Culture Wars/Current Controversies

After Roe: The abortion underground

Caroline Mimbs Nyce

Senior associate editor

Roe v. Wade may not stand for much longer. Activists are already preparing for what comes next, Jessica Bruder reports in our new cover story

In June, the Supreme Court of the United States is expected to issue a ruling that could decide the future of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a legal right to an abortion. The Court heard a challenge to a restrictive Mississippi abortion law in December, and, if some predictions prove correct, the conservative-majority court is likely to uphold the law, thereby weakening Roe’s protections or overruling them entirely. Many more states could respond by passing laws like Mississippi’s, as Texas has already done.

A network of activists, some out in the open and many others covert, are planning for a future where access to an abortion may be signficantly curtailed. The network includes “midwives, herbalists, doulas, and educators,” Jessica Bruder reports in our latest cover story. “When necessary, they are often willing to work around the law.” They are cautiously sharing information on matters such as how to end a pregnancy using pharmaceuticals and how to stay safe—both medically and legally—in the process.

Abortion access in the United States may come to be defined more by this underground than by organizations such as Planned Parenthood, Paul Blumenthal, a professor emeritus of obstetrics and gynecology at Stanford University, told Bruder.

“Whatever the laws may say, history has shown that women will continue to have abortions,” Bruder writes. “The spread of pills and devices like the Del-Em—discreet, inexpensive, and fast—could, if nothing else, help ensure that abortions are done safely and, because of their accessibility, on average earlier in a pregnancy than is the norm today.”

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