The Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade just over a month ago, and abortion access—not to mention all pregnancy-related care—is dwindling. In the 30 days since, 43 abortion-providing clinics have been forced to shut down in the 11 states that have banned abortion entirely or at six weeks, Guttamcher Institute has reported.
Those states are Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Georgia, Ohio, South Carolina, and Tennessee, and frighteningly enough, we’re just getting started. As many as 26 states are expected to ban all or most abortion care without Roe. States like Louisiana, Wisconsin, Arizona, Wyoming, North Dakota, and others are caught in an almost daily legal push-and-pull trying to block abortion bans from taking effect. Clinics in some of these states could be forced to shut down within weeks, perhaps even days, upending abortion access across the country and overwhelming providers in the handful of states where abortion remains legal. Even before Roe was overturned, 90 percent of U.S. counties lacked an abortion provider, and about 3 million people lived 100 miles or more away from an abortion clinic.
The fall of Roe has simply taken an existing crisis and made it immeasurably worse.
Beyond the 11 states that have already banned abortion, a would-be ban in Louisiana threatens abortion providers with years in prison. It briefly took effect while a doctor was caring for a patient whose fetus was dead. As a result, the doctor was prohibited from providing a simple, 15-minute abortion procedure, and her patient had to endure an hours-long, agonizing delivery to birth a dead fetus.
“The trigger bans have turned a hospital room and medical procedure into a legal consultation, all while patients’ health and safety are at risk,” the doctor said of the situation in a legal affidavit. This incident was “the first time in my 15-year career that I could not give a patient the care they needed.”
Indiana is currently trying to force an extremely unpopular abortion ban that would impose prison time and massive fines on doctors through the legislature. Thus far, abortion has remained legal in this state, allowing one doctor to care for a 10-year-old rape victim who had been forced to flee Ohio due to the state’s six-week abortion ban. If, or rather when, Indiana bans abortion, doctors like Bernard could be jailed.
And on Tuesday, Kansas will vote on a purposefully, extremely confusing ballot measure to end the state’s guaranteed right to abortion, opening the door for the legislature’s anti-abortion supermajority to pass a total abortion ban. If Kansas bans abortion, abortion access will be decimated across the Midwest.
Dr. Christina Bourne, the medical director of Trust Women in Kansas, has recounted how the day Roe was overturned, “people in Mississippi and Louisiana were literally calling us from the waiting rooms of abortion clinics there, saying their appointment had just been canceled and could we fit them in.”
The consequences and ripple effects of Roe being overturned have already been devastating, with hospitals denying rape victims emergency contraception, experts predicting increased domestic violence against pregnant people, child rape victims being denied abortion care, and patients being forced to carry dead fetuses. Inevitably, there will also be more maternal deaths—Texas has waged a legal war for the “pro-life” right to let pregnant people die. And considering states with more abortion restrictions and fewer clinics have disproportionately high maternal mortality rates, the closure of 43 clinics in the last month doesn’t bode particularly well.
Still, abortion providers and advocates have remained committed to innovating and bridging as many gaps to care as possible. One OB-GYN is fundraising to launch an abortion boat in the Gulf of Mexico. Some providers are setting up mobile clinics along the borders of states where abortion is banned. Groups like Shout Your Abortion and activists like Renee Bracey Sherman are doing everything they can to teach as many people as possible about safe, self-managed abortion with medication.
The closure of 43 clinics is a massive hit to abortion access—but the fight isn’t over.