In this recurring guest column, Kate White, M.D., of Boston Medical Center, answers your questions on all things gynecology. As the author of the Mayo Clinic Press book Your Sexual Health, she’s ready to dole out wisdom on sex, periods, menopause and more. Submit a question here.
Q: Is abortion now illegal? I’ve been reading the headlines for the past few weeks about the Supreme Court, and I’m totally confused.
A: Short answer, maybe. On June 24, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court released a decision that overturned Roe v. Wade. Roe was the 1973 decision that gave people the constitutional right to have an abortion.
With this new decision, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the court held that the U.S. Constitution does not give people a right to abortion and overruled both Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, another ruling that had upheld abortion rights.
The Supreme Court decision does not automatically make abortion illegal across the country. Instead, it leaves the legality of abortion up to each state to decide what its own laws are. After the decision, some states moved to ban abortion immediately. Other states are expected to enact abortion bans once the legislatures are back in session in the fall. In the end, 26 states are likely to ban abortion. Other states, such as Connecticut, California and Massachusetts, have moved to strengthen abortion access.
What does this mean for you and the people that you care about? Whether or not a person can access an abortion in a certain state now depends on the state. If your state has banned abortion, that law will affect multiple kinds of care. First, if you need to terminate a pregnancy for any reason, you won’t be able to go to a doctor or clinic in your state. You may be interested in obtaining medications by mail to terminate a pregnancy safely. Online sources, such as Aid Access, are an option. But some states are moving to ban receiving medications by mail too.
If your state has banned abortion, you may have difficulty getting treated for a miscarriage, as the procedures and medications used are the same as for an abortion. You may even have trouble getting care for an ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy growing outside the womb (uterus) that can never lead to a healthy baby being born. If left untreated, an ectopic pregnancy can be intensely painful and even lead to dangerous, life-threatening bleeding.
If your state has not passed a law banning abortion, the recent Supreme Court decision does not affect your ability to get an abortion if you need one. These states may be seeing patients traveling from other states to get care. So, it might take you longer to get an appointment — which is important because abortions performed later in pregnancy can be riskier and more complicated, though still safer than continuing a pregnancy.
The current political situation makes access to effective birth control more necessary than ever. There’s an ever-expanding list of contraceptive options, so if you’ve written off birth control for certain side effects or a high cost in the past, talk to a health care provider to get a sense of what might work for you today.
If you can become pregnant, it’s vitally important that you keep up to date with the laws in your state. You will want to know at any given time what your options are if you become pregnant or experience pregnancy complications like a miscarriage. Visit the AbortionFinder.org or ineedana.com websites to find abortion care near you.
The content on this site is to educate consumers on health care and medical issues. Nothing about the content on this site should be considered, or used as a substitute for, medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This site and its services do not constitute the practice of any medical or other professional health care advice, diagnosis or treatment.