The issue of abortion in the United States of America has always been a debate revolving around ethical matters, legal issues, and economic and social spectrums. Women had been granted a choice over abortion by federal law since 1973, but this was recently changed due to the Dobbs decision. Most judges in the United States Supreme Court held that abortion is not a constitutional right. They overturned the Roe V. Wade landmark decision of 1973, that the Supreme Court had recognized that a person had a right to choose an abortion until a fetus became viable, based on the right to privacy contained in the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. In the landmark decision of the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Supreme Court argued that the United States Constitution does not recognize abortion, does not mention it, and its substantive right was not deeply rooted in the country’s history. This decision stripped women of federal protection to obtain an abortion. This implied that individual states have the authority to regulate access to abortion. This decision has several consequences. These consequences include the inequality of state laws over abortion, the dangers to minority and poor women in the country, and the dangers of increased fatalities for women doing illegal abortions.
Unequal Abortion Laws in the United States of America
One of the primary consequences of the Dobbs decision is the development of unequal abortion laws in the United States of America. Abortion is a sensitive reproductive health issue that affects every woman in the United States of America. However, the Dobbs decision denies the federal government the right and powers to manage this issue and grants state governments this mandate to make independent laws and decisions on the issue. This implies that some states will permit abortion laws, others will remain neutral, and others will prohibit abortion. Division in the United States of America is “…one of the many things dividing the United States; none seems more salient than the divide between pro-life and pro-choice forces” (Oberman 2018: 119). The United States of America will likely remain divided over this issue because States will vary on how they approach abortion in the country.
The variance in how different states handle abortion is a critical issue that will come with other unintended consequences revolving around ethics, the economy, and societal social structures. In this case, states prohibiting abortion are prone to selective enforcement (Goodwin and Ziegler 2022; Oberman 2018). Such states are likely to generate punitive and harsh laws that incriminate anyone who tries to discuss, learn, or advocate for abortion. For example, the New York Times reported that “in Mississippi, where the attorney general’s office recently sent a subpoena (a possible prelude to criminal charges) to Mayday Health, a health education nonprofit that put up billboards directing women to a website with information about medication abortion” (Goodwin and Ziegler 2022: 2). This kind of actions in Mississippi may be an infringement on the rights and freedoms of speech and expression provided to all American citizens by the United States Constitution. States that remain neutral have both harsh laws and tolerating laws on abortion, implying that abortion is still restricted unless under specific conditions, then it can occur. For states that prohibit abortion, law enforcement agencies and other institutions are likely to infringe on women’s rights if the prohibition is not well monitored and managed.
Things might be different in states that permit abortion. States that permit abortion are likely to offer good facilities, policies, services, and safe procedures for their residents who want an abortion. The Dobbs decision has facilitated the declaration of abortion as a crime in many States. The result is that when abortion is a crime, “women with money get an abortion by traveling to places where it is legal” (Oberman 2018: 122). This is likely to occur because their states may view them as criminals for violating state laws. In most cases, “…women often travel to states like California or Colorado, where the law permits abortions on limited grounds, through the twenty-eighth or even thirtieth week of pregnancy” (Oberman 2018: 123). These women have different reasons for demanding abortion. The laws in California or Colorado may be favorable for their decision. The movement of many women from States that prohibit abortion to those that permit abortion will lead to an influx of patients and a shortage of service provisions in States like California and Colorado, whose laws permit abortion (Cohen 2022). Healthcare facilities and resources in those states may be scarce due to high demands. Every woman who wants to abort the pregnancy will opt to move to the specific states that allow them to do so to get the help they want. This will lead to an imbalance in healthcare service delivery and rating in different states.
Unfavorable on Poor and Minority Women
The second consequence of the Dobbs decision is its provision of unfavorable living conditions for minority and poor women in the United States of America. In this case, restricting access to abortion by some states makes poor women poorer. Restricting access to abortion implies that women must deliver children at any condition without compromise (Cohen n.d). This is a form of forced parental hood on some women who might have got pregnant through unintended means like rape. Poor women are unable to support a child and usually already have children. Poor women’s full-time employment is reduced if they have delivered, and they often cannot afford to cover basic expenses (food, rent). Some women are likely to face homelessness or violent relationships after delivering. In cases where women deliver children with disabilities, they may not be able to afford to care for the disabled children leading to poverty (Cohen n.d). Women will likely avoid abortion if they know that parenting will not be an issue. This means “…no woman would choose abortion if shown that she would not have to face motherhood alone” (Matthiesen 2021: 160). Therefore, poor women opt for abortion because they know they cannot afford parenting without proper assistance.
Poor women and women from minority ethnic groups in the United States face other challenges associated with restricted access to abortion. For example, women of color experience collective social trauma “…as the exploitation of their bodies, sexuality, labor, and fertility in order to achieve social and economic control of their communities and in violation of their human rights” (Ross 2017: 63). In some cases, women are forced to continue with their pregnancies even if the pregnancy might have some dangers on their health. A good example is from the film “Birthright: A War Story,” where women are prohibited not to do abortions even if the pregnancies are dangerous to their health. In the film, a grieving woman from Nebraska is devastated by a bleak diagnosis at twenty-two weeks of her pregnancy (Tamarkin 2017). She was forced to continue an unviable and dangerous pregnancy because of a new fetal pin law (Tamarkin 2017). Rich women cannot experience such challenges because they have the resources to help them get a safe abortion in states that permit abortion.
Decreased Medical Expenditures on Abortion and Increased Deaths Caused by Illegal Abortions
The other consequence of the Dobbs decision is that there will be decreased medical expenditures on abortion but increased mortality rates for women who have tried to practice illegal abortion. Studies indicate increased medical expenditures from 1973 to 2012 on abortion across the United States of America (Oberman 2018). Therefore, the Dobbs decision allows restriction to access to abortion by some states, implying that few people or no one will have to do an abortion in those states. Therefore, there will be no or limited medical expenditures on abortion in such states. However, there will be increased mortality rates for women who practice illegal abortions. “Make abortion a crime, and the assumption is that we will once again see hospitals filled with women dying from illegal abortions” (Oberman 2018: 124). If abortion is a crime, then it means that many women will use illegal means to terminate their pregnancies. Qualified medical professionals and proper facilities and resources rarely supervise illegal means of abortion. These kinds of abortions occur in streets and other uncontrolled environments. Therefore, the processes and procedures are dangerous and harmful to women’s health, which can lead to death (Peltier 2022). Therefore, the number of women and girls performing illegal abortions is likely to increase in the United States of America. This also implies that the deaths from unsupervised abortions will increase in different parts of the country.
Cohen, C. (2022). The Impact of Dobbs on Abortion Care in California. The Williams Institute at UCLA Law.
Cohen, J. (n.d). Introduction. The Turbulent State of Abortion in America.
Goodwin, M & Ziegler, M. (2022). The Anti-Abortion Tactic: Attacking the Spread of Information. The New York Times.
Matthiesen, S. (2021). Reproduction Reconceived. Family Making and The Limits of Choice after Roe v Wade. University of California Press.
Oberman. (2018) America After Roe.
Peltier, E. (2022). While Abortion Rights Shrink in U.S., This Small Country Expanded Access. The New York Times.
Ross et al. (2018). Radical Reproductive Justice: Foundation, Theory, Practice, Critique. The Feminist Press. Project Muse.
Tamarkin, C. (2017). Birthright: A War Story.