Over the past few years, abortion bans and restrictions were passed or proposed in states across the country. When Mississippi passed a 15-week abortion ban law in 2018, the state’s sole licensed abortion facility brought a lawsuit in federal district court. The district court ruled in the clinic’s favor, and the Fifth Circuit affirmed. The case was then appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), and on June 24th, 2022, SCOTUS issued its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The opinion professes that the Constitution does not include a right to an abortion, and overturns the landmark cases of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
States are now granted the power to legislate on abortion, and they are acting quickly and relentlessly to enact abortion bans and restrictions. As of this posting, a handful of states currently have bans in place, with as many as half of states expected to ban and enact restrictions in the near future. Notably, a majority of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases; yet, with half of states now certain or likely to ban abortion, millions of reproductive-aged individuals are at risk.
When pregnant individuals face barriers to accessing abortions or ultimately cannot access the abortions they seek, they can face severe financial hardships, risk losing their jobs and ability to access educational opportunities, and are forced to experience potentially serious health issues associated with pregnancy and childbirth. The repercussions of the Dobbs decision and the anti-abortion laws to come will especially impact Black, Brown, Indigenous, and economically impoverished women and people who give birth, who already experience devastating limits to accessing safe abortions and family planning services, and face inequities in the quality of healthcare they receive. Moreover, women and pregnant people are being forced to travel across state lines in desperation to obtain abortions, such as with the tragic recent case of the 10-year-old child from Ohio who had to travel to Indiana seeking an abortion after being raped.
Additionally, bans on reproductive healthcare result in criminalization of miscarriages and stillbirths, establishing an environment of fear and intimidation for both pregnant individuals and their medical providers within hospitals and in their daily lives. For example, providers in some states where the legality of abortion is pending or unclear have stopped taking appointments, and, disturbingly, doctors in some areas hesitate to perform, and even deny, life-saving care in cases of ectopic pregnancies, miscarriages, and other complications. The reality of legal ramifications for providers is already beginning to manifest, as exemplified by the threat of investigation into the Indiana doctor who helped the 10-year-old child.
The right to freedom of conscience about abortion and reproductive matters must be safeguarded from public and private infringement, and individuals must have the right to terminate a pregnancy and engage in healthy family planning. SCOTUS’s ruling will prove to be at the health, economic, and social expense of those forced to follow through with unwanted, unviable, or potentially life-threatening pregnancies against their will, and will inhibit access to medically-necessary procedures, social and economic mobility, and overall well-being. Humanists have been adamant supporters of the fundamental right to access comprehensive reproductive healthcare, and the American Humanist Association is committed to fighting for the essential right to an abortion so that all may maintain control of their own bodies, health, economic and social outcomes, and lives.
Last week in Congress, the House of Representatives passed the Women’s Health Protection Act and the Ensuring Access to Abortion Act, which respectively prohibit governmental restrictions on abortion services, and protect one’s ability to access out-of-state abortions. In the Senate, attempts to consider the Freedom to Travel for Health Care Act were subsequently blocked. Anti-abortion lawmakers in Congress are reportedly already mulling over enacting a national ban, and with Justice Clarence Thomas suggesting that SCOTUS decisions relating to same-sex marriage, contraception, and same-sex sexual relations should be reconsidered, more cherished rights may be at risk of loss and restriction. Now, more than ever before, we must take concrete action to put a stop to these attacks on our rights.
Here’s what you can do. Take just a few moments to tell your representatives in Congress that they must protect our reproductive freedoms. (It is very easy to contact your elected officials through our Humanist Action Headquarters, and it only takes a few minutes.)
Uplift and utilize websites like INeedAnA.com and abortionfinder.org, and donate to abortion funds that help those seeking care. Find a rally near you and make your voice heard. Support or volunteer with organizations fighting on the front lines for our reproductive rights at the local state, and national levels. If safe to do so, have conversations with your relatives and friends, explaining how critical it is that abortion rights are secured, and highlight real stories of individuals facing the consequences of these draconian laws. Importantly, vote and register to vote, and recognize the significance that state legislative activities and abortion ballot initiatives play in this fight.
Read the American Humanist Association’s statement on the Dobbs decision here.