up to 12 weeks, and then to save the life of the mother up to 24 weeks. Some countries, including Germany, the Netherlands and Spain, have a mandatory waiting period. Some countries have mandatory counseling.
In general, in Europe, abortion is regulated, and without intent to punish women or completely eliminate the practice. European women also have better birth outcomes than American women.
In the United States, the mother generally comes last in decisions regarding maternal-fetal health. State legislatures have furthered this mindset with so-called “personhood” laws giving fetuses full legal rights. As a result, women have faced criminal charges for miscarriages. And this was while Roe v. Wade was the law of the land.
After Roe v. Wade is rescinded, deaths attributed to pregnancy and childbirth, already higher than those in other developed nations, will rise. Maternal deaths have been increasing since 2000, and according to the American Journal of Managed Care, two-thirds of these deaths are preventable. In 2020, the maternal death rate due to childbirth was 23.7 per 100,000. The next closest developed nation was France, with a rate of 8.7 deaths per 100,000.
This abysmal statistic is largely attributed to a lack of focus on postpartum care. In other words, once the fetus becomes a child, he and his mother are on their own.
Our culture is wrapped up in the preciousness of life. That is fine and well. The mother is also a living being. And we are failing her.
Where abortion is proscribed, mothers will die. Children should grow up with their mothers, I think we all can agree.
Five activist judges, appointed by Republicans, are reversing a decision written 50 years ago by a judge also appointed by a Republican. The reversal is clearly focused on achieving a policy goal. This is what judicial activism is.
I know there are many who will see this as a significant victory. I ask as we move forward into this future that we also consider the millions of American women impacted by this decision. They must be treated with respect, tolerance, and benevolence—just as their children, living and unborn, should be.