For women in red states, access to safe abortion is becoming impossible – we speak to five who are already being affected
In a devastating turn of events last week, the US Supreme Court voted to overturn Roe v Wade, scrapping the constitutional right to choose abortion which had existed in the country for nearly half a century. As a result, every state is now able to individually decide whether they will permit safe abortions or not.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health rights organisation, 26 states are “certain or likely” to ban abortion in the absence of Roe – over half of all the states in the US. 13 of these are “trigger states”, where bans or restrictions on access to abortion are due to become law within the next month. In some of these states, laws have already come into effect with hundreds of abortion appointments cancelled and local clinics shuttered, stripping countless women of their bodily autonomy.
It’s a harrowing time to be a woman in the US – especially for those in states where access to safe abortion has already been banned, severely restricted, or is set to do so in the near future. We spoke to women living in these states for their thoughts on the court’s devastating ruling.
MAYA*, 24, TEXAS
“About two days ago, I found out I was pregnant. I had noticed some symptoms early on and decided to take a test. I don’t feel fit to have a child because my boyfriend and I don’t make enough money, we live in an apartment, and I’m planning to teach abroad within the next two years. My parents are also both unfortunately very conservative and would not like me having a child with someone I am not married to – they were barely OK with me living with my boyfriend. I plan to fly all the way to LA – I just set up an appointment at FPA Women’s Health next week. I’m four weeks today, so by next week I’ll be five weeks and eligible for the pill.
“It just frustrates me a lot since I won’t be able to use my dad’s insurance to help me pay for the abortion, since I’m afraid of him finding out. The medical abortion procedure in Texas used to be $500 but since it’s banned altogether I’ll have to spend $770 for the pills, as well as the travelling and hotel expenses which will rack up to almost $3,000. That doesn’t sound too bad but it does frustrate me knowing that I could’ve just paid $500 here in Texas and it all would’ve been fine. I’m thankful I have the funds to do so but it is hurting me financially, which is another reason I cannot have a child – I’m not ready financially.
“The overturn of Roe has been the worst thing that has happened to me. It must be hell for other women who are unable to get out of Texas.”
AMY*, 28, ARKANSAS
“It feels like we’re going back in time. In Arkansas, our trigger ban went into effect at noon on Friday, right after it was announced that Roe v Wade was overturned. Pretty much all abortions are now illegal. You can only get an abortion here if the mother's life is at risk – but it’s not very clear when the mother’s life is at risk ‘enough’ to warrant having an abortion. They also made it a felony to assist with performing or receiving an abortion in the state of Arkansas – so you could go to prison for up to 10 years and get a $10,000 fine.
“It’s really scary to think about being pregnant in Arkansas right now. I’m trying to have a child with my husband, but now I’m terrified because I am at higher risk of miscarrying and I’m not sure if I'll be criminally prosecuted if I have a ‘suspicious’ miscarriage. Of course, politicians say that would never happen, but it has already happened.”
“The overturn of Roe has been the worst thing that has happened to me. It must be hell for other women who are unable to get out of Texas” – Maya
ASTRID, 23, ARKANSAS
“I’ve volunteered for several years with Arkansas Abortion Support Network, a nonprofit that provides services – or used to provide services – to women in Arkansas. Through volunteering with them I’ve just seen the importance of access to abortion. Literally, every type of person needs access to it.
“Abortion is now not allowed at all in Arkansas, except if the life of the mother is in extreme danger. But I think what people forget is that the decision of whether the woman’s life is in danger is at the doctor’s discretion. Arkansas already has an extremely high maternal mortality rate and infant mortality rate, so there are going to be a lot more women and babies who die in Arkansas.
“I just want to implore people to not forget about us red states, because even though there might be a Republican majority, there are still so many people who are completely against this. I feel like a lot of people are saying ‘why don’t those people just move?’ but they’re forgetting that we’re the states worst affected by poverty. A lot of us don’t have the financial means to move or access abortion out of state even though we might want to.”
EMILY, 31, OHIO
“I’m currently 13 weeks pregnant. I was supposed to have a surgical abortion this Wednesday after returning from a vacation. But once the heartbeat bill was made law in Ohio, my appointment was cancelled days later.
“Currently, I am scheduled for an appointment at their sister clinic in Indiana, though I think I’ll still need another, separate appointment for the procedure itself and I have limited time to have that done as well. [Abortion in Indiana is legal up to the 22nd week of pregnancy.]
“This was not only my first abortion but my first pregnancy as well, so it’s been a delicate situation to process. Now I’m just scared for my stepdaughters who have to grow up in this current state of affairs. No girl or woman deserves this.”
I’m so in awe of the courageous activists absolutely HOLDING IT DOWN in wildly tough environments.— Kate “proud homosexual” Kelly (@Kate_Kelly_Esq) June 27, 2022
This is a banner drop from Friday in the middle of downtown BOISE, IDAHO.
Hats off to the people doing this work in the hardest places. We see you. pic.twitter.com/k73Ql2gRqz
MEAGAN, 28, KENTUCKY
“The situation in Kentucky is nerve-racking. We were not expecting Kentucky’s abortion laws to take effect that quickly. There were women who already had appointments for abortions that were then cancelled and they were turned away. The doors of Planned Parenthood in Louisville were locked the day the laws went into effect.
“I have had several women in Kentucky reach out to me for help. Also as in many cases health insurance that can’t be used out of state, these women will have to pay out of their own pockets for any procedures they need when visiting other states. And with inflation, most of these women don’t have the funds to do that.
“I’m scared for my daughter and my own safety in the coming future. I feel like the states that have abolished our rights to abortions and safe reproductive health are looking at women as incubators. The overturning of Roe v Wade is detrimental to women across America – even to the ones who are for it and don’t realise how it will affect them and their daughters in the future.”
*Names have been changed