Overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, would have far-reaching and drastic consequences, potentially limiting the Gulf Coast area to just three clinics and possibly making even standard care of pregnant women such a liability that medical facilities and doctors turn them away, according to a briefing issued Tuesday by the West Alabama Women’s Clinic and the Yellowhammer Fund.
“Overturning Roe isn’t simply about letting states decide whether or not they wish to make abortion illegal,” said Mia Raven, policy director for West Alabama Women’s Center, the largest abortion provider in the state of Alabama.
“For the South, ending Roe means a 1,500-mile-wide swath of the country without a single legal abortion clinic or one doctor who can provide care,” Raven said. “It means every health center in the region will have to decide if they want to put their business at risk by accepting pregnant people — or even just those who could potentially become pregnant — as patients, when it may open them to legal scrutiny if that patient later miscarries or otherwise fails to produce a viable, live birth.
“This isn’t just a crisis for the right to a safe, legal abortion – this is something that will jeopardize the healthcare of any person in the South capable of becoming pregnant for decades to come.”
Fears of the Roe decision being overturned have heightened in recent weeks, following the death of former justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the nomination of ultra-conservative Amy Coney Barrett to the nation’s highest court. The U.S. Senate is still working through Barrett’s confirmation process, but with a clear Republican majority, it seems a foregone conclusion.
Should Roe fall, access to safe abortions and quality women’s care will likely be left up to individual states to determine. In such a scenario, the deep-South, red states would likely ban abortions and the women’s clinics that perform them, which would mean long car rides or plane trips to states with open clinics.
“The South is a wall,” said Laurie Bertram Roberts, executive director of Yellowhammer Fund, which provides abortion funding and practical support funds to patients. “We aren’t just talking about helping a person get across a state line if Roe is gone – we are talking about helping them travel halfway across the country. How are my staff supposed to tell pregnant people who want to terminate a pregnancy that they need to drive nine hours one way to get to Illinois if they want a legal abortion, or fly out to Maryland? They already can’t afford a procedure on their own, and now every single one of them needs a plane ticket, too? We cannot do that 20 or 30 times a week. People will just give up.”