May 16, 2022

Navigating the impacts of overturning Roe v. Wade

Author: Thea Carew, Rita’s Head of Community 

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.

Consequences within a system that’s failing women and families

Did you know that our current abortion rates are actually lower today than they were in 1973? Statistics have consistently proven that banning abortion only prevents safe abortions. Nearly 1 in 4 American women will have an abortion in their lifetime—60% of whom are already mothers. Today, the right to suppress pregnancy often feels like the only way for women to achieve opportunity, autonomy, and equality.  There are countless issues that  should have been addressed in the 50 years since Roe v. Wade to prove that states weren’t only anti-abortion, but also pro-women:

  • Sex education is not comprehensive and often only promotes abstienence
  • The pressure to avoid unwanted pregnancy still falls only on women
  • We have the highest (and rising) rates of maternal deaths out of 49 developed countries 
  • Black women are more than 3x as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes
  • We’re the only wealthy nation without federally mandated paid parental leave
  • Salaries and earning potential often take a major hit when women become moms
  • The cost of childcare continues to rise and yet care work is tragically devalued
  • Working moms left the workforce during the pandemic at a higher rate than dads

Pro-choice states are making preparations but so are companies

Many pro-choice states have already made preparations to protect abortion access and become “safe havens” for the inevitable influx of out-of-state individuals seeking an abortion. The private sector also has an opportunity to build a better path for women in a post-Roe America. In recent decades, leaders in business have stepped up to support female employees and families where our government fails to. Corporate policies on maternity leave, mental and physical healthcare, and childcare are all examples of this. Famous leaders from companies like Bumble and Salesforce have already announced plans to support employees and their family members seeking an abortion.

What can we do?

If you’re like us, you’re wondering if there’s anything you can do to help in this moment of uncertainty. Here are a few ideas to help you get started:

  • Educate yourself on the agendas of your local candidates and show up to the ballots for midterms in November. 

Where do we go from here?

The Supreme Court decision feels like a 50-year setback. However, it might just mark the beginning of the fight for real and lasting reproductive rights. In search of some semblance of silver lining right now, we’ll leave you with a perspective from the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. When Roe v. Wade was passed, RBG wasn’t a fan, butnot because she wasn’t pro-choice or a fierce defender of equality. She didn’t like how it was structured, expressing it was an attempt to do too much at once and wouldn’t stand the test of time.

“Doctrinal limbs too swiftly shaped may prove unstable.” - Ruth Bader Ginsburg

While these times prove to be uncertain for women in America, many states, corporations, and individuals are seizing this moment to continue their efforts of achieving women’s equality, in tactful, deliberate, and lasting ways, so we can ensure that progress is undeterred by institutional bureaucracies and shortcomings.

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