On the 47th Anniversary of Roe. v. Wade, Here Is the State of Abortion in the U.S.

Supermajority Education Fund

January 22, 2020

Today is the 47th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision in which the Supreme Court ruled that people who get pregnant have the constitutional right to have an abortion. In recent months, however, states all over the country have passed legislation that makes abortion illegal in many cases and effectively inaccessible for many.

By the end of 2019, 25 new abortion bans had been passed. Four states — Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, and Tennessee — passed legislation known as “trigger laws,” which will ban abortion immediately should the Supreme Court overturn Roe. They joined Mississippi, North Dakota, and South Dakota, three states that already had those laws in place. Five states banned abortion at six weeks of pregnancy, based on the detection of a fetal heartbeat — even though many people don’t know they’re pregnant at this point. Missouri banned abortion at eight weeks while Arkansas and Utah banned abortion at 18 weeks.

In October, the Supreme Court agreed to hear June Medical Services LLC v. Gee on March 4, 2020. The case would require Louisiana doctors to have admitting privileges at hospitals near their clinics. Opponents say that this legislation could leave only one doctor in the entire state who could perform abortions, in which case Louisiana would join six other states that have only one abortion clinic left. 

This case would also be the first major abortion decision made during the Trump administration. However, in February, they issued a final draft of changes to Title X, the only federal program that pays for family planning services for low-income patients. Under the new rule, any organization that provides or refers patients for abortions is not eligible for Title X funding to cover STD prevention, cancer screenings, and contraception. In April, Planned Parenthood, which, according to its website, provides services to 2.4 million patients every year, announced that it was leaving the Title X program because of these new restrictions. 

There was some good news in 2019, though. As Supermajority News reported last month, more abortion protections went into law last year than in the entire previous decade. States including Illinois, Maine, Nevada, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont passed legislation that would ensure abortion will remain legal, even if Roe no longer exists, for example. 

“We recognize the significance of the Roe decision in opening the landscape for so many people to be able to access the abortion they needed in a time when many states didn’t allow that option,” Lindsay Rodriguez, National Network of Abortion Funds communications director, told Supermajority News. “We also critically remember it as a cautionary tale of what happens when a decision is seen as unimpeachable and singular, when its symbolism is heralded more than its reality is interrogated … [Roe] should also be a rallying cry for us to do better by all the people it leaves behind, and to unapologetically build a world where everyone has access to rights, information, and resources to get the abortion they want and need.”