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How the Overturn of Roe v. Wade Affects Women’s Reproductive Healthcare

by Courtney Pokallus

The ruling of Roe v. Wade was a monumental decision made by the Supreme Court in 1973. The court ruled that the right to an abortion was backed up by the constitution which put a stop to many anti-abortion laws both federal and state. Before this ruling abortions were illegal in 33 states and only partially allowed due to special circumstances in 13. This led to many illegal and unsafe abortions done for women who did not have the access to one. “We had almost no options. You would either put yourself at risk by self-inflicting an abortion, using knitting needles, crochet needles, anything that could stop — take big black pills. There was no other option that I knew anything about” (Byllye Avery, Health Care Activist). Many women were forced to try unsafe techniques and travel to other states and countries, but others couldn’t afford to go to such lengths. Not having the access to abortion put so many women in situations that they were not ready for, they only had the option of receiving an unsafe abortion or giving birth to a child that they did not have the means to take care of. Knowing how this has affected women shows how important Roe v. Wade was for women’s reproductive rights then and now.

Now that the ruling of Roe v. Wade has been overturned, it is safe to say that all the rights that came with it will be taken away as well. The states that will be banning or partially banning abortions are Utah, Arizona, Texas, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Ohio and Wisconsin. Three states also have trigger bans which means that the ban will take place about a month after the ruling depending on state government decision. These states are Idaho, Wyoming and North Dakota. Iowa and Indianna are also likely to ban abortion, but the decision has not been set as of now. Although there are only 22 states banning abortion or likely to ban abortion compared to the 33 pre-Roe, this still leaves millions of women without the reproductive rights they had 6 months ago. 

Although abortion can be used to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, there are also other reasons for getting an abortion like treating miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies. Many know that a miscarriage is the loss of a pregnancy before the fetus is able to survive independently, but do not know what exactly an ectopic pregnancy is and how it differs. An ectopic pregnancy is when the egg is fertilized outside of the uterus, mostly in the fallopian tubes. This can cause the tube to rupture and result in internal bleeding. Ectopic pregnancies can become life threatening to the woman and are treated with abortion. This is in the form of surgery to remove the egg or by taking medication which stops the cells from growing which terminates the pregnancy. In many of the states where abortion has been banned, it is illegal for a doctor to perform this procedure under any circumstance. This means in cases of ectopic pregnancy where it is a risk to the women's health, physicians will have to choose between being persecuted or letting their patient die.

Another issue when looking into post-Roe America is privacy. HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act provides patient confidentiality and privacy. It protects patients by not allowing the sharing of medical documents and information but could not provide much protection in the lieu of Roe v. Wade being overturned. This is because HIPAA does allow the sharing of medical information to the authorities. This could allow physicians to report a patient looking to get an abortion and ultimately end in jail time for the woman. This also does not protect against the sharing of information from period tracking apps. This means that if it looks like a woman could have had an abortion from her period tracker data, she could be persecuted as well.

The overturning of Roe v. Wade has brought a scary and unprecedented time for women living in America but knowing what could happen and other resources to help in these situations is very important. One of these resources is prochoice.org which has assets for women looking to get an abortion such as hotlines, what to expect from an abortion and where to find them as well as resources for pregnancy. They also provide resources for physicians and providers like information on how to continue medical education of abortion. There are sites that offer abortion pills to be shipped anywhere in the United States. The FDA allows these medications to be mailed to any state by specific licensed physicians. This is crucial information for every woman to know as even though abortion is illegal in specific states, there is still a way. The Biden administration also is looking into declaring a public health emergency to expand the access of abortion in all states. They are looking at the legal authority they have to be able to declare this emergency, but there may be a way for abortion to be protected federally without Roe v. Wade.

Courtney Pokallus is a Healthcare Administration Major with a minor in Global Public Health at Arcadia University. She has also completed two seasons competitively swimming for Arcadia and has experience volunteering for multiple organizations including the One Project and her local public library. With a great interest in the healthcare system in the United States, Courtney is committed to advocating for patient rights as the Associate Director of Provider Outreach and Education at The Power of the Patient Project and a contributor to Today's Patient.

August 2022  page 4