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The State of Abortion Rights in the United States

An unknown person leaked a copy of a Supreme Court decision written by Justice Samuel Alito.  Chief Justice Roberts confirmed the leak on Tuesday. It also seems to be supported by four other justices.  If this leaked decision is what ends up being read in June, Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood will both be overturned. What does this mean to the average person who can give birth and those who cannot give birth? These decisions affected more than just abortion rights in this country.  What is the state of abortion rights in the United States now, and what will be the state of abortion rights if this decision is handed down?

When a Supreme Court case is argued, the Justices, in practice, will hold a preliminary vote.  If the Chief Justice is in the majority, he will either write a draft option or assign another Justice to write the opinion.  What is implied by the opinion given to Politico is that Chief Justice Roberts is not in the majority.  If that is the case, the most senior Justice in the Majority will write a draft opinion.  The draft opinion written by Alito is dated February 2022, which makes sense for the timeline the Justices usually work with.  This draft opinion would be circulated among the Justices to allow for changes to be made or for decanting opinions to be written with a decisive repudiation of the actual language of the document.

As this article is being written in May 2022, abortion is legal in all fifty states, although Texas has a stringent abortion ban at six weeks.  So anyone who is reading any of these articles saying abortion has been overturned needs to realize nothing has changed yet.  If Roe is overturned, almost half of the states in the United States will have abortion bans that will go into effect.  Only sixteen states and Washington DC have laws that protect the right to an abortion.

Who knows if the protests in DC or the rest of the country will affect the Supreme Court, but it should influence mid-term elections.  Every member of the United States House of Representatives is up for reelection.  Many states also have state legislature elections and gubernatorial elections.  The Alito opinion says he is not subjugating women because more women are registered to vote and vote in this country than men.  Women need to run for office.  Hopefully, this decision will galvanize women to run for office in more significant numbers than before.  We see videos of male lawmakers not understanding that egg topic pregnancies are deadly to women.  We need more women in office, young women, in office to fight for women’s rights.  

As of 2021, there are 24 women in the Senate out of 100 total voting members and 120 women in the House of Representatives out of 435 voting members, and four delegates who cannot vote.  Women make up about a quarter of voting members in the Legislature, yet women are more than half of the US population. 

Members of the Supreme Court are appointed for life and are meant to be above politics. If the Alito opinion is the delivered opinion, I question this vital aspect of the court. 

A decision to effectively ban abortion in half of the country will affect the poor and working-class more than anyone else.  According to a December 2021 article in VeryWell Health, 40 percent of participants cite financial reasons for having an abortion.  In a country that does not have comprehensive medical care, child care, or maternal leave in all fifty states, banning abortion puts these women at an even greater risk of seeking alternative means of having an abortion.  Banning abortion does not end abortion; it just makes abortions unsafe.

What about the argument that these women could travel to a state that allows abortion?  If a woman is already living paycheck to paycheck, where would she have the money to travel, take time off of work, and pay any other necessary expenses to have an abortion in another state? Abortion will not be banned for women of means or women with access.  Abortion will be banned for women living in the margins, primarily women of color and LGBTQ people.

If you are upset by this possible decision, rather than protesting, we all need to do something more substantial, run for office.  Emily’s list will help any pro-choice woman running for any state, local or federal office.  They may not give every candidate money, but they will help with resources.  If you are not in a position where you cannot run for office, then support pro-choice candidates with your time or money.  More than ever, it is crucial to vote for those who will represent you and your issues.

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