Since the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June of 2022, many of us were left with more questions than answers. I, for one, am pondering: how has, and will, the ruling disproportionately impact the health and safety of birthing People of Color? Will other legal precedents be considered, and if so, what are the implications of this ruling on LGBTQIA+ and voting rights? How can we use our collective power as voters to protect reproductive rights for the generations to come? While there are still many unknowns, the immediate aftermath has begun to shed light on some answers.
The Immediate Impact on Abortion Access
Access to abortion has become increasingly uncertain or outright illegal across the nation, especially in three states with the nation’s largest demographics of Black Americans: Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas. Since the ruling, roughly six million Black people who could become pregnant are without access to safe abortion services. Some of the bans have no exceptions for instances of rape, incest, or health-related complications. The dangers related to these bans will only worsen the already alarming maternal health crisis the United States has been facing, wherein Black birthing people are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes as white birthing people.
Another way the policies from the ruling are disproportionately impacting Black birthing people is the criminalization of abortion. The criminalization of Black bodies in the United States spans far beyond and before access to abortion as part of mass incarceration and the other oppressive systems our nation was founded upon. If, or when, seeking care and receiving an abortion is treated as criminal, Black families will be charged and punished more frequently and severely than their white counterparts.
Scrutiny of Other Legal Precedents
An important piece of the puzzle to analyze is what this Supreme Court has already done to make way for more rulings of the like to take place, as well as the religious undertones of this ruling. The majority of Americans have been in favor of keeping abortion legal, and the minority is composed of mainly religious anti-choice groups who have funded politicians to restrict abortion access for decades. With those politicians now in the Supreme Court, they have overruled Establishment Clause cases stating the government cannot endorse religion interference as unconstitutional, even though the clause is in the Constitution itself. This Supreme Court has also overruled the cases stating the government must have a secular purpose in adopting legislation, and finally, it ruled that attempting to maintain a separation of church and state does not enable a state to refuse to fund religious education in public schools.
Unfortunately, the issue of abortion may not be where this court is planning on ending its reversal of our rights. Experts say that we should look out for restrictions on contraceptives and IVF (In-Vitro Fertilization) services, dismantling medical data privacy, and banning same-sex marriage, but by letting state constitutions and courts decide and rule. In a big-picture sense, the United States could function like the European Union on these issues, with each individual state court to make the calls.
What You Can Do Now
So, where do we go from here? Many Americans are tremendously concerned and can and should continue to make their voices heard about this fraught and ongoing issue. To take action, you can volunteer for and support local abortion clinics and abortion funds, especially in reproductive deserts, states where there is little or no access to abortion. Think about the activities in your daily life — who do you know in your classes, your book club, on your sports team, who might care about protecting abortion access, and beyond, about protecting our democracy? These are all moments of opportunity for broader democratic engagement.
You can talk to your peers about volunteering to become an Election Worker at the polls, or become one yourself. Host debate-watching parties, and organize ahead of Election Day. Is there a nearby community that could use help with voter registration, education, or transportation to the polls? Are there campus or local community organizations looking for service hours? Build networks of folks in your circles and work with them to become and remain civically engaged.
Vote for candidates that support your position on women’s, LGBTQIA+, and voting rights. We must all keep it in sharp focus that though Supreme Court Justices are nominated positions, we elect the positions who nominate and confirm them. Our votes matter and influence decisions all the way up to the highest court in our nation. Finally, continue to support organizations like The Andrew Goodman Foundation, which is working to break down the barriers to voting for young people of color and those who are impacted the most by rulings like this.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mia Matthews is the Program and Communications Manager at The Andrew Goodman Foundation. In her position, she works with student leaders and in communications surrounding their work. She currently lives in Orlando, Florida.