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If Roe v Wade were over-ruled

I've been thinking about this for some years : what are the likely scenarios if or when Roe v Wade were to be over-ruled ?

The results will NOT be simply going back to the era before Roe. This is 2018 , not 1973, and a whole lot has changed since the period prior to Roe. Society has changed, technology has changed, and women's ambitions and determination have changed.


If Roe v Wade were over-ruled

by Pam Green, © 2018

(note : I appologize to all my LGBT readers if in some sectionsI seem to be ignoring you wonderful men and women and non-binary persons. To the extent that you are not vulnerable to accidental conception these issues may seem less personally relevant. But I think most of you know that when any form of bigotry or oppression is tolorated, it's not long before LGBT people become additional targets. "Women's rights are human rights" has a very close relationship to "Gay people's rights are human rights.".).

I've been thinking about this for some years : what are the likely scenarios if or when Roe v Wade were to be over-ruled ? That possiblity has been looming ever since 1980 when the GOP made the promise to over-rule Roe v Wade one of their "selling points" to their Rabid Religious Right "base". and to that "base" of patriarchal and/or misogynistic men.

In actuality , after Reagan's appointment of Sandra Day O'Connor, it was not long before Roe was eviscerated by the change from the nice clean trimester rules to the infamous"undue burden" test, which allows any obstacle short of actually letting the woman die. EVERY obstacle, every "burden" , is a complete roadblock for some women, especially for women who are poor , women who are not well educated, and women who are subject to a lot of control by parents or husband or boyfriend. The roadblock is even more insurmountable for those who live in areas where there are few abortion providers, the nearest one being far away. These obstacles matter much less or not at all to those women who are well educated, affluent, or live in states that still have Pro-Choice laws and adequate providers.

But this is 2018 , not 1973, and a whole lot has changed since the period prior to Roe.

In the 45 years since Roe two younger generations have been born and two generations who were under-age in 1973 have moved into positions of influence, while the two oldest generations have moved out of influence. In culture as in science, often what it takes to enable a newer better paradigm to displace an older one is for the "Old Guard" of influential people to die.

(personal note : I turned 18 in 1963, 10 years before Roe, and I was already an ardent feminist and advocate of abortion legalization. The years since have not made me any the less radically feminist nor any the less aware that without the right to control one's own reproductive capacity and to limit or avoid child-bearing, women cannot participate as equals in society, in education, in science, in law, or in politics. Without independant control over her reproductive capacity, a woman cannot be an equal partner in a hetero-marriage, though she can be an equal partner in a gay marriage.)

Society has changed

no longer a dirty secret

The word "abortion" has long since ceased to be unspeakable and hidden. Most women know someone they like and respect who has had one. Enough numbers of prominent and respected women have "come out" publically. Most who have discussed their (usually long ago) abortion publically have made it clear that they still consider this to have been the best possible decision they could have made under the circumstances. Many have told how their abortion made it possible to complete their education and become productive members of society. Those who had a high risk pre-Roe "back alley" abortion have spoken out about the great fear, the over-all misery and horror of the situtation, and yet it was still the best choice that they had available and one they do not regret.

Thus today many women have given at least passing thought to what they would do if they were to find themselves unwillingly pregnant. While some believe that they would never abort even to save their own life, many recognize that there are at least some circumstances in which they would seek abortion , preferably safe and legal, but quite possibly otherwise if safe and legal were not obtainable.

Some states are solidly Pro-Choice.

The more enlightened states are currently solidly Pro-Choice and will remain so. In some cases there is state constitutional support for women's equality or for "privacy". California has "Privacy" as a constitutional right, thus easily can use the logic of Roe and it's predecessor Eisenstadt v Baird to affirm that "there is no decision more private than the decision to bear or beget a child".

Even where there is no clear bright state constitutional protection for women's reproductive self-determination, the state laws may already be protective. State legislators and those aspiring to office may be well aware that this issue is critcal to a substantial portion of that majority (53 % or more) of voters who are female. In some states the judicial offices are elective and those judges must run for re-election periodically, thus the same sensitivity to voters would apply.

States that have a lot of women in high government positions and where legislators know that women consider their own welfare to be an important criterion when they vote are states that are likely to remain Pro-Choice. California of course is one such state, perhaps the "poster child" for "women voters matter" states..

The existance of these "safe" states will probably encourage some women, perhaps many women, to emmigrate out of their currently abortion-hostile state to one of the "safe" abortion-permissive states. The most hostile states may find themselves with grossly unbalanced gender ratios and any problems that may ensue from that. Similarly, some women may prefer to immigrate to Canada.

