It’s now been one year since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision ended Constitutional abortion rights for millions of people in America, taking away a legal protection that was in place for nearly 50 years. In just over a year, more than 73 million Americans have been stripped of abortion access thanks to abortion bans and restrictions that have been enacted in 14 states. The aftermath of this extreme decision is manifesting across the country.
But anti-abortion crusaders have made it clear that they have no intention of stopping at state abortion bans. In fact, the anti-abortion extremists are working on taking access from even more patients by once again leveraging the courts to overturn past precedence. Right now, the Fifth Circuit Court is considering revoking the FDA approval of Mifepristone, one of two drugs used in medication abortion, after anti-abortion extremists in Texas challenged its approval even though the drug has been in use for decade and despite the fact that medication abortion is the safest form of abortion and widely used in both the United States and the world.
The anti-abortion onslaught shows no signs of slowing even though two thirds of Americans continue to support legal, safe abortion in most cases and few people support total bans.
Most recently, a new ban has passed in Iowa. Governor Kim Reynolds called a marathon one-day special session wherein both bodies of the Iowa Legislature met to approve legislation that would ban abortion care in the state after 6 weeks. This was despite the fact that in March, a Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll found that “61% of Iowans say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 35% say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases.” Clearly, this rush to pass an abortion ban was done so the people of Iowa would not have time to weigh in. Amy Bingaman, a Broadlawn OB-GYN, said that passing this law will mean Iowa “will lose well-qualified providers from our community…Take away our ability to practice full-spectrum health care, and providers will choose to practice in another state, and many will leave Iowa.”
It’s becoming more common for patients and providers to flee increasingly common anti-abortion laws as doctors and medical students elsewhere to work or train because of the potential collateral consequences of providing services to people either exploring abortion or actively seeking it. Abortion restrictions have broad health care impacts beyond denying some people abortion. In fact, millions more people may face reduced access because of bans that close clinics and drive providers away. After the closure of the only maternity ward in Bonner County, Idaho, for example, expectant mothers will be forced to drive 45 minutes to give birth in the next closest hospital.
The impact of abortion bans will be worse in rural states where there are already significant challenges in accessing healthcare due to distance, poverty, and limited provider availability. Patients in emergency situations are forced to the brink of death before a doctor can legally intervene. Mothers may even be forced to watch their babies die from severe birth defects after being denied abortions.
Yet, despite these consequences, many of the most extreme abortion opponents are forging recklessly ahead to curtail access for as many people as possible. Just last week, Congressional Republicans voted for the National Defense Authorization Act, the annual bill that provides funding to the Department of Defense (DOD), with the inclusion of a new abortion restriction that makes abortion access harder for military personnel and that also restricts care for transgender people in the military.
Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), who championed the anti-abortion measure, has spent months stalling high-profile military nominations in protest of the DOD’s abortion policy. Because of this foot-dragging, the Marine Corps has been left without a Congressionally-appointed commandant for the first time in 164 years. This is yet another example of how abortion restrictions hurt many people beyond those who may be seeking abortions.
The truth is that every American has a stake in protecting access to abortion access and in stopping attacks on reproductive freedom that spill into the healthcare system more broadly. Whether it’s reducing access to birth control, outlawing medicines that are used for a variety of reasons in the healthcare system, threatening doctors and providers with criminal consequences, or forcing people to move out of state to seek all kinds of basic care, the attack on abortion rights hurts everyone.