By this time, I’m sure you’ve heard the news that the Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision to overturn their decision in Roe v. Wade. This decision sent shockwaves through the lives of people who just expect to have basic access to healthcare and bodily autonomy. After being held in a sacrosanct position for 49 years, the decision found itself cast out, discarded, pushed aside to make room for new laws which cruelly seize the right to make important decisions about a person’s physical body and wellbeing.
Honestly, it was and continues to be something that I am struggling to process. I grieved when the opinion leaked the night of the Met Gala. I moved through anger and denial. I thought I had made a sort of sad, angry, overwhelmed, and bitter peace with the trajectory on which SCOTUS seemed to be irrevocably set. It turns out I had very much not made any sort of peace with it when I read the news of the decision.
Living in Kentucky, a state with a law on the books which went into effect immediately to ban abortion in nearly all cases, including rape and incest, with some limited exceptions to prevent death or major medical issues for the person giving birth, I was horrified, sad, scared, overwhelmed, dejected, confused, angry, and numb in cycles. In less than a day, my right to make decisions about my own body jumped back half a century.
I’ve since spent some time sitting with my feelings about this, reading and listening to the opinions of healthcare experts, activists, and individual people who shared their own lived experiences. Well-intentioned people are working to spread information, increase access, and create space for others to process what has been a profoundly difficult and disturbing situation. I thought it might be useful simply to synthesize a little bit of what I’ve been reading, seeing, and finding helpful.
It's ok to sit in your feelings
This is a fundamental change to the ethical fabric of our healthcare system. I was recently talking about this with my mother, and we came to this realization that she lived the vast majority of her life knowing that she had access to abortion care, at least on paper. I don’t want to gloss over issues with access, waiting periods, insurance, and all the other institutional, financial, and social boundaries which limited said access. It’s not like a perfectly accessible system was ripped away suddenly, but at least on paper, she had the right to seek out care. On the other hand, unless something happens to reverse this reversal, I might very well live out the bulk of my life with the opposite circumstance. It’s a depressing thing to consider. Most people want to create progress, so seeing this massive regression cannot be easy.
It’s ok not to have the bandwidth for much right now. It’s ok to sit and feel whatever you feel. It’s ok to say “I need to tap out for a second and sit outside by myself” or whatever might feel rejuvenative to you.
It’s ok to seek out support from friends, family, online communities, or trained mental health professionals, whatever feels best to you given your own circumstances and level of comfort.
This decision does not only impact women. It impacts all people with uteruses, and actually just all people in general.
A decision like this carries massive weight in shaping the lives of people who have uteruses and all the people who are in their communities, families, chosen families, or other social groups. This is a human rights issue. When communicating about Roe, try to use inclusive language that represents all the people who are being deeply harmed by the removal of their rights.
You can't ban abortion. You can only ban safe abortion.
Unfortunately, history has taught us an important lesson about the termination of pregnancies. People have been terminating pregnancies for a variety of reasons for thousands of years. When abortions are banned, this does not prevent people from obtaining them. It just forces people to seek out options which are not licensed, insured, inspected, and held to professional standards. Depriving people of fundamental healthcare services only forces them to seek out dangerous and unregulated options, to the detriment of all.
The abortion healthcare system already had massive issues.
As I mentioned previously, abortion care, though technically a right, had long been under siege. States implemented rules which created burdensome obligations for patients and providers alike. Facilities became increasingly expensive to run due to regulations regarding width of hallways and other physical specifications which frequently required extensive renovations. States imposed waiting periods, forced patients to come to multiple appointments, or imposed intrusive discussions or demonstrations designed to sway patients seeking abortions. Travel and transportation to appointments, medical bills, lack of insurance or insurance coverage, time off work, and other obstacles presented sincere financial and logistical difficulties to people who were, again, seeking basic healthcare.
As of last week, the state in which I currently reside had only 2 abortion clinics, both located in the city of Louisville. Since the decision, they have both effectively been closed, with the exception of those few major medical emergency cases. You’d like to think that this is an outlier, but unfortunately, wide swaths of the country already had incredibly limited access to this kind of healthcare. The limited access only deepened the hardship for people seeking abortions who might need to travel hundreds of miles, take extended time off work, pay for accommodations, and attend multiple appointments all in order to secure basic healthcare for their bodies.
There is a wide swath of reasons why a person might choose to have an abortion.
All of these reasons are valid, and all of these reasons deserve to be protected. Abortion is healthcare.
This is an intersectional issue
This is about healthcare and bodily autonomy. Human rights. Housing and food insecurity. This is about the holes in a social safety net which fails to provide even basic needs like food, housing, medical care, and education. This has environmental, social, medical, economic, humanitarian, and more implications in the lives of millions of people.
Statistically, this will more drastically impact people without large amounts of disposable income, people of color, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and others whom the systems in our country regularly fail.
We like to use categories to understand the world, to sort ideas into boxes, but the Roe reversal doesn’t fit in just one box. This is an outright atrocity for so many reasons to so many different people. It can be difficult to create room for all the different kinds of hurt and harm this decision will cause, but it is important to keep in mind that there will be many, far-reaching implications which will manifest in different ways.
What can we do?
Take care of yourself and, if you have the bandwidth, maybe reach out to others in your social group who might need extra support.
If you have the energy, you might contact your representatives at the local, state, and national level to share your feelings and concerns.
Protesting, if accessible to you, might offer an opportunity to make a statement while finding community and solidarity with others.
If you have the resources to do so, you might consider making donations to support the efforts of groups who are trying to mitigate the harm which this decision has already and will continue to cause.
Here are some resources:
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but just a few places to find some information or further reading material.
Some general information about the decision:
The actual opinion itself:
Cornell Law breakdown of the decision:
State by State Breakdown:
Glossary of terms and state information;