Believe it or not, the post-Roe healthcare system is about as fucked, if not more fucked, than women and abortion rights advocates long warned it would be. Who would’ve thought??
The coming days will be particularly brutal for abortion rights. A slate of new trigger laws takes effect this week, and that’s on top of the dozen states that already enacted their bans. On Thursday alone, residents in Idaho, Tennessee, and Texas—where providing abortion is now a felony punishable with life in prison—lost nearly all access to abortion care. Those states will be followed by North Dakota’s ban on Friday, and on Saturday, an Oklahoma law to mandate even higher criminal penalties for providing abortion care will take effect, too. Oklahoma’s law mandates up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine for providing care.
As if banning abortion weren’t shitty enough, we’re also left to solve the unique riddle of “exceptions,” complexities, and other details packaged into these laws. Jezebel’s Susan Rinkunas reported earlier Thursday that Idaho’s ban can only partially take effect in compliance with the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), which requires that hospitals receiving federal funds provide emergency pregnancy-related care, and says doctors who provide life-saving abortion care can’t be criminalized. This conflicts with a Wednesday ruling in Texas arguing that abortion bans without emergency exceptions don’t violate EMTALA. The opposing rulings mean abortion could soon be sent back to the Supreme Court—before we’ve had a chance to breathe since Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health was decided in June—giving Justice Alito a chance to further beat the corpse of our reproductive rights.
The worst of post-Roe America is already bubbling to the surface. A 10-year-old rape victim in Ohio was denied an abortion and forced to travel across state lines for care. A teenager in Nebraska was arrested and charged with a felony for having an abortion, thanks to Meta sharing her text communications with police. A Louisiana woman pregnant with a headless fetus was denied abortion care, despite the myriad, life-threatening risks that go hand-in-hand with remaining pregnant with dead or nonviable fetuses. At least one hospital stopped offering rape victims emergency contraception, and several people reported being denied their life-saving medications because they can induce abortions. The already strained health system will apparently lose more workers over fear that abortion bans will result in criminal charges for doing their jobs.
And yet, with more states rushing to ban abortion, or, like Oklahoma, further criminalize it, the most devastating horror stories are probably still to come. One in three pregnancy-capable people has reportedly lost legal abortion access in their states since Dobbs, and as of this week, that number is slated to balloon further.
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Trigger bans and laws further criminalizing abortion in Idaho, Tennessee, Texas, North Dakota, and Oklahoma present a grim reminder that as dreadful as everything already is, it could always get worse. Two months out from Roe being overturned, as abortion slowly fades from the news cycle, abortion funds, independent clinics, and legal defense groups are fighting tooth-and-nail to protect abortion seekers and providers. Lawmakers are implicitly telling us to accept all this as normal. We simply can’t afford to.