UCI Law Expert on Roe V Wade Ramifications
By Dianne Anderson
If, as the recently leaked draft Supreme Court majority opinion suggests, the Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion in 1973 is overturned, experts predict the ripple effect to be felt for years to come in a debate that keeps raging on.
Big legislative battles lie ahead around stripping away a woman’s right to choose and control her own body.
Michele Bratcher Goodwin, Chancellor’s Professor of Law at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, participated in a recent roundtable with Vice President Kamala Harris, along with other experts, around the far-reaching ramifications if abortion becomes illegal again.
Professor Goodwin said that some of the top concerns expressed by Vice-President Kamala Harris were how dismantling Roe V Wade impacts American democracy, including voting rights, fundamental liberties, and privacy.
She said the Vice President is concerned about the issues across a broad spectrum.
“There are deep concerns about how eviscerating abortion rights will negatively harm women in the United States, given the glaring rates of maternal mortality and morbidity,” said Prof. Goodwin, also director of the Center for Biotechnology and Global Health Policy.
As it stands, she said that generally there is a stark impact among lower-income women, especially those who live in communities where healthcare services are essentially unavailable or inaccessible.
“Already, Black women are 3.5 times more likely to die due to maternal mortality in the US than their white counterparts. In Mississippi, Black women are 118 times more likely to die by carrying a pregnancy to term than having an abortion,” said Prof. Goodwin, also the author of the book “Policing the Womb: Indivisible Women and the Criminalization of Motherhood.”
She said Vice President Harris addressed the erosion of privacy protections that may affect parental privacy, and concerns about LGBTQ communities, along with the erosion of fundamental protections related to gay marriage and building families.
Other areas up for discussion included future direct impacts on abortion access, impacts on democracy, In vitro fertilization (IVF), criminalization, and civil punishments. They also covered concerns on the use of technology to track women and girls, and interstate dimensions, such as states seeking to ban travel out of state to terminate a pregnancy.
Some experts draw comparisons regarding the ban on Roe V Wade with other potential rights violations, such as the right to marry someone you love, access to contraception and abortion medication, and access to personal data.
Goodwin said from a legal perspective, for more than 80 years the Supreme Court has spoken about the sanctity of reproductive autonomy as a human right, which also set the framework of privacy. In cases dealing with contraception and abortion, and interracial and gay marriage, she said the Court has spoken about privacy.
“If the Court believes that privacy is no longer a legitimate basis, then all the areas in which the Court has upheld rights through a privacy framework become vulnerable,” she said.
A recent Pew Research report shows that 61% of all Americans support abortion in all cases, and one in three adults believe the decision belongs solely to the woman. They report that 37% believe that it should be illegal. The Supreme Court leans conservative 6-3.
In her book, Prof. Goodwin explores the concerns of poor women, including access to legal abortion and the history of criminal punishment of Black women and women of color in America.
“From being shackled during childbirth, giving birth in prison toilets, or dragged out of maternity wards in bloodied gowns, the book provides an up-close look at the ways in which the criminal punishment of Black women has been rendered invisible both by women’s movements and in the criminal justice realm – and offers pathways forward that are critical in these times.”
According to the ACLU, 26 states are poised to ban abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned. They cite that some 25% of women will have an abortion in their lifetime. Nearly six out of every 10 women who have abortions are already mothers.
Earlier this month, Gov. Newsom stated his support for measure SCA 10 in the California State Senate, which would place a constitutional amendment on the November ballot to preserve the right to contraceptives, and safe and legal abortion. He supports those that are traveling from banned states to get a legal and safe abortion, and committed to the state leading on abortion rights.
“California will not stand idly by as extremists roll back our basic constitutional rights; we’re going to fight like hell, making sure that all women – not just those in California – know that this state continues to recognize and protect their fundamental rights,” said Governor Newsom.
Most recently, Google also came under fire from Democratic lawmakers calling for the search engine giant to stop sending online searchers to fake abortion clinics. The Center for Countering Digital Hate found that 11% of results for “abortion clinic near me” and “abortion pill” in the 13 so-called Trigger Law states led to anti-abortion fake clinics, including 37% of Google Maps results.
If Roe is overturned, Prof. Goodwin said some legal options are still accessible through states where abortion access is available, and the litigation process is also still available. She said that some may travel to those states to terminate a pregnancy as was done before Roe V Wade.
“Access to medication abortion is still legal,” she said. “Although there are challenges that are soon to come. There is also the democratic process for people who want to vote out of office those who have made such laws–that is a more difficult process.”
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