What to do when hope seems lost
Edited to add: The Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade was officially released on Friday, June 24, 2022. The decision overturns a half-century of legal precedent, strips the right to abortion from the American people, and paves the way for states to criminalize abortion in every single case. This decision threatens the lives of everyone who can become pregnant, removes personal autonomy over the bodies of people with uteruses, and forces pregnancies onto people who do not want to be pregnant. We will continue to update available resources to protest this decision which discounts the public will of the majority of Americans.
For those who have been actively working in the reproductive justice space, the Supreme Court’s leaked opinion draft overturning Roe v. Wade is egregious yet not unexpected. It lands among some of the Court’s worst decisions which include:
Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857): held that Black people, whether free or enslaved, could not be considered American citizens
Civil Rights Cases (1883): struck down the Civil Rights Act of 1875 which sought to ban racial discrimination in businesses and public accommodations
Plessy v. Ferguson (1896): the “separate but equal” ruling which upheld state segregation laws allowing for Jim Crow laws
Buck v. Bell (1927): upheld forced sterilization of those with intellectual disabilities
Korematsu v. United States (1944): upheld the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II
Bowers v. Hardwick (1986): upheld Georgia’s sodomy statute that criminalized sexually active gay and lesbian relationships
Bush v. Gore (2000): halted the recount of contested ballots in Florida handing the election to George W. Bush
Kelo v. City of New London (2005): allowed for taking land from one private party to give to another is a valid public use ultimately allowing a person’s private land to be condemned and transferred to a private developer as part of a comprehensive redevelopment plan
Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker (2008): allowed Exxon to be absolved of financial responsibility for the Exxon Valdez spill, one of the greatest environmental disasters of all time, by reducing $5B in damages to $500M and increasing the value of Exxon’s stock by $23B in two days
Though this is absolutely a disheartening setback for the reproductive justice movement, what is even more concerning is that the basis of Roe v. Wade is built on the idea of a constitutionally provided right to privacy implied by the 14th Amendment’s protection of the right to life, liberty, and property and due process clause. A key point within Alito’s opinion draft is that the right to access an abortion is not an implied constitutional right because it “is not deeply rooted in the Nation’s history and traditions” opening a debate of implied rights in a historical context. This point may create a roadmap for other rights to privacy to be overturned including:
Opergefell v. Hodges (2015): legalizing gay marriage
Lawrence v. Texas (2003): making same-sex sexual activity legal
Loving v. Virginia (1967): legalizing interracial marriage
For people with uteruses who are losing their individual civil rights to personal choice and bodily autonomy, it may seem hopeless. The Supreme Court is the highest Court in the land and there is little immediate recourse in a ruling like this. Those who seek to suppress the rights of others use these victories to overwhelm and exhaust activists and nonprofits working to protect basic human rights. In a time when the system has failed the people, it is important to understand the importance of addressing inequity through both individual and systems-change.
Twenty-six states are certain or likely to ban abortion within the year if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. On the other side, 15 states and the District of Columbia are insulated against future abortion bans. With the issue becoming a state issue, there is systems change that can be accomplished at the state level which includes:
Allowing the delivery of abortion pills (mifepristone and misoprostol) by mail without a doctor’s visit.
Removing mifepristone and misoprostol from the NIOSH List of Hazardous Drugs in Healthcare Settings as they only met the NIOSH criteria as a “reproductive hazard” although research shows that the drugs are 95% or more effective and the rates of infection requiring hospitalization or transfusion were .01% and .03%, respectively.
Voting for state legislators who will overturn laws restricting abortion access. In 2021, states enacted 106 laws restricting abortion access, more than in any year since 1973.
Advocating to local, state, and federal lawmakers for policies that support people’s whole lives including better access to hospitals and clinics, healthcare provided by people trusted by our communities, insurance that covers real needs, and policies that support families and individuals to live their fullest lives.
Advocating for publicly-funded contraceptives and access to health centers that offer a full range of contraceptive methods. Right now, 19.2 million women live in contraceptive deserts and 1.2 million women live in counties without access to a single health center that provides the full range of contraceptive methods. For these women, seeing a provider, accessing trusted information, and finding the right birth control becomes nearly impossible as they may have to travel for hours and hundreds of miles to visit a county with health centers requiring them to have access to travel, accommodations, childcare, a flexible work schedule, and money to pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses.
This is the time to focus on individual action as well, understanding that many routes to systems change are limited. This may include:
Find a verified abortion provider at Abortion Finder, which keeps your information private and confidential.
Share resources with people in need of support for self-managed miscarriage or abortion. These include AidAccess, M+A Hotline, Repro Legal Helpline, Abortion on Our Own Terms, INeedAnA.com, Plan C, SASS, and practical support organizations.
Speak out and mobilize! There are rallies and marches happening across the U.S. in response to SCOTUS' decision. We Won't Go Back shows where and when events are happening. Abortion Access Front is hosting Operation Save Abortion.
Donate to nonprofits that are helping patients find and pay for abortions or abortion pills online.
Support independent community abortion providers who provide the majority of abortion care in the U.S. to ensure people have access, support, and funding for abortions.
Tell your own abortion story and listen deeply to the stories of people you love who have had an abortion. Today, teenagers have far fewer abortions and abortion patients are most likely to already be mothers. Nearly half of abortions happen in the first six weeks of pregnancy and nearly all in the first trimester. One in four women will have an abortion by the end of their childbearing years.
Write an Op-Ed for your local news outlet (sample Op-Ed templates are available here).
Share abortion fact sheets to dismantle incorrect beliefs around abortion rights.
Hold elected officials accountable for their stance on reproductive freedom through policy change. The National Women's Health Network provides health information and works on policy change around women's health issues.
Stay informed about major developments in sexual and reproductive health with the Guttmacher Institute's State Legislation tracker.
Learn what communities outside of your own think about abortion rights and reproductive freedom. The Institute on Social Policy and Understanding's (ISPU) research shows the majority of American Muslims believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases. The data is disaggregated by gender, race/ethnicity, religious affiliation, and age. Pew Research shows disaggregated information about how the American public feels about abortion by political affiliation, gender, race/ethnicity, age, and level of education.
Vote for and support reproductive freedom champions in elected positions. Ask your legislators where they stand on reproductive freedom and individual civil liberties and vote in local, mid-term, and national election cycles.
Alito Roe v. Wade draft may open the door to overturn other cases by Mia Salenetri (WUSA9) and Abby Llorico, WUSA9, May 2022.
13 Worst Supreme Court Decisions of All Time by Casey C. Sullivan, Esq., FindLaw.com, October 2015.
NIOSH List of Hazardous Drugs in Healthcare Settings, CDC, 2020.
Efficacy and safety of medical abortion using mifepristone and buccal misoprostol through 63 days by Mary Gatter, Kelly Cleland, and Deborah L. Nucatola, April 2015.
Effectiveness of medical abortion with mifepristone and buccal misoprostol through 59 gestational days by Mary Fjerstad, Irving Sivin, E Steve Lichtenberg, James Trussell, Kelly Cleland, and Vanessa Cullins, September 2009.
Safety and effectiveness of mifepristone and misoprostol, IPAS, last reviewed January 2021.
Here's How Abortion Access Would Change if Supreme Court Erodes Roe by Christine Vestal, Pew Trusts, January 2022.
Who Gets Abortions in America? By Margo Sanger-Katz, Claire Cain Miller, and Quoctrung Bui, New York Times, December 2021.
Birth Control Access, Power to Decide.
Resource Hub for State Based Organizations, Liberate Abortion.