Roe v. Wade could be overturned — we need to open our eyes

Roe v. Wade could be overturned — we need to open our eyes
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Earlier this month Argentina rejected a bill to legalize abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. Days later, the first woman died after attempting to self-induce a miscarriage. The Health Ministry estimated that there are as many as half a million illegal abortions each year in Argentina; thousands of women, particularly poor women, are hospitalized each year from unsafe abortions. It’s estimated that more than 3,000 women there have died from them.

In the United States, many of us mistakenly don't believe this could be our reality; a recent poll found that while most American voters do support Roe v. Wade, more than 60 percent don’t believe it’s likely to be overturned in the next few years. They're wrong and are ignoring the obvious threats to abortion rights that are right in front of us.

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That isn’t what Trump’s record indicates, or what he promised voters. In fact, Trump and Pence have consistently stated their intentions to appoint pro-life Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade. And for all the right’s efforts to obscure this fact, Kavanaugh has made his position on Roe quite clear. A vote to put Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court is a vote to overturn abortion rights in America and no amount of spin can change that.

Trump has already made good on promises he made to his base, but none are more dangerous than those he made on reproductive rights. The lower courts and state legislatures have been laying the groundwork for this fight for years and a Supreme Court with Judge Kavanaugh will be the nail in the coffin.

It’s easy to forget that it hasn’t even been 50 years since Roe v. Wade was decided. As recently as the 1970s, women could not legally obtain an abortion and back-alley jobs were often performed in dangerous and unsanitary conditions. Hospitals often had whole septic wards for women with infections from unsafe abortions. Women who tried to terminate their own pregnancies ingested bleach, turpentine, drugs, or injected toxic solutions.

We know well the history of the coat hanger and the knitting needle. Women throwing themselves down stairs. As recently as 1965, illegal abortions accounted for 17 percent of deaths connected to pregnancy and childbirth. This is not dystopia, this is not fear-mongering; this was the reality for women just a generation ago. And for many women, it still is.

State legislatures have been so effective at chipping away at Roe that there are already six states that have only one abortion clinic in operation. Ninety percent of US counties do not have an abortion provider. There are 27 cities — home for three million people — classified as “deserts” for women seeking abortion care, where women will have to travel more than 100 miles to find a provider.

And, once they find the time and resources to make the trip, they may find that they’re required to undergo a waiting period between a consultation and the procedure, forcing them to stay overnight or make the trip twice. In 18 states, providers are mandated to “counsel” a woman before an abortion on false links between abortion and breast cancer, or false consequences to her own mental health, or misleading claims of fetal pain.

These laws are offensive and harmful to women and along with state funding and insurance restrictions have created a landscape where choice is only afforded to those who can pay for it. It might be narrowly legal but it is barely accessible for many poor women, women of color and rural women.

If Roe was overturned, abortion would be automatically outlawed in four states. Ten more states have bans predating Roe that could take effect as well. Many more states under conservative control could follow. And Congress could choose to outlaw abortion nationwide. Women would be at risk for criminal prosecution. And if Roe fell, the right to privacy would be undermined — the legal right that protects women’s access to contraception.

There are dozens of countries around the world where women do not have the legal right to abortion, even to save their own lives. What’s striking though is that abortion rates are similar in countries where abortion is banned and where it is legal. Legal bans do not stop abortions; rather they kill women. More than 22,000 women die every year from unsafe abortions, particularly poor women. The argument for “life” does not bear out. These kinds of bans do not protect life; it is access to contraception, to education, to resources that protects the health of women and whole families. These bans are simply about the control and punishment of women.

Kavanaugh’s supporters want to understate his threat to Roe v. Wade and the many legal rights it upholds. But overturning Roe is not a legal or political impossibility, it’s not a radical departure for our country. It is a stated goal of our highest offices.

Nominee Kavanaugh is a threat to the legal right to privacy that undergirds both Roe and Griswold and a host of other cases that gave us legal access to abortion, contraception, marriage and family. He has made his position against Roe quite clear and that position is openly hostile to women. With all that’s at stake, America cannot take a gamble on him. Too many women’s lives depend on it.

Dawn Huckelbridge is director of the Women's Rights Initiative at American Bridge, which is a Super PAC that supports Democratic candidates.