Over the weekend, Americans got a glimpse of their president-elect’s plans for the short term future during a 60 Minutes feature. A number of important issues arose, including landmark Supreme Court decisions on same gender marriage and abortion.
From the sound of things, president-elect Trump isn’t too worried about the future of abortion access in America, though he certainly hopes it will be on the decline after he appoints one or more Supreme Court justices.
Like many other Republicans, Trump has his eyes on the ultimate conservative prize: repealing Roe v. Wade and, thus, dismantling the legal standard that has protected abortion access in America for decades.
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Here’s the good news: The president-elect can’t overturn a Supreme Court decision.
What Trump can do, however, is appoint justices who will advance his interests. In the event that abortion returns to the Supreme Court, justices could overturn the historic decision. And that would throw abortion rights into question across the United States.
As seen in recent years, with a wave of new abortion rights restrictions, conservative states would likely move to ban abortion once the high court gave it the okay.
When interviewer Lesley Stahl asked what might happen in the case of a repeal, Trump said that the issue would “go back to the states.” If a state outlawed abortion, well, patients would “have to go to another state.”
Trump’s flippant dismissal of the concerns at hand was a disturbing reminder of what happens when men — especially anti-choice men — are in charge of the policies that affect access reproductive health services, including abortion care.
It was also a distressing throwback to pre-Roe days, when women did, in fact, travel across state lines for abortions, as some are doing already due to limited access or the need for speciality procedures. There’s a very real risk that patients might have to leave the country for abortions after 20 weeks.
Those in states where abortion is likely to be outlawed will probably have an extremely difficult time traveling for the procedure.
Low-income patients in red states aren’t in a great position to afford interstate travel and cash payment for the procedure — remember, the government still bars the use of federal funds in abortions, and insurance policies may or may not cover abortions. They may not be able to take the needed time off from work, or to arrange for childcare — nearly 60 percent of people seeking abortions are already parents.
Before Roe v. Wade, women with money and connections could access abortion in reasonably safe conditions in private doctors’ offices. Meanwhile, everyone else was stuck making terrible choices — carrying unwanted pregnancies to term, attempting to self-induce or paying practitioners with varying levels of skill, compassion and experience.
That access divide could return to the United States, allowing wealthy people to take control of their reproductive autonomy in relative security, while low-income people would face dwindling options — many of which would be very grim.
Given that Congressman Paul Ryan won’t commit to a discussion about birth control access — a conversation we need to have immediately — it’s easy to see how the rate of unwanted pregnancies will increase.