But we don't want Roe back — here's why.
On this day in 1973, abortion rights activists in the so-called United States were celebrating. The Supreme Court’s decision on Roe v. Wade, released on January 22, 1973, mandated that abortion was legal until viability in all 50 states and all occupied territories. Until its overturn in 2022, Roe would set a baseline of legality. Now that the sitting Supreme Court justices have overturned Roe, each state once again has the authority to decide the legality of abortion care.
But what did legality really look like in practice?
Congress’s role in curbing abortion access
In 1976, just 3 years after Roe was decided, Congress passed the Hyde Amendment: a ban on federal Medicaid funding for abortion, with very few exceptions. In 2005, Congress passed the Weldon Amendment. Under this amendment, if a federal agency, federal program, state government, or local government "discriminates" against health insurance plans, health care institutions, or health care professionals that refuse to "provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions," they are ineligible for funding from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS).
TL;DR: since 1976, Congress hasn’t funded abortions except in limited circumstances. And since 2005, it’s threatened state and local governments with a loss of federal funding if they dare to ensure health insurance coverage of their citizens’ abortions.
Chipping away at abortion coverage
Congress, of course, isn’t the only legislative body that’s restricted abortion access and coverage. As it turned out, simply keeping abortion legal in all 50 states and occupied territories didn’t mean it would be accessible in all 50 states and occupied territories. Since Roe was decided in 1973, states have enacted 1,381 abortion restrictions — and 46% of those restrictions were enacted in the last decade.
So are we really living “in the past" when it comes to abortion rights, or are we suffering at the hands of the christofascist politicians in our modern-day governments?
When 75% of abortion patients are poor or low-income, banning or restricting abortion coverage and public funding of abortions exacerbates socioeconomic segregation of health care in which only those with wealth — in many cases, $5,000 to $20,000 of disposable wealth — can afford abortion care and miscarriage management. Abortion funds exist to fight socioeconomic segregation in sexual and reproductive health.
11 states restrict insurance coverage of abortion in all private insurance plans, including those offered through health insurance exchanges established under the Affordable Care Act.
22 states restrict abortion coverage in health insurance for public employees.
25 states restrict abortion coverage in plans offered through insurance exchanges.
The bottom line:
There is no “reasonable” abortion ban or restriction.
Whether they’re total bans, 6-week bans, or 24-week bans, these types of laws are not based in science and medicine. If they were, anti-abortionists would have no say in them, and abortion providers and advocates would be heavily involved in creating and passing laws to protect the autonomy of pregnant people in every state. Sadly, that’s not the case.
Politicians build these laws starting from a place of restriction, and then they decide the circumstances under which pregnant people are allowed bodily autonomy, and when and where pregnant people are able to exercise that right.
So we don’t want Roe back. We want:
Congress to pass a universal right to abortion care and miscarriage management, leading to:
- A repeal of all abortion bans and restrictions in every state and occupied territory.
- Pharmacies offering abortion pills in every state and occupied territory.
- All insurance plans, public and private, fully funding abortion care and miscarriage management.
- Incarcerated pregnant people having access to abortion care and miscarriage management.
- Pregnancy outcomes being decriminalized.
- All fake clinics shutting down permanently.
At the Baltimore Abortion Fund, we talk about abortion because abortion stigma legitimizes bans and restrictions on reproductive care. Speaking of Abortion, is a blog series where we talk about the nuances of abortion care, rights, and access.
When we talk openly about abortion care for what it is — a type of everyday healthcare that many people receive — we break down the social taboos that reinforce the "politics" around abortion access.
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