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Navigating the Impacts of Overturning Roe v. Wade

by Rita Health team

The fertility industry has seen an influx of concerns on data privacy since the recent announcement that Roe v. Wade will likely be overturned. We hear you. When we founded Rita, we put our community at the core of what we do. ​​Data privacy and security are no exception. If you still have questions, reach out to us at hello@wearerita.com

Chances are, every woman you know is going to be indirectly affected by the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. At Rita, we’re committed to helping women gain knowledge and autonomy around their reproductive experience. Let’s review the history of Roe v. Wade, address the impact of an overturn on reproductive technologies and the wellbeing of women and families, and turn our focus to the path forward.

A brief history of Roe v. Wade 

When Roe v. Wade became law in 1973, the court ruled that women were protected to a "right to privacy" and free to choose to have an abortion without excessive government restriction due to the Due Process clause of the 14th amendment. The Due Process Clause guarantees “due process of law” before the government may deprive someone of “life, liberty, or property.”  The court also ruled that this right must be balanced against the government’s interest in protecting women’s health and prenatal life. To do this, they ruled:

  • In the first trimester, state governments could not prohibit abortion. 

  • In the second, state governments could require reasonable regulations. 

  • In the third, state government could prohibit abortion entirely with exceptions in cases where an abortion was necessary to save the life or health of the mother.

What’s happening to Roe v. Wade now? 

On Monday, May 2, 2022, Politico leaked an initial draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito which suggests that the court will vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, opening the door for each state to ban or restrict access to abortion. On Tuesday, Justice John Roberts confirmed the authenticity of this leak.

Since then, the conversation has focused on “trigger states.” These include:

  • 23 states with laws that could restrict the legality of abortion

  • 13 of these states have post-Roe laws to ban all or nearly all abortions that would be triggered and enforceable immediately if Roe were overturned

On the other hand, 16 states and the District of Columbia have laws the could protect the right to abortion. Take a look at the Guttmacher Institute's chart on each state’s policies in the absence of roe. 

Consequences on reproductive healthcare and technologies

The consequence of this overturn could reach far beyond medical and surgical abortions, and into IVF, IUD, and emergency contraception.  

To understand how this change may affect assisted reproduction, we need to watch how each state defines “fetal personhood.”  Is an embryo considered  human at the moment of fertilization? At implantation? Once the fetus resembles a mature human form? When someone undergoes IVF, eggs are fertilized in the lab and the resulting embryos are transferred to a woman’s uterus. There are often extra embryos that may not be suitable for use, will remain frozen until further direction, or will simply be discarded as medical waste. This means that reproductive technologies are potentially at risk of becoming criminalized. 

Perhaps even more at risk, emergency contraception and IUDs are forms of birth control that have become incredibly common in the U.S. as well. Both effectively prevent pregnancy, even if fertilization has already occurred, by preventing an embryo from implanting in a woman’s uterus. Approximately 24% of hispanic and black women and 21% of white women report having taken emergency contraception, like Plan B, and nearly 12% of US women who use contraception have an IUD.

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