Posted at 6:00 am
What do you think of this week’s opinion draft leak showing that the days of abortion rights in the United States seem to be numbered?
I was shocked that there was a leak, and then I was shocked and bewildered to read in the draft opinion that the Supreme Court had simply decided to ignore the rigorous scientific evidence presented. It is fascinating to read that the Court said it “cannot know” what the effects of abolition of the right to abortion are, when so many scientists have given them solid evidence of these effects.
What will be these effects?
According to my calculations, in states that prohibit abortion, approximately one in four women who want to have an abortion will not be able to leave their state to go to a clinic that offers this service. An estimated 100,000 women per year cannot go to where abortion clinics are still open. Of these, approximately 75,000 are likely to carry their pregnancies up to term.
And that number is probably too low, because it assumes that 300,000 women who can afford to travel to another state to have an abortion will get an appointment, which is far from certain. Let us not forget that clinics in neighboring states will be filled with demand. For example, we took an exam in March, and no abortion clinic in Oklahoma has space for an appointment.
In the longer term, abortion clinics in states where the procedure remains legal will try to increase their capacity. But again, there is a lot of uncertainty. Florida and Kansas, for example, seem unwilling to ban abortion right away, but it could end in a year or two. If you own a clinic in these states and you’re filled with requests, will you invest in an expansion when you don’t know if you can still open a year from now?
You say that the image often conveyed by a teenager seeking an abortion in order not to become a mother before finishing her secondary education does not reflect the reality of the face of abortion in 2022.
Absolutely. I’m not saying these people don’t exist. Of course they have. But you should know that 97% of women who have abortions in the United States are 18 or older. We also know that most of them are mothers who, of which 75% of them are poor or have low incomes, most of whom are not financially stable, of which more than 60% of them report having recently experienced a disruptive events in their lives, such as such as unemployment, relationship breakdown, late payment of rent, etc. In other words, these are not women who have the time, money or resources to travel 500 km and go to another state for medical treatment. The impact will be felt especially among the poorest, poorest, most vulnerable women in our society, who have nowhere to go. For them, an unwanted birth is likely to be particularly difficult to bear.
Also, we know that the States most likely to ban abortion are the States with the least social safety net for women and children, with the worst access to health care, with the weakest social benefits. In my job, I try to stay true to the facts and not play politics. But if the right to abortion is lost, it must be realized that many vulnerable women will have children they did not feel ready to have. If the welfare of children is at the heart of these States – and I hope that the welfare of children is at the heart of all of us – they should immediately strengthen their social safety net to support these families. Although everyone has a different perspective on abortion, I think this is something we can all agree on.
- Number of abortions performed in the United States in 2017, the most recent year in which the review took place
Source: GUTTMACHER Institute
- Number of abortions listed in the United States for the year 2014
Source: GUTTMACHER Institute