The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has led to protests and demonstrations from both sides of the issue, outrage on one, celebration on the other.
With regulations now up to state lawmakers, abortion bans are in place or set to take effect in roughly half the U.S. That swift change has left many wondering what happens next.
“Safety and security of people who are seeking services, that’s top of mind, making sure that women continue to have access,” said Felicia Davis Blakley, president and CEO of Chicago Foundation for Women. “I mean we do sit in Illinois and I know that our organization in Chicago Foundation for Women is working with a number of other organizations to make sure that we can continue to meet the demand for women who are seeking reproductive services in Chicago and Illinois because those numbers continue to go up.”
Leaders of women’s rights organizations also worry about how this decision will impact people of color and people with lower incomes.
“We know that this decision will directly and disproportionately impact women of color throughout the country, and so in Illinois, we have to make sure that although we have a great law that protects our rights, we have to be vigilant that access is available to women,” said Linda Xóchitl Tortolero, president and CEO of Mujeres Latinas en Accion. “Many women who are low-income may not know about their rights to access abortion or other reproductive healthcare, and we also have to make sure that we’re well informed as a community because we very well may have cousins or sisters, relatives reaching out to us from other parts of the country seeking access and we want to make sure that we can be a support system for them as well.”
President Joe Biden is now calling on Congress to codify Roe v. Wade and federally legalize abortion nationwide.
“It means that Congress would pass a law that would provide many of the same protections that the Supreme Court previously recognized as being constitutional via Roe v. Wade, whether or not that would stand up against the current Supreme Court I think is anybody’s question,” said Noah Smith-Drelich, assistant professor of law at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law.
In his opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas stated the court “should reconsider” its past rulings codifying rights to contraception access, same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage. Justice Samuel Alito insisted those rights are not in danger, but many legal experts say decisions related to privacy rights may be on the table for review.
“The reasoning of the majority opinion is that only enumerated rights, or rights that are deeply rooted in history, are rights worthy of protection, which flies directly into the face of the 9th Amendment, which states quite clearly that the fact that a right is not enumerated shall not be construed to deny or disparage that right, but you know, it’s fundamentally a white supremacist approach, a white male supremacist approach, because if we’re gonna freeze rights back to 1868 or 1789, the original right holders were all white males, white male property holders,” said Steven A. Ramirez, professor of law at Loyola University Chicago.
A Duke University study that looked at the impact of abortion bans on maternal mortality estimated that pregnancy-related deaths would jump 21% overall, 33% for Blacks, and 18% for Latinas if the U.S. banned abortion outright nationwide. Those figures don’t include mortality due to unsafe or attempted abortions.
“I'm very concerned, the number of women who have died just in the past year, the past two years as the pandemic has gone on has been really unwieldy. Black women seem to face the highest risk.” said Blakley.