The terror of a future without Roe

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Hardline conservatives and anti-choice extremists cheered this week when President Trump announced his nominee to the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh. And for good reason: Kavanaugh is almost certain to act as the decisive fifth vote on an already conservative court, giving the right-wing the Supreme Court they need to vacate the landmark abortion rights case, Roe v. Wade.

Any moderate lawmakers doubting whether Kavanaugh will rule against women and their right to bodily autonomy need look no further than his opinion in the case of Jane Doe, the undocumented immigrant, pregnant teenager that the Trump administration sought to bar from getting an abortion.

{mosads}Kavanaugh’s opinion in that case made clear that he did not respect Doe’s right to make her own decision. He is willing to accept an extremely narrow definition of “undue burden” that the Trump administration imposed on the undocumented teen.


This is incredibly important, because the critical element of Roe v. Wade is that it declares that the government cannot place an undue burden on women seeking abortions. But if Kavanaugh and the other conservative justices on the highest court in the land refuse to define almost any abortion law as an undue burden, we will quickly see abortion become completely illegal in dozens of states across the county.

If that seems like a remote possibility, consider how difficult it already is for women to obtain abortions in red states. I live in Kansas, one of multiple states in the center of the country that has put in place every conceivable abortion regulation possible.

Among other restrictions, Kansas has laws on the books requiring women to receive state mandated anti-choice materials that are purposely meant to discourage her from having an abortion, and then wait 24 hours before the procedure. Minors seeking an abortion must obtain dual parental consent, and women must be offered to view the ultrasound image of their fetus before obtaining an abortion.

As a result of these draconian policies, 97 percent of Kansas counties have no clinics that provide abortions. More than half of the women in Kansas live in those counties. There are only three abortion clinics in the entire state.

I know what it looks like when states are given leeway to impose extreme, unnecessary and harmful burdens on women seeking abortions. I know the tragic results of laws designed to take away women’s agency over their bodies.

The confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court will lead to a decision to overturn or gut the essence of Roe v. Wade. As a result, millions of American women will lose their fundamental right to make their own personal, medical decisions. The restrictive environment I see every day in Kansas will spread across the country, and women will be forced to carry to term unwanted or unhealthy pregnancies because of laws passed and upheld by powerful men.

But as deep red as my state is, I see signs of hope. Kansas is also home to thousands of pro-choice supporters and activists. In fact, throughout the abortion desert — or the Midwest and South — where patients need to travel on average over 50 miles from their home to see a provider—reproductive rights supporters are banding together and mobilizing to protect the fundamental right to make one’s own choice about health care.

More than ever before, now is the moment when our nation’s pro-choice majority must stand up for Roe v. Wade, for fundamental rights, and for women. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill must hear from every one of us — that confirming Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court is unacceptable, because gutting our most important abortion law is unacceptable and unconscionable. We must organize, mobilize and make our voices heard, because the lives and rights of millions of women are at stake.

Julie A. Burkhart is the founder and CEO of Trust Women Foundation. Trust Women opens clinics that provide abortion care in underserved communities so that all women can make their own decisions about their healthcare. Follow her on Twitter @julieburkhart.

Tags Abortion Brett Kavanaugh Donald Trump Roe v. Wade

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