By Emily Hsiang, Student at Haverford College
Roe v. Wade: A Decision Reversed
In 1973 Texas, a single woman under the legal pseudonym, “Jane Roe” fought for her right to abortion after becoming pregnant with her third child. The resulting decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, often referred to as Roe v. Wade, ensured an individual’s constitutional right to abortion, under the protection of one’s fundamental right to privacy (Supremecourt.gov).
For decades, an ongoing battle has been raging on in the United States, both preceding and following this decision: a battle that questions all ethical, religious, and political values factoring into one’s right to abortion.
On June 24, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court officially reversed this decision, as the result of a Mississippi law that sought to illegalize abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy (Mississippi House Bill 1510). In other words, states may now decide the legality of how, when, and if an individual may get an abortion. And while this heated discussion recently reached a critical boiling point, the battle is far from over.
What Damage Has Been Done?
In the wake of Roe v. Wade being overturned, several Americans are left devastated. This decision symbolizes the widespread loss of safety and security for many…beyond just the individual and their right to an abortion, but in its larger implications of how this country treats marginalized groups.
Based on their tracking of state laws, several sources align in their prediction that abortion will become illegal in about half of the states (Center for Reproductive Rights). As a result, abortion rates are bound to decline overall, and individuals will be challenged with traveling further, ordering pills online and having to make extremely difficult choices. “We will see a return to the times of unsafe, life-threatening, unsanitary procedures,” The City University of New York says, in a statement from this past May (CUNY SPH).
Of course, the people who will be affected the most by this change are those who are already disadvantaged, including women, people of color, people living in poverty, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Even beyond the immediate effects of Roe v. Wade being overturned, “people should be quite concerned about the precedent this opinion has for other rights we hold dear,” says Professor Greer Donley from the University of Pittsburgh Law School (CBS News). Among this list of rights at risk is the right to interracial marriage, same-sex marriage, contraceptives, and more.
What Does This Mean for Philadelphia?
Upon first glance, the overturn of Roe v. Wade does not have any immediate effects on Pennsylvania. Under the current leadership of Democratic Governor Tom Wolf, any efforts to limit access to abortion are promised to be rejected, as further proven so far by his actions (Pennsylvania Capital Star). However, we aren’t completely sure that nothing will change in the state in the future.
Urgent attention should be given to the upcoming November 2023 election, in which Republican Senator Doug Mastriano will face off against Democratic state Attorney General Josh Shapiro. While Shapiro is supportive of abortion rights and accessibility, Mastriano has declared his support for “a bill banning abortion at six weeks with no exceptions for rape, incest, or life of the pregnant person” (Spotlight PA).
To prevent a frightening, unsafe future for our state, it is invaluable that we Pennsylvania citizens all show up to vote and turn ballots blue in November 2023. The PA. Gov website has a comprehensive guide for checking your voting registration, linked here. For more information, you may also refer to the “Voting” category on Pivedite’s website: for example, this 2020 article on PA voting information lists a variety of useful links that are still relevant, while this article on voting turnout among immigrant populations may provide you with insight on how to help your friends and family participate.
How Can We Help?
In addition to voting, there are several ways you can join the fight for abortion access. At the simplest level, it is always important to have conversations with your family and friends: either to educate them further and spread awareness, or just to provide them with the feeling of support and compassion. If you know somebody seeking a safe abortion, you may search for a safe provider on Abortionfinder.org or follow the thorough step-by-step guide by The National Network of Abortion Funds for more information.
To raise awareness, many have also shared their own abortion story, whether on social media (with the hashtag #WhateverTheReason) or just with the people in their everyday lives; this act of bravery greatly strengthens widespread empathy and understanding for these situations.
Lastly, there is always the option to donate and support the foundations that provide safe abortion care and support: linked here are places to donate to Planned Parenthood and the National Network of Abortion Funds.