A New Generation Braces For The Horrors Of Overturning Roe

A participant holds a sign at the Women’s March “Hold The Line For Abortion Justice” at the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Leigh Vogel / Getty Images for Women’s March Inc)

As mother and daughter, we have had countless conversations—from the easy ones like how to do laundry or make Aunt Suzanne’s sweet potato recipe, to the more challenging ones like where to attend college and what to major in. But one of the hardest conversations we’ve had many times has been about the future of abortion care in the United States.

Late last year, the Supreme Court heard two abortion cases. In November, the Supreme Court refused, for a second time, to strike down a Texas law banning abortion at just six weeks, before most women even know they are pregnant. And we are still waiting for the Court’s decision on Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban, a case in which Mississippi literally asked the court to overturn nearly 50 years of this constitutional right decided in Roe v. Wade.

For nearly five decades, Roe v. Wade has been the law of the land. But in the last year, we have seen attacks on abortion access like never before. Now, we face the biggest challenge to Roe v. Wade ever.

One of us is a doctor with three kids, the other is a 20-year-old college student. One of us is a baby boomer, the other a Gen Zer, so our experiences with abortion rights have been completely different.

The women of the pre-Roe era remember a time before abortion was safe and legal, and know the horrors that meant for many women prior to 1973—dangerous procedures and permanent damage to women’s bodies. Now, 49 years since Roe was decided on January 22, 1973, new generations are being educated about the consequences of a post-Roe era—one where women are forced to carry unplanned or dangerous pregnancies to term against their will, where decisions about our own health care are made for us before we even enter a doctor’s office.

It’s horrifying.

And whether you are a physician or a college student, it is also horrifying to consider where the anti-abortion movement will go next: limiting birth control and other reproductive care.

Across the country, we’ve already seen dozens of restrictive abortion laws that aim to criminalize doctors for doing their jobs. The Texas abortion law sets an even more dangerous precedent in which random citizens with no relationship to the patient can interfere in the doctor-patient relationship because of their personal opposition to abortion.  

In the absence of a court striking down this law, other states will follow suit. And they won’t stop at abortion; Next they’ll use similar tactics to target emergency contraception, birth control pills, IUDs and more. For example, so-called “consciousness clauses” allow pharmacists or pharmacies to refuse a person emergency contraception like Plan B because of their own personal religious objections. They could even use it to prevent families from accessing in vitro fertilization. Every single one of these tools is necessary health care and should never be off the table for anyone.

In the absence of a court striking down this law, other states will follow suit. And they won’t stop at abortion; Next they’ll use similar tactics to target emergency contraception, birth control pills, IUDs and more.

As we mark the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we need to take action to protect health care. With the Supreme Court poised to end Roe v. Wade as we know it, we have to act now to codify its protections into law and expand abortion access, including by making it available at no cost to anyone who wants or needs it.

This will take every generation coming together with one voice—whether we remember a time before Roe or are now learning what its absence could mean for our lives and futures. We need to act.

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About and

Val Arkoosh, MD, MPH, is the chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners.
Olivia Harbison is Val Arkoosh's daughter and a sophomore at Northwestern University.