Expected Overturn of Roe v. Wade Undermines Basic Human Rights

On Wednesday, Dec. 1, the Supreme Court finished hearing oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, involving a Mississippi law that bans abortion at 15 weeks. Under Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which reaffirmed Roe and recognized the right to an abortion until 24 weeks of pregnancy, this Mississippi law is clearly unconstitutional. However, the oral arguments, and the conservative Court’s willingness to take on the case at all, have signaled that the Supreme Court is ready to reverse Roe v. Wade entirely. The official verdict will likely come in June or July, marking a historic decision in our country’s history. 

Overturning this decision will precipitate a cascade of effects. If and when the Court overturns Roe, the decision will disproportionately affect low-income people, who constitute three-quarters of individuals seeking abortions. The nearest abortion clinic to 41 percent of individuals of childbearing age will close, and the average distance they would have to travel for abortion care would increase from 35 miles to 279 miles. A total of 21 states will either immediately ban or quickly reduce access to abortion. 

Of these 21 states, 12 have “trigger laws” already in place that would immediately take effect, outlawing abortion entirely. In nine other states — including Ohio — abortion bans or restrictions that have, until now, been blocked by the courts due to Roe v. Wade could take effect.

To state what may be obvious: this Editorial Board is distressed by the potential ramifications of an anti-choice verdict. We are devastated at the prospect of moving forward into a world with fewer reproductive rights than our grandparents had. We are devastated for every person with a uterus who will no longer be able to access care that is sometimes necessary for an individual’s mental health, financial sustainability and medical survival. This care is always, always, a human right.

At a place like Oberlin, where the ease of conversations around abortion is somewhat taken for granted, it can be easy to assume that we all share similar experiences and perspectives on the matter. While that assumption is not entirely off-base — according to a Pew Research survey released earlier this year, 59 percent of U.S. adults say abortion should be legal in all or most cases — it is certainly not as unanimously agreed upon in the “real world” as it is on campus. While it can feel like preaching to the choir to talk about abortion at Oberlin, it’s still important to treat the subject with care and consideration, especially in light of the impending Supreme Court decision. 

If Roe is overturned, the current anti-abortion supermajority in the Ohio legislature will most certainly race to ban or extremely curtail access to abortion. Since 2011, over 20 anti-abortion laws have passed in Ohio, posing an already steep barrier to accessing safe pregnancy terminations. Today, there are only nine clinics that provide abortion in the state; 10 years ago there were 16. Even once a patient accesses a clinic, Ohio requires them to jump through several more hoops to access concrete care, including two in-person appointments — one of which is a “counseling and education session” — and a medically-unnecessary but mandatory ultrasound.

Some Ohioans who live in rural areas or who are beyond 20 weeks pregnant already leave the state for abortions to bypass restrictive access to care. This means the likely overturning of Roe places parents, people without a solid support network, and low-income people seeking abortion in a particularly precarious situation. If Roe is overturned and Ohio bans abortion entirely, these individuals will be forced to travel even further if they need to access to care. 

For some communities, a post-Roe world is already in effect. Many — though not all — Oberlin students will continue to have some access to abortion regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision. But while Obies often have the resources to travel far distances or hail from large urban centers where access is not threatened, the reality looks drastically different for our neighbors in Lorain County, and the state overall.

 As the Court’s decision moves forward — particularly as it heads closer toward overturning Roe v. Wade — we ask that students take care to enter conversations about abortion with more consideration than they might previously have done.