Notes for the World After Roe
Four key readings on reproductive justice
The consensus of Supreme Court watchers, based on this week’s hearings, is that Roe v. Wade will almost certainly be overturned next year. Bloomberg estimates that at least 22 states could have almost immediate abortion bans if Roe is overturned. Other estimates are higher. This is obviously an event of towering importance and I want to give it the careful analysis it deserves. I’m preparing a podcast with Linda Hirshman, an outstanding legal thinker, which will discuss what to expect in the post-Roe world.
In the meantime, I want to flag some writers who I think lay out the stakes in a particularly powerful way.
1. In New York, Sarah Jones does a superb job of centering the body as a site of battle:
The anti-abortion movement has been grinding its opponents down for five decades. It has already forced a collective indignity on everyone who can become pregnant. Our bodies are subject to public debate; as a result, the body’s contents feel, often, like public property. Should states gain the right to force women to stay pregnant, they will turn the body against its owner, trapping a living person for the sake of a person who does not yet exist. Horror sets in when this future is contemplated. No longer would I belong to myself. My body might no longer be an ally but a trap. Even so, I, like [Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney] Barrett, stand a better chance of escape than most. Millions more may lose whatever choices they had.
2. Rewire News Group is an an essential resource tracking reproductive law in the United States and its impact on disparate communities. I want to particularly highlight a Becca Andrews piece on the way pregnancy has been increasingly subject to state surveillance and criminalization, even before the overturning of Roe:
As long as abortion bans continue to pass through state legislatures, the potential for birthing people to be surveilled for their pregnancy outcomes will continue, for reasons of control and a dedicated campaign levied by anti-abortion policymakers to embed language that personifies an embryo in our culture.
“In a landscape where we are controlling people’s bodies and their reproductive choice, and where we think self-managing or making decisions about your own care is something you shouldn’t be allowed to do, we will continue to punish people for those decisions, because we don’t think they should have the space to make them,” said Rafa Kidvai, Legal Defense Fund director at If/When/How, which launched the Repro Legal Defense Fund in June. In other words, criminalization of pregnancy outcomes is directly connected to stigma around self-managed abortion and reproductive care.
3. Writing in The Hill, Elisha Rhodes spotlights how overturning of Roe v. Wade impacts women of color:
If Roe v. Wade is struck down, women of color — already sinking under the weight of inequality in America — would fall further behind their peers. Recent history illustrates the precarity of their economic well-being. Within the last year and a half, 865,000 women left the labor force — four times the number of men. Latina and Black women continue to lag far behind white women in returning to work. Studies show that in the states that restrict abortion and close clinics, there are significant reductions in Black women’s college completion rates and in their future income earnings.
4. In the New York Times, Mary Fitzgerald takes a global perspective, noting that democracies are increasingly strengthening reproductive freedom while authoritarian regimes are becoming more restrictive:
If Roe falls, the United States will instead join of a small cadre of increasingly authoritarian countries that have become more restrictive on abortion in recent years. Poland’s constitutional tribunal ruled on a retrograde abortion ban last year which effectively banned abortion in all cases apart from rape, incest or threat of life or health to the mother, after the ruling Law and Justice party packed the court. Hungary’s Viktor Orbán is ramping up its talk on “family values,” and a 2016 United Nations report criticized the country for obstructing abortion access. Vladimir Putin’s Russia has just joined the misleadingly titled Geneva Consensus Declaration: a document co-sponsored by the United States under the Trump administration with repressive governments including Jair Bolsonaro’s Brazil, Mr. Orban’s Hungary, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s Egypt, and signed by dozens more of the world’s most repressive regimes from Saudi Arabia to Uganda. (President Biden announced in January that the United States would withdraw.) The declaration’s authors also claim that there is no international right to abortion.
(Edited by Emily M. Keeler)
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