On Overturning Roe: “We’re Not Going to Let It Happen”

The Women's Law Project rallied with allies from Pennsylvania outside the Supreme Court during Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt arguments on March 2.

The Women’s Law Project rallied with allies from Pennsylvania outside the Supreme Court during Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt arguments on March 2.

President-elect Donald Trump recently said he supports overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision in which the United States Supreme Court held that the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy.

At the Women’s Law Project, we vow to battle any efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade.

“There is no way I believe all the rights we have won in the last 50 years are going to be overturned in four years’ time,” Women’s Law Project Executive Director Carol E. Tracy said in the Metro. “We are not going to let it happen.” (Read the full Metro story here.)

In an interview on 60 Minutes, Trump said that any justices he appoints to the Supreme Court will be “pro-life,” and that if Roe was overturned, the issue will be returned to the states.

“Then some women won’t be able to get an abortion,” said reporter Leslie Stahl.

“Yeah. Well perhaps they have to go to another state,” Trump responded.

The idea that women in need of abortion care could just “go to another state” ignores the reality that many women would not be able to afford the time off or travel expense to do so. It also clarifies Trump’s stance that women who seek abortion should suffer “some kind of punishment.”

The 60 Minutes segment makes it clear the punishment Trump envisions for a woman seeking abortion would be either carrying an unwanted pregnancy or more likely, given criminalizing abortion does not affect abortion rates and only determines who has access to a safe and regulated one. In this scenario, the only women subject to such punishment would be those can’t afford to travel to a state where abortion is legal and regulated.

We don’t need to speculate what would happen if Trump’s vision becomes a reality, we already know from before Roe, and current public health analysis of other countries where abortion is criminalized and therefore not regulated. Around the world, 68,000 women die of unsafe abortion annually, making it a leading cause of maternal mortality (13%).

In the Metro story, Carol Tracy recalls life before Roe in Philadelphia. “There were hospital wards full of women injured and dying from botched abortions,” said Tracy. “Women killed using knitting needles to attempt their own abortions.”

Trump’s position on abortion has been erratic, to say the least. Prior to his ascent in politics, Trump stated he was “pro-choice in every respect.”

Regardless of Trump’s history of waffling and pandering on the issue, given there is a current vacancy on the Supreme Court and an unclear number of potential appointees during Trump’s upcoming administration—anyone could choose to retire, or unexpectedly pass away—reproductive rights advocates are obviously very concerned.

Roe v. Wade didn’t make abortion legal; it enshrined abortion in the Constitutional right to privacy, thereby prohibiting states from criminalizing it outright. If, as Trump suggested, the issue of abortion was returned to the states, access to safe and affordable abortion would be determined by geography—and income.

At least 11 states have unenforced, pre-Roe bans that threaten to cast the legality of abortion into doubt in those states should Roe be overruled.

Want to see what life was like in Philadelphia before Roe? We suggest watching the documentary ‘Motherless‘.

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The Women’s Law Project is the only public interest law center in Pennsylvania devoted to advancing the rights of women and girls.









About womenslawproject

The Women's Law Project creates a more just and equitable society by advancing the rights and status of all women throughout their lives. To this end, we engage in high-impact litigation, advocacy, and education.
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