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A World Post Roe v. Wade

The Supreme Court voted to overturn Roe v. Wade. What does this mean for the future of women in America?

By Tiarra Drisker ‘25

Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the Constitution provides the freedom to choose to have an abortion, was overturned on June 24. 

Because Roe v. Wade decided abortion was protected based on a 1965 ruling that established the Constitutional right to privacy, many experts believe that overturning Roe v. Wade could impact a variety of healthcare and privacy factors in the future—perhaps most immediately, the changes brought about by  Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

“It allowed women control over their personal and reproductive and sex lives in a way that created a national protection and a national culture,” Nathan Crick, a professor in the Department of Communication, said. “No matter where you lived in the country, a woman had control over what she did with her pregnancy and what kind of family she wanted or didn’t want. It allowed her most importantly, to be independent from public and even private institutions that were dictating what she could do. Therefore, Roe v. Wade allowed women to live anywhere in the country and know that they had the same relative protections and rights no matter where they lived.”

The overturning of Roe v. Wade can affect not only where women choose to live and have families, but where they choose to work as well, according to Crick.

“The loss of Roe v. Wade puts women on the defensive,” Crick said. “It makes them subordinate to not only men, but also even workplace institutions that do or do not provide certain services or support. So, for instance, we’ve seen many businesses support travel for abortions. It nonetheless makes some women dependent on large corporate support, where before they had this as an individual right. Now, they must seek it externally from businesses, states, or other parties. It puts women in a secondary position to these other forces in society.”

Roe v. Wade was decided based on the 14th Amendment, and it reads:  “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, specifically the phrase “equal protection of the laws and the right to privacy for all American citizens.”   

“[Dobbs] takes women’s privacy because Roe v. Wade was based on a privacy decision,” Crick explained. “It makes their sexual lives and reproductive organs no longer protected from the state in the sense of their ability to buy contraceptives, in their ability to talk to their doctor, in their ability to go to a medical clinic or even a gynecological appointment and not have that reported to the state. They will find themselves in a secondary position, or if they are in a state that protects it, they are nonetheless prohibited and worried about traveling to other states in the concern that something might happen there and then they might get stuck in that state. The ability to travel is also constricted. All of that puts them second to men.”

Restricting abortions affects peoples lives in many different ways, and it most severely affects women of color and women with lower incomes, as pointed out by Jason Lindo, a professor in the Department of Economics who has used the circumstances surrounding Texas 2013 HB-2 to examine the outcomes of limited access to abortions.

“Though people seeking abortion come from all walks of life, a majority have low incomes and are economically disadvantaged,” Lindo said. “There is a large and rigorous base of evidence showing that they are made more economically disadvantaged with more limited access to abortion. It’s also the case that young women are disproportionally represented among those typically seeking abortions. These women will suffer economically from negative impacts on educational attainment and early career investments. It’s also important to keep in mind that women of color will be disproportionately affected in these ways. As such, these economic effects will exacerbate racial and ethnic inequality.” 

According to Lindo, these effects on financial circumstances will also have long term effects upon future generations of people.

“The effects are happening right now,” Lindo shared. “Each day there will be people who have a child they would not have had otherwise. And their lives will be altered permanently. And with each day, there will be more and more people who are on this altered path, this path that involves lower levels of education, lower labor force participation, and poorer economic conditions generally. The overall economic effects will grow over time as the number of people on this path grows. Given that household resources are important determinants of children’s economic success, the effects will extend into the next generation as well.”

Overall, the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade rests on the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Constitution and its amendments. Terry Anderson, a professor in the Department of History, said that the current Supreme Court’s strict interpretation of the Constitution can lead to the overturning of other decisions based on the 14th Amendment.  

There are lots of things that the 1789 Constitution did not mention that we take for granted in America,” Anderson said. “We’ve amended our Constitution 27 times. Our Constitution has to be a living document.”

Anderson also stated that overturning Roe v. Wade shows where the country may be heading in regards to Supreme Court appointments.

“There’s going to be all kinds of talk, maybe some action, about enlarging the Supreme Court and about term limits for the Supreme Court,” Anderson shared. “There’s already a bill in front of Congress that’s been sitting there for years to set that term limit to an 18 year appointment. Other people have come up with the idea that every new president should get at least one Supreme Court appointee that would energize people to go to the polls and vote. There’s all kinds of new topics being discussed on how to change the court. The court is the only place in our government where a person gets a lifetime position, so their appointment process is crucial.”