Updated Dec. 1 at 10:37 a.m. PT.
The state of Mississippi has asked the Supreme Court to deny people the ability to decide for themselves what is best for them and their families. The significance of such a decision cannot be overstated.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case that directly challenges Roe v. Wade. The case concerns a Mississippi law that would ban abortion care after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Referred to as the most consequential abortion rights case in nearly 50 years, the ban under review restricts people’s ability to make life altering decisions regarding their reproductive health.
The reasons people seek abortion care are uniquely personal and almost always made after consulting with someone they trust. The careful regard for their reproductive health is clear in the rates of people who say they are grateful for the abortion care they received and have no regrets. Despite these facts, the approach to regulate people’s reproductive health disregards people’s ability to decide what is best for them. The Mississippi law would remove from people the ability to decide what is best for them after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
As an ob-gyn who has included abortion care as part of my practice for almost 20 years, I have seen the harm to a person’s physical and emotional health as a result of denying them the ability to access abortion care.
A 2019 report from the Institute of Women’s Policy Research suggests a link between access and availability of abortion care and greater educational and employment attainment for women. Research shows that abortion care restrictions impact people’s financial status and emotional health. Women denied abortion care are four times as likely to live below the federal poverty line compared to women who were able to access abortion care when needed, according to the research.
In addition, they are more likely to experience serious health complications from pregnancy and experience poor physical health for years after the pregnancy. Furthermore, a person denied abortion care services is also more likely to stay tethered to an abusive partner.
We also know that efforts to reverse Roe contradict popular opinion. Recent polling from Power to Decide shows that 74 percent of respondents (including 75 percent of White, 80 percent of Black and 65 percent of Hispanic respondents) believe abortion care should remain legal. In addition, two-thirds (66 percent) are concerned that people may not be able to access abortion care now and in the future.
Access to abortion care is critical for people to have control over their reproductive health and to ensure an environment where all—regardless of who they are or where they live—can achieve the reproductive outcomes they want.
In addition to ignoring public opinion and the data, abortion bans also contradict the reality that abortion care services are an essential part of the full spectrum of reproductive health services. Abortion care is also a common part of the reproductive life course for many people. In fact, one in four women in the U.S. will have an abortion at some point in their lifetime. Access to abortion care as well as access to information and a system of support is critical for people to have control over their reproductive health. Such access is how we help ensure an environment where all people, regardless of who they are or where they live, can achieve the reproductive outcomes they want.
The state of Mississippi in its legal brief has explicitly called for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. If that happens, 24 states are poised to ban abortion. We don’t have to look far to see how abortion restrictions wreck people’s lives. The recent abortion restriction in Texas bans abortion at six weeks gestation, which is only two weeks after a missed period and before most people know they are pregnant. For people not in a position to carry a pregnancy to term they only have that short window to seek and finalize abortion care services. The abortion ban has inflicted significant harm to pregnant people in Texas, particularly to people with lower incomes, people of color, and people in rural areas. For these individuals choosing between providing for their families or paying the costs associated with traveling outside of the state have become a harsh reality.
This week the state of Mississippi has asked the Supreme Court to deny people the ability to decide for themselves what is best for them and their families. Without question the significance of such a decision on people’s reproductive, physical and emotional health cannot be overstated enough. And, as the Court weighs the consequences of reversing Roe, we hope the Court considers the impact on people’s ability to live life on their own terms.