Explainer: What is Roe v. Wade and how is it related to abortion in America?

(Tiếng Việt)

Roe v. Wade is a lawsuit that led to an important decision made by the Supreme Court in 1973, which legalized abortion in the United States. In this lawsuit, a woman named Norma McCorvey (going by the pseudonym of Jane Roe) wanted an abortion in Texas. At the time, Texas state laws did not allow abortions except to save a woman’s life. The Supreme Court ruled in McCorvey’s favor and decided that the Texas law was unconstitutional. They declared that a person’s decision to have an abortion during the first three months of their pregnancy should be left to them and their doctor. According to the Supreme Court at that time, people have a fundamental “right to privacy,” and that right protects a person’s choice to have an abortion. 

On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court struck down Roe. v. Wade, saying that the choice to legalize abortion should be left up to individual states. Abortion will become illegal in 19 states.

How has Roe v. Wade impacted Americans? 

Before Roe v. Wade was passed, abortion was only legal in five states (including California and New York) and in Washington, D.C. Despite those restrictions, many people were getting unsafe abortions anyways. 

After Roe v. Wade was decided, getting an abortion became much safer and more accessible to people across the U.S. The Guttmacher Institute, which advocates for women’s health, estimated that in the years before Roe v. Wade was decided, there were over 1 million illegal abortions performed in the U.S. every year. 

After Roe v. Wade was passed, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of annual abortions stayed around 1 million, except these abortions were now performed legally and in safer medical settings, where physicians and other healthcare workers could attend to the patient. In recent years, abortions have decreased, with 629,898 abortions reported in 2019. 

Therefore, while Roe v. Wade did not significantly increase the number of abortions being performed, it did impact whether these abortions were done safely or not. Considering that 30 women die for every 100,000 illegal abortions, according to data from the World Health Organization, Roe v. Wade likely saved many lives. 

What happens now that Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade

Now that Roe v. Wade is overturned, many states will make abortions illegal. Nineteen states have “trigger laws” that will immediately ban abortions if Roe v. Wade is overturned, including Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi. These laws would make getting an abortion a serious offense — for example, in Arkansas, getting an abortion would mean a fine of $100,000 or up to 10 years in prison. In 8 states, abortion will be severely restricted.

Furthermore, many experts believe that when Roe v. Wade is overturned, states may attempt to enforce their abortion bans beyond state lines. Law professor David Cohen at Drexel University believes that states will try to stop residents from traveling to other states to get an abortion. In Missouri, a proposal has already been introduced to allow people to sue anyone who performs an abortion or anyone who helps someone obtain an abortion — even if the procedure occurs outside of Missouri state lines. 

However, states with trigger laws are not the only places that are at risk of losing abortion rights. Senator Mitch McConnell recently stated that even if the Supreme Court decides to allow states to individually decide their own abortion bans, it is “possible” that there will be a nationwide abortion ban if Republicans retake Congress following the 2022 midterm elections. 

What would happen if abortion is banned in America? 

Health experts are worried that banning abortion will lead to pregnancy-related deaths. Lauren Ralph, an epidemiologist at the University of California, San Francisco, said that maternal deaths will increase if Roe v. Wade is overturned, and this burden will fall heavily on people of color and individuals living in poverty. 

At the University of California, San Francisco, researchers released the Turnaway Study, which looked at 1,000 women who wanted abortions across the U.S. Compared to women who received an abortion, women who were denied an abortion were more likely to experience serious health complications related to pregnancy (including death), more likely to stay with abusive partners, more likely to have poor physical health (hypertension and chronic pain), and more likely to suffer anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation. On the other hand, 95% of women who received an abortion reported that the abortion was the right decision for them over 5 years later.

The results of this study suggest that after Roe v. Wade is overturned, people seeking abortions will suffer immensely in terms of their physical and mental health.