Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer issued what many considered a dire warning from the bench this week, implying that Roe v. Wade — the landmark ruling that recognizes the constitutional right to an abortion — is in danger. He wrote the comments in a dissent for an unrelated case in which the court voted to overturn a 40 year-old precedent. Breyer wrote “Today’s decision can only cause one to wonder which cases the Court will overrule next.” We speak to journalist Robin Marty about what a post-Roe America would look like, and how many people are already cut off from abortion access across the country.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: I’m Amy Goodman. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer issued what many considered a dire warning from the bench this week, implying Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that recognizes the constitutional right to an abortion, is in danger. He wrote the comments in a dissent for an unrelated case in which the court voted to overturn a 40-year-old precedent. Breyer wrote, “Today’s decision can only cause one to wonder which cases the Court will overrule next.”
I want to turn now to a quote from an unknown author that has gone viral on the internet after it was shared on social media by feminist icon Gloria Steinem. It reads, “I want any young men who buy a gun to be treated like young women who seek an abortion. Think about it. A mandatory 48-hours waiting period, written permission from a parent or judge, a note from a doctor proving that he understands what he is about to do, time spent watching a video on individual and mass murders, traveling hundreds of miles at his own expense to the nearest gun shop, and walking through protesters holding photos of loved ones killed by guns, protestor who call him a murderer. After all, it makes more sense to do this for young men seeking guns than for young women seeking an abortion. No young woman needing reproductive freedom has ever murdered a roomful of strangers,” the quote goes.
Well, we turn now to look at what a post-Roe America would look like and how many people are already cut off from abortion access across the country. In Minneapolis, we’re joined by freelance journalist, author Robin Marty, her most recent book Handbook for a Post-Roe America. Also co-author of the forthcoming book The End of Roe v. Wade: Inside the Right’s Plan to Destroy Legal Abortion. It’s great to have you with us, Robin. This idea of continually saying what would a post-Roe America look like — you have pointed out it looks like many jurisdictions in America today.
ROBIN MARTY: Thanks so much for having me on, Amy. And as Dr. Robinson had just mentioned in her own segment, what she has seen in Alabama is the fact that there are already people who are traveling six to eight hours just to come to her clinic in order to access care. That is what America looks like right now. And for many people, you can say that abortion is legal but it is so inaccessible for them that they might as well be living in a place where they just are not having legal abortions.
AMY GOODMAN: So can you take us through — right now people seem to be shocked by what has now just happened, this onslaught of fierce anti-choice abortion bans around the country. But you have shown in Handbook for a Post-Roe America and all your work at Rewire and other places that the groundwork has been laid for years.
ROBIN MARTY: Yes. Obviously, ever since the beginning of Roe being decided, the antiabortion movement has always been trying to overturn it. But it got very enthusiastic about it just after the 2010 election when they were able to sweep a number of states and make them Republican strongholds. And through that, they were able to pass a number of model legislations that came through places like Americans United for life, National Right to Life Committee.
And these bills were all very small, incremental steps that were meant to try and take a challenge up to the Supreme Court to let them review Roe v. Wade. Back in 2011, we were seeing more things that were like 20-week abortion bans or extending waiting periods to 48 or 72 hours. Very incremental changes. Because at that point the antiabortion movement wasn’t sure whether or not the court would actually overturn Roe, and so they just wanted to make small changes so that they didn’t accidentally set off a case that would make a precedent that would make Roe stronger.
That all changed after 2016. Once there were more appointments to the Supreme Court and especially once Justice Kavanaugh replaced Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was considered the swing vote, then it was all systems go. No longer were people worried that they might accidentally uphold Roe. And that’s why we have this new onslaught of heartbeat bans, of total abortion bans and things that are very obviously unconstitutional.
These bills were all being introduced back in 2011, 2012, 2013. It’s just that they were not passing because at that time, they were being opposed by antiabortion activists themselves as well. Now antiabortion activists are the ones who are enthusiastically supporting heartbeat bans or supporting total abortion bans. And that’s how things have switched over the last 10 years.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about states where abortion is effectively banned or will be soon. Like talk about the legislation Missouri just passed.
ROBIN MARTY: Yes, So Missouri is in the process of passing their own heartbeat ban. It is very slightly different from the other ones that we have seen in that it has an extra two-week window on it. So the idea is that abortion may not be banned until about eight weeks after last menstrual period, so that would be about four weeks after a person would realize that they were pregnant.
However, in Missouri, that’s really not an additional window because Missouri only has one abortion clinic in the entire state and that is in St. Louis. In Missouri, it’s also a 72-hour wait in between visiting the clinic the first time and then visiting the clinic the second time. You have to wait 72 hours in between, and often because the way abortions are scheduled, you will end up waiting a week in between your first appointment and your second appointment.
On top of that you have the wait that you would need to actually be able to access an abortion appointment in the first place. When you add these layers upon layers of roadblocks, then you have made abortion significantly impossible to obtain. And so you have effectively outlawed it within that state, even though technically Roe is still intact and abortion is still legal.
AMY GOODMAN: How many states have only one women’s health clinic that provides abortion, Robin?
ROBIN MARTY: I believe at this point, we are at seven states that have just one clinic. We have North Dakota, South Dakota, Missouri, Wyoming, West Virginia, Mississippi and I probably just missed one, but I’m pretty sure there are seven at this point. Arkansas sometimes, but there is one clinic that does provide medication abortion but they only have one place that offers both medication and non-medication.
AMY GOODMAN: And yet abortion is still legal in all 50 states.
ROBIN MARTY: Technically, abortion is legal in all 50 states. It’s just very, very difficult for any person to access it, but especially any person who lives outside of these large cities where the abortion clinics are there. And one of the things that people aren’t very clear about is that even in states where access is considered slightly better — maybe there are two, three, four abortion clinics in that state — often they are all located in the same city or the same two cities. So in essence, it’s just as hard for a person to get in because they will still have to travel. They’ll still have to do their waiting periods. They still have all of these roadblocks that they have to get through. And so they might as well just have one clinic.
AMY GOODMAN: Robin Marty, we want to thank you so much for being with us. We are going to get back to you soon. Freelance journalist, author of Handbook for a Post-Roe America, co-author of the forthcoming book The End of Roe v. Wade: Inside the Right’s Plan to Destroy Legal Abortion. This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we are talking immigration and the threats to activists around deportation. Stay with us.