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Here’s what could happen if Roe v. Wade is overturned

A crowd of people gather outside the U.S. Supreme Court early on Tuesday after a draft opinion was leaked indicating the court could strike down Roe v. Wade.
Image credit: Alex Brandon


Nearly one in four women in the U.S. are expected to get an abortion at some point in their lives, according to a 2017 study.

If Roe v. Wade is struck down, as a leaked draft memo from the Supreme Court suggests it could be, it will have a major impact in states across the country that have already signaled their intention to restrict or ban abortion.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights, 58% of U.S. women of reproductive age – or 40 million women – live in states that are “hostile” to abortion.

The Supreme Court verified that the document published by Politico is authentic while noting that draft opinions can change before a final ruling. Chief Justice John Roberts has ordered an investigation into the leak.

The draft opinion overturning of Roe would not ban abortion nationwide but instead allow states to drastically restrict or even ban abortion, which advocates for reproductive rights say could have seismic consequences for the country.

Here’s what a future without Roe v. Wade could mean:

  • More than 20 states have laws that could restrict or ban abortion soon after the Supreme Court overturns Roe, according to Guttmacher. One type of statute, called a “trigger law,” is designed to take effect after a Supreme Court ruling. Some states also still have pre-Roe abortion bans on the books that haven’t been enforced. Other laws express the intent of states to crack down on abortion if permitted by the Supreme Court.
  • States that continue to allow abortion could see an influx of patients seeking care. For example, after Texas enacted its roughly six-week ban on abortion last year, some residents began to get abortions out of state. In the final four months of last year, Planned Parenthood clinics in states near Texas reported a nearly 800% increase in abortion patients from Texas compared the same period in the prior year.
  • Women of color will bear the brunt of further abortion restrictions. According to The Associated Press, Black and Hispanic women get abortions at higher rates than their peers. Women of color are also often poor and could have a harder time traveling out of state for an abortion, the AP said.
  • Limits on abortion access can lead to negative long-term health effects. A major study from the University of California, San Francisco, found that women are harmed by being denied abortions. The women surveyed who gave birth had economic hardships that lasted for several years, were more likely to raise the child alone and were at higher risk of developing serious health problems than those who’d had abortions.
  • Some blue states are already taking steps to enshrine the right to abortion in state law. From Colorado to New Jersey, Democratic governors have signed laws protecting reproductive rights and announced their intention to be able to provide abortion services to people who live in states where the procedure is restricted.
Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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