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Abortion in the Post-Dobbs Era

Abortion in the Post-Dobbs Era

June 24th, 2022. It has now been one year since the Dobbs case in which the US Supreme Court nullified a woman’s right to an abortion and left it up to the states. Almost immediately, every state in America enacted anti-abortion laws. Thirteen states, mostly in the South but also in Idaho, and the Dakotas, have completely banned it. Georgia has banned it after 6 weeks, which is very damning for women who typically only figure out that they are pregnant after a period is missed for a few weeks. Several other states give 12-18 weeks, and even the most liberal states have banned 3rd trimester abortions, which are usually only done when the fetus is not expected to live outside of the womb without extensive care. Washington, DC is the only place where abortion is not banned at all.

When I was in my teens, abortion was normal. Minors had abortions, college students had abortions, and also women who simply didn’t want/need children, or more children, at that point in their lives had abortions. I would estimate that 25-40% of the women I know who are my age have had abortions. Because I am very open about my own abortions, as well as periods, cramps, menopause, hot flashes and all things female, I have noticed that more women open up to me about it. Women who read my story “Mourning Angela” have talked about it. One of the things I explored in my story was how complicated it was to tell someone that you have had an abortion. When Alexis tells Terrance, he is the first man she has ever told. She is letting him into a very personal space, knowing that he may judge her, that it might be a deal-breaker for him, and the relationship might end.

It shouldn’t be this way. Yes, abortion is a very private thing, between a woman and her doctor. But it shouldn’t be taboo. And why is this? Because in the United States, unlike most developed countries in the world, it has been taboo for women to have sex out of marriage and multiple partners. Men can. Men can have all of the sex they want, but not a woman.

I watched a show a few years ago when black college men and women on a beach were asked questions about sex. The women were asked one question, the men were asked two. For the women – how many men have you slept with. A few women said none, most said one or two, and a few were over five. But the men, in addition to being asked how many women they had slept with, answers being anywhere from 5 to 30, were asked how many lovers a woman could have and you would still go out with her. Some men insisted on a virgin. Some said one, some said 2. The double standard was so horrific that I wanted to cry. This puritan attitude encourages women to lie about their sexuality, even though it is normal and natural. Even in 2023, when millennials are more accepting about women’s sexuality as well as issues like consent and orientation, in the black community, we are behind the times.

And so we come to pregnancy. The most tell-tale sign of sexual activity in the world. You cannot hide a pregnancy by the third trimester, and sometimes not even by the second. In my day, some women had abortions simply to ensure that people would not look at them and know that they were sexually active. Again, a puritan attitude that defined women’s lives.

At the end of December in 2022, 6 months after the Dobbs ruling, the Atlantic ran an article anticipating the results for women who could not go out of state to get an abortion. The anticipated statistic was 50,000 new births, disproportionally distributed among America’s poorest states. One obvious thing about most of these 50,000 women who are carrying their children to term – they didn’t get abortions because they couldn’t afford to travel. Women with money, today and yesterday, could always get abortions – flying to a location where they were legal. So, we have an economic imbalance in who is carrying a fetus to term. We also have a racial imbalance. Even before Dobbs, black and Latino women, in addition to impoverished women, were 2-3 times more likely to get an abortion. In terms of the health of both the mother and child, the Southern states, now with anti-abortion laws, have historically had daunting infant mortality rates and significant rates of pregnancy complications causing death of the mother; this is exacerbated by lack of financial means. It is estimated that for 4 years, women who are not able to get abortions will have money problems, needing state aid for food, shelter, child care and medical care. Things the poorer states may not be able to provide or may not be willing to financially address given magnitude of need. For example, one governor stated that his solution to this crisis was to lift the tax on diapers! States have the opportunity to receive funds to extend Medicaid to new mothers up to one year, and 14 states, all anti-abortion states, have voted against it.

Several organizations have written about America one year after Dobbs.

  • how there are surge states – Illinois, North Carolina, Florida, Colorado and California – where women are traveling across state lines to get abortions and abortion rates are up to 35% higher in those states than in 2022.
  • how there are 250% more self-managed medication abortions with women getting Mifepristone and Misoprostol by mail – sometimes from Europe, sometimes from Mexico – but anti-abortion activists are trying to make medication abortions more difficult to access, and women who have complications are afraid to seek medical care.
  • how impoverished women can’t afford the $800 cost of an abortion, in addition to the travel and lodging costs, and so they have the children, sometimes imperiling their health.
  • how the legal landscape is murky because most people don’t want to press criminal charges against a pregnant woman; some liberal cities are purposely not enforcing abortion laws, and conservative states are fighting back.
  • and how now, even though over 61 % of Americans believe abortion should be legal, a small handful of legislators are going after contraception.

So, this is our post-Dobbs reality. Because of self-managed medication abortions, it is not as bad as it was predicted last year. And it is certainly not as bad as the time before Roe v. Wade. It’s not coat hangers. But I still don’t like it.

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