Roe is Already Dead
Stop prognosticating Roe's end. It's dead and has been for a while now.
This is the mid-week issue of Men Yell at Me, a newsletter about the places where our politics and personhood meet. This week’s newsletter is in response to the prognosticating about what would happen if Roe v. Wade was overturned and about the reality of reproductive care for people in America. Please support this newsletter by becoming a subscriber.
As America awaits a Supreme Court ruling in the case of Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson, pundits are wringing their hands wondering what America will look like if Roe v. Wade is finally overturned.
But we don’t have to imagine. Post-Roe America is already here. In many states, Roe, the landmark Supreme Court ruling that allowed women the right to an abortion, has already been gutted and is being sold for parts.
It’s not just the continued abortion bans that pass through various state governments only to get knocked down by the courts, rather it’s systematic dismantling of the funding mechanism necessary to provide reproductive care.
Under the provision of the Hyde Amendment, a 1980 act of Congress, it’s illegal to use federal funds for abortions. Some states use state funds. But 33 states prohibit the use of Medicaid for abortion services under the Hyde Amendment. In 2017, Iowa further restricted abortion providers from accessing federal funding through Medicaid resulting in the closure of four Planned Parenthoods around the state. The plan was for the state to create its own network of “family planning services,” but a review of that list of clinics created to supplant Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers included a dental office and blood lab. As a result, STDs and rates of abortion have increased across the state.
Additionally, under the Trump administration, further cuts were made to federally funded abortion providers. The Biden administration has worked to undo those changes, but the further erosion to reproductive care in America is hard to undo.
And access to federal money isn’t just affecting abortion providers. Across the U.S., hospitals are closing their maternity wards. According to a story in Vox, these closures primarily affect rural areas and urban areas with large hispanic, Indigenous, and Black populations.
It’s important to point out that all of these efforts at diverting federal funds away from abortion and reproductive care specifically hurt women of color. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, “Women of color are more likely than white women to be insured by Medicaid, and have higher rates of unintended pregnancy and abortion. In 2014, 75% of abortions were among low-income patients, and 53% were among black or Latina women. Young adults and teens, who are less likely to have a steady source of income, make up the majority (72%) of abortion patients.”
The results of this scorched-earth campaign are vast reproductive and maternal care deserts, where states, like Iowa and Texas, are establishing a network of crisis pregnancy centers. CPCs operate under deceptive tactics, often listing themselves as “abortion providers” or as women’s health providers. In reality, the clinics don’t employ medical staff and do not refer women to abortion providers.
Last week, in Iowa, a Senate panel approved a bill that would send millions of dollars in state funding to CPCs across the state.
Kelly Garcia, the director of health and human services in Iowa, created a similar plan in Texas, which, according to an investigation by the Texas Observer, left thousands of Texans without access to care and created a public health crisis.
In Texas, Garcia was one of the architects of a plan to funnel public money through the anti-abortion Heidi Group to manage women’s reproductive care. But the plan was short-lived when the Heidi Group was forced to repay $1.6 million to the state for failing to meet contractual obligations. And in the end, 5% fewer women were able to access care under that plan.
“The recent panic over the end of Roe is because it threatens access to abortion for women who have private insurance — women with privilege. But Roe was already being dismantled. And for so many people, it’s end is already here.”
And now, using language modeled on the Texas plan, Iowa is working to create its own network of crisis pregnancy centers using state funds. Recently, a Senate panel approved funds for the plan. A teary-eyed white male, Republican state senator from Oskaloosa, Ken Rozenboom, talked about how much it would help mothers. But the reality is, it will do just the opposite.
These centers promise free services, including pregnancy tests and ultrasounds, in addition to social resources and products, like baby supplies, typically for low-income people. CPCs provide essentials for pregnant people who may not be able to afford help anywhere else, but research shows these facilities typically only give out supplies and support to those who attend their programming, such as counseling sessions, and are thereby “plugged into the global anti-abortion movement’s sophisticated digital infrastructure,” according to a new study of CPCs in nine states by the Alliance.
Even if, by some miracle, the Supreme Court did uphold the tenets of Roe, the reality is that the infrastructures that make it possible for women to access their right to an abortion have been and are being dismantled. What good is a legal precedent to a woman in rural Iowa with no money, no transportation, and no hope of accessing care beyond a bunch of untrained volunteers in a center whose entire stated goal is to force birth?
For years, white feminists have been criticized for their seemingly myopic focus on abortion rights, which emphasizes an individual approach to reproductive rights instead of a collective focus on reproductive justice and creating access for all. And that criticism was rightly earned. While Roe felt safe, the reality of what it actually meant to access an abortion while marginalized was ignored. Or if not ignored, at least primarily shaped the discourse.
Last year, I participated in a press conference where I was asked by a journalist for proof that abortion rights would be undermined in our state. I wanted to scream, “It’s already happening!”
Politics, these laws, these changes and tweaks to funding, they aren’t just games. As Angela Davis wrote in her 1988 essay, Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired: The Politics of Black Women’s Health, “Politics do not stand in polar opposition to our lives. Whether we desire it or not, they permeate our existence, insinuating themselves into the most private spaces of our lives.”
The recent panic over the end of Roe is because it threatens access to abortion for women who have private insurance — women with privilege. But Roe was already being dismantled. And for so many people, it’s end is already here.
You want to know what a post-Roe America looks like? For answers, you don’t have to have to listen men on MSNBC augur the end. All you have to do is try accessing reproductive care as a trans person in middle America who earns minimum wage.
The Guttmacher Institute had a comprehensive analysis of the failures of the Texas plan. So did the American Journal of Public Health. Also, the next targets are the abortion pill and donating to abortion funds. This Texas Observer article about the failure of Texas’ plan is very good. And I linked it above. But I’ll link it here again.
In the four months, after the Texas ban on abortions went into place, there was a 1,000 percent increase in women seeking abortions out of state.
Medical abortions are getting pricier and Oklahoma just outlawed abortion. Also, Idaho, Arizona, Florida, and Kentucky have just passed sweeping abortion restrictions. Also, just a reminder, the majority of Americans support abortion in some cases.
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