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For the first time since Roe v. Wade was decided nearly 50 years ago, the Supreme Court will soon weigh in on a case that directly threatens the core holding of our constitutional right to abortion. The decision that the Court makes could have a lasting impact on the future of abortion rights and access in America.

In 1973, the Court recognized that we all have a constitutional right to abortion care, free of excessive interference from the government. In the decades since anti-abortion groups and lawmakers have repeatedly challenged Roe in an attempt to ultimately ban abortion. In doing so,  they’ve made accessing care harder for everyone.

In Mississippi, abortion may soon be outlawed after 15 weeks of pregnancy. This law is the basis of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case that the Supreme Court heard on December 1, 2021. If a majority of justices rule in favor of the law, the precedent set by Roe would be overturned—and our constitutional right to abortion would be decimated. In Mississippi, all abortion clinics but Jackson Women’s Health Organization have closed, making it nearly impossible for people to access safe, legal abortion care in the state. 

Sadly, Mississippi isn’t the only state where abortion access is a problem. Depending on where you live, there may be a 24- or 48-hour waiting period between a consultation appointment and when you can get your abortion. You may be forced to undergo a medically unnecessary ultrasound before you can terminate. Your nearest clinic may be miles away and/or backlogged. Lack of insurance coverage may result in unaffordable costs. Laws may dictate your timing of, if, and when you can get an abortion. You may also be given false information from anti-abortion volunteers posing as health care workers at crisis pregnancy centers. Anti-abortion laws and policies may supersede your decision-making and autonomy. 

Our abortion rights have been in danger for a long time, but this year it’s only gotten worse. In 2021, more states have passed abortion restrictions that can cause significant challenges to receiving care than any other year. This is the erosion of reproductive rights and justice in America.

Earlier this year, Texas enacted S.B.8—a law that bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy and authorizes ordinary people to sue anyone who helps someone get an abortion past that point. Six weeks of pregnancy is only two weeks after a missed period, a time when most people don’t yet know they’re pregnant. Regardless of this fact, the Supreme Court refused to block the law in September, forcing hundreds of people to travel out-of-state to get care and others to continue with a pregnancy they do not want. If Roe is overturned, this situation could be the new reality for birthing people across the country.

We have to protect our constitutional right to abortion and push legislators to go above and beyond it. If Roe is overturned, abortion would immediately be banned in 24 states as a result of insidious trigger laws that are designed to take effect the moment the abortion is no longer protected. These people would have to drive an average of 4.5 hours to get an abortion, and the impact would fall hardest on people of color, rural people,  young people, LGBTQI+ people, people with disabilities, immigrants, and those struggling to make ends meet. Abortion access is an issue of racial equity and economic justice. It’s a simple, essential, health care service that allows individuals to have control over their future. While it could be months before the Court releases its decision on Dobbs, we won’t give up this fight.

The Women’s Health Protection Act would protect abortion rights by establishing a statutory right for health care professionals to provide abortion care and patients to receive it. It also eliminates some key barriers to abortion access, including mandatory waiting periods, biased counseling, two-trip requirements, and mandatory ultrasounds. The bill was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, but it still has to get through the Senate to become law. 

We have to transform how abortion is treated in this country, especially for those whose abortion rights have been most obstructed. Tell your elected officials to protect abortion access and ask your senators to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act. This is how we can save Roe and go even further.

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