The End of Roe v. Wade: A Precarious Future for All Americans

Sophia Sartor and Sabrina Kim

In a controversial-at-best, catastrophic-at-worst Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade was overturned on Friday, June 24. This landmark ruling, passed in 1973, ensured nationwide abortion rights for nearly 50 years. The recent 5-to-4 majority ruling marks a future where every single person – regardless of race, sex, or standing – has something on the line.

In a 2022 poll by Pew Research Center, more than 6 in 10 Americans wanted Roe to stay. Yet with the ruling overturned, individual states now have the power to dictate their own abortion laws. Within just a few days of the Supreme Court’s decision, about half the states have or are soon expected to impose abortion bans. Yet, the right to terminate pregnancy may just be the first in an onslaught of overturns. There remains the fear that more of our rights are in jeopardy than ever before, heightened by the remarks of Justice Clarence Thomas.

“In future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents,” Justice Thomas said. “Including Griswold v. Connecticut, Lawrence v. Texas, and Obergefell v. Hodges.”

These cases have protected the right to contraception, same-sex intimacy, and same-sex marriage. Thomas’s opinion, while mostly solitary in the Supreme Court, still confirms the fear that the overturning of Roe v. Wade could mark the beginning of an egregious breach of power by the conservative-dominated Supreme Court.

“This is an extreme and dangerous path the Court is now taking us on,” said President Joe Biden, in a speech to the American people after the decision was announced. “With this decision, the conservative majority of the Supreme Court shows how extreme it is, how far removed they are from the majority of this country.”

The ruling has struck a significant blow to the Supreme Court in the eyes of the American people, as questions of the organization’s legitimacy have begun to rise. It’s rare that constitutional rights are flat-out taken away. Instead, many cases have simply led to a broadening of the original ruling. To maintain its authority, the Supreme Court needs the American people’s trust. This is gained by upholding the law, not sacrificing principles to serve a partisan agenda. After their decision, trust in the Supreme Court reached a historic low.

A poll published by Gallup on Thursday, June 23, shows 25% of U.S. adults say they have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the U.S. Supreme Court, down from 36% just a year ago. With the fear of further overturns and lack of trust, the effects of the overturn of Roe v. Wade have already begun to cause an uneasy shift in the political climate of America.

Politics are not the only thing America will witness a shift in – the economy may also be in danger. Women are crucial to US economic growth, and to force some out of work due to unplanned pregnancies would be devastating. According to the Center for American Progress’ calculations, women’s labor contributes $7.6 trillion to the nation’s GDP each year, despite the misogyny and obstacles they face.

In fact, if abortion restrictions were taken away, “an additional 505,000 women aged 15 to 44 would enter the labor force and earn about $3.0 billion dollars annually.” Working women would earn $101.8 billion more, which would help to fuel the economy, according to a report from the Institute For Women’s Policy Research. Instead, though, we are going backwards. The overturn of Roe v. Wade might lead to more women pushed out of the workforce and possibly into poverty to care for their children. The economy will suffer, just as so many women will.

“I believe that eliminating the right of women to make decisions about when and whether to have children would have very damaging effects on the economy.” said Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, in a testimony to the Senate in May, “[It] would set women back decades.”

The reduction of abortion rights also foreshadows lasting damage to the already-fragile state of healthcare and personal wellbeing in America. First and perhaps foremost in the issue of the abortion bans is that the health and safety of people in pregnancy will likely decline. Many abortion patients are people for whom having a baby would create or exacerbate health problems with consequences as severe as death. Forced pregnancy, for many, is no better than a death sentence.

According to a 2009 Guttmacher Institute report, unsafe abortions (and all the complications that come with them) are responsible for around 70,000 deaths annually. This number will only continue to rise, as proven by other countries in the past. With illegal abortions now being the only option in many states, women, especially those of color and worse socioeconomic status, don’t have a choice. They’re left between giving birth – and risking their health and future – or turning to back-alley abortions with objectionably high death rates.

And if these people do end up forced to give birth, they and their families are to be met with a whole host of new problems. Parents of unwanted children are far less likely to devote the same amount of time, care, and effort to a child they didn’t want or simply didn’t have the resources to look after. Frequently, unwanted pregnancies are the results of abusive and manipulative relationships, which can lead to terse living situations and abusive family dynamics. These, in turn, lead to a disturbing plethora of mental and physical difficulties and a hierarchical passing-down of violent habits in the children of these families. Children raised with these obstacles will not only go on to create similar environments for any future children. They’re also more prone to harming others later in life, in the theory of intergenerational violence, as cited by the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

Especially now, with an oft-publicized upward spike in domestic and gun violence across the nation (frequently by those with mental illness or troubled childhoods), increasing the risk of abusive or tumultuous living situations for children should be first on the list of things to avoid at all costs. Instead, these conservative justices, while ignoring the increasingly pressing issue of gun rights in America, are focusing their efforts on overturning a right that is, supposedly, an inessential “component of ‘ordered liberty’.”

On the other side of the debate, conservative justices and party members justify the overturn of Roe v. Wade by focusing on the original process for determining whether or not a non-Constitutional right should be upheld. In the majority opinion released by Politico on Friday, June 24, the justices posited that the right to abortion is “not deeply rooted in the nation’s history and tradition.”

“The Court finds the [Due Process Clause of the] Fourteenth Amendment clearly does not protect the right to an abortion,” Justice Alito said in the statement, “Until the latter part of the 20th century, there was no support in American law for a constitutional right to obtain an abortion […] Indeed, abortion had long been a crime in every single State.”

Public supporters of the majority court opinion explain that all life begins at fertilization, and thus to abort a baby at any stage of pregnancy should be legally considered manslaughter.

Yet, no matter what side of the debate you stand on, the country has to recognize that to remove a woman’s right to choose is to subject the entire country to a slew of devastating effects that will only ripple outwards from there.

The National Network for Abortion Funds can be found here.
For information on self-managed abortion rights, use the Repro Legal Helpline here.
To support the lawful side of abortion rights, donate to the Repro Legal Defense Fund here.