On May 2, Politico published excerpts from a Supreme Court draft opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito, in which he argues that Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court ruling in 1973 that established and protected the right to an abortion, must be overturned.
This could impact millions: If a future ruling aligns with the leaked opinion, individual states would be given the authority to curtail a right established nearly 50 years ago. In fact, 23 states are likely to severely restrict or ban abortion altogether. However, what has gone unspoken is that the rights of people with lower incomes and people of color are the most at risk.
Abortion restrictions in various states will disproportionately affect lower-income people and people of color. In 2019, Black women had the highest abortion rate of around 23.8 abortions per 1,000 women. White women, on the other hand, had the lowest rate of abortion – approximately 6.6 abortions per 1,000 women.
“Trigger states,” or states where abortion rights are expected to be weakened or lost entirely, are where people of color will be the most vulnerable. In Mississippi, minorities make up 44% of the population but are 81% of those getting an abortion. In Texas, minorities represent 59% of the population but make up 74% of those getting an abortion. The right to abortion is inevitably tied to socio-economic stability. For example, giving birth in itself usually costs thousands of dollars; raising a child will be even more burdensome. Those who already suffer financially and lack adequate healthcare or effective contraception will be pulled deeper into poverty - including their children. Through its draft resolution, the Supreme Court has condoned the targeting of already marginalized people.
Abortion restrictions will also cause more deaths. Because abortion saves lives in complicated pregnancies, abortion restrictions can result in a 33% increase in the rate of pregnancy-related deaths. Additionally, if states impose bans on abortions, there will likely be an increase in the amount of unsafe and attempted abortions, effectively further worsening the death toll. According to the World Health Organization, 4.7% to 13.2% of maternal deaths are linked to unsafe abortion.
Finally, this draft has the potential to put other rights, like same-sex marriage, in jeopardy. In his draft, Alito’s logic followed that since the right to abortion isn’t specified in the Consitution or isn’t “deeply rooted in our Nation’s history and traditions,” it can’t be protected by the court. This logic fails to account for rights that were more recently granted. It ignores the critical social progress of the past few decades. Historically, the court hasn’t supported LGBTQ+ rights, and while the landmark Obergefell v. Hodges finally affirmed the right to same-sex marriage, these rights face stiff opposition within the court. In 2020, Justice Alito joined a statement by Justice Thomas that argued the right to same-sex marriage through the 14th amendment is found “nowhere in the text,” which is similar to his argument against Roe v. Wade. Thus, the futures of both abortion and LGBTQ+ rights are uncertain.
Ultimately, this backsliding shouldn’t come as a surprise. For years, Republicans, primarily Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, have spearheaded a campaign to ensure that there is a conservative majority on the court. Five of the nine justices on the court were nominated by Republican presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump. Notably, both presidents didn’t win the popular vote when first elected.
This lack of popular support extends to Roe v Wade. About 62% of Americans believe that Roe v. Wade should be upheld. Additionally, Five-Thirty-Eight points out that between 85 and 90 percent of American believe that abortion should be legal “in at least a few circumstances.” Several polls have made it clear that the majority will of the American people contradicts the Supreme Court’s draft ruling. Due to this draft, the Supreme Court has become a means for oppression and abuse, especially for women, minorities, and lower-income people.
Americans can’t trust the federal government to protect the right to abortion. The real fight will likely be in local states and communities; thus, citizens have to be aware of where their states’ abortion rights and resources stand. Abortion rigths depend on the makeup of state legislatures, so it’s imperative that more attention is drawn to local elections - especially considering the upcoming midterm elections.
For thousands, a fundamental right to bodily autonomy has been taken away. Americans must fight fiercely to make it ours again.