In 1973, the Supreme Court case of Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in the United States. Since then, there has been a continuous battle to keep abortion safe and legal. The past few years have seen a surge in state-level abortion bans and restrictions, leaving many women wondering about the state of their reproductive rights.
Abortion Bans and Restrictions since Roe
Since Roe was decided in 1973, there have been nearly 1,200 state-level abortion bans and restrictions proposed. Of those, more than 380 have been enacted. The majority of these bans and restrictions have been enacted since 2011.
The Guttmacher Institute reports that as of February 1, 2020, 22 states had enacted 63 abortion bans or restrictions this year alone. These measures include everything from "heartbeat" bans that outlaw abortion as early as six weeks into a pregnancy to bans on specific methods of abortion (like dilation and evacuation) to bans on abortions based on the sex, race, or disability of the fetus.
Several states have also passed so-called "trigger laws" that would automatically ban abortion if Roe is ever overturned. These laws are currently inactive but would go into effect if Roe is overturned or if a state constitutional amendment protects abortion rights is struck down.
The Impact of these Bans and Restrictions
These state-level bans and restrictions have had a severe impact on women's ability to access safe and legal abortion services. According to the Guttmacher Institute, more than 25% of women of reproductive age live in states with highly restrictive abortion laws (i.e., laws that ban abortion or make it inaccessible).
Perhaps even more alarming is the fact that these numbers are only expected to increase in the coming years. If current trends continue, Guttmacher estimates that by 2025, 40% of women will live in states with highly restrictive abortion laws.
The state of abortion rights post-Roe is bleak, to say the least. With more and more state-level bans and restrictions being enacted every year, it's becoming increasingly difficult for women to access safe and legal abortions. If current trends continue, it's estimated that by 2025, nearly half of all women in the United States will live in states with highly restrictive abortion laws. This is a problem that cannot be ignored. We must do everything we can to protect reproductive rights for all women, regardless of where they live.