"Safe Harbor" laws make it easy for a woman to legally abandon an unwanted already-born infant

"Safe Harbor" laws were passed to combat the occurance of women who were unable to terminate a pregnancy resorting to abandoning the unwanted newborn in a garbage dumpster or resorting to outright infanticide. These laws provided the more humane alternative of anonymously and legally dropping that infant off at a designated place, usually a hospital or fire station. The amount of time after birth that this option varies by state, ranging from 3 days to 1 year.. see http://safehaven.tv/states/

That provided a better fate for the infant and the uncoerceable unwilling-to-mother woman. But it leaves the very big question of who will raise that child to a stage where the child can be self-sufficient and (one hopes) a contributing member of society. The assumption that there will be a willing adopter for every discarded infant is almost certainly very much untrue, just as it was untrue in the pre-Roe era. Many of these children will be raised "in the system" rather than in a loving and responsible family. That's not an ideal form of upbringing.

(Dropping your never-wanted infant off in a "safe harbor" strikes me as rather similar to dropping your no-longer-wanted dog or cat off at a "no kill shelter". The difference morally is that you didn't acquire that dog or cat by accident but by choice, whereas that unwanted pregnancy and coerced carry-to-term was not a choice..)

Legalized and socially sanctioned child abandonment has a very long history. "Foundling Homes" have a long history. Until the development of artificial formula for infant feeding, these homes had a huge mortality rate, ranging from 60% to approaching 100%. Even with safe infant food, the mortality rate can be high and the lack of enough loving care by adults leaves many physical survivers emotionally and cognitively damaged.

Romania under Ceausescu, from 1966 to 1989 , when contraception and abortion were totally banned, is the ultimate lesson in widespread abandonment of children by women unable or unwilling to rear them.. Orphanages filled to over-flowing and the mortality rate approached 100%. Surviors grew up badly damaged emotionally.

For details on foundling homes and other methods of child abandonment (and infanticide), see "Mother Nature", chapter 12, by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, professor emerita of Anthropology at UC Davis and member of the National Academy of Sciences. The entire book is about the trade-offs that mamalian females , especially humans, make between their individual survival and welfare versus their reproductive success (including rearing offspring to an age of independance and reproduction).

Women have changed

Women expect to be able to limit child-bearing

Relatively safe and effective contraception has been available for decades, including methods that a woman can use without a male partner participating or even being aware of that use.. Women expect to control their own reproductive fate. They are not going to meekly go back to having to choose between celibacy and excessive child-bearing.

Women now have educational opportunities

Ever since Title IX was enacted, schools and colleges that depend on any federal funds are prohibited from sex discrimination. That has opened the doors to many women to gain a better education. Better education means better opinion of themselves as worthy and independant individuals. It also often means much better prospects for gaining a job that pays decently, perhaps even lavishly.

Women can earn an income of their own

Many women are able to earn an income that enables them to live decently, to be self-supporting without depending on a husband. At least they can earn an income sufficient to support themselves as a single person, a child-less person. For many , adding a child would mean financial hardship. The smart ones know this.

Financial self-support ability means that the woman has much more "bargaining power" in the marriage. She's not dependant on submitting to her husband's will. She has "walk away" power. (Note : currently in something like 1 in 4 hetero-couples, the wife actually earns more than her husband.)

(some) men have changed (maybe)

the ideas and duties of fatherhood have changed or are changing

Some men really want to be participating fathers, ie actively parenting their children. Other men have been informed in no uncertain terms that they must do so by wives unwilling to be de facto single mothers, ie doing the job by themselves.

Once a man becomes actively engaged in parenting, he finds it's a time intensive and labor intensive job. That's a good reason to want to limit the number of children. Have just a few and enjoy spending time with them.

Child support laws have gotten a bit stronger and better enforced

Support orders are still way too low, way less than half the costs of rearing a child, but more and more those orders are enforced by direct deductions out of the daddy's wages. If laws were further changed to require identification (DNA tests) for every infant born outside of a legal marriage, with child support automatically ordered against the identified sire, then this would become a big issue for men.

Fear of a child support judgement may motivate some men to be more willing to use condoms, preventing an unchosen birth. It certainly should make any man who finds himself "worried 'cause his girlfriend's just a little late" hopeing that if she really is accidentally pregnant by him that she will choose to abort. This might motivate more men to become Pro-Choice simply as a matter of self interest.

(note : I am not holding my breath for a majority of male voters to "see the light" on this.)

Families have changed, including "family values"

Most families depend on the woman's income.

The vast majority of couples depend on both of them continuing to work and earn income. Relatively few families can get along in the style to which they are accustomed or the style to which they aspire on just one partner's earnings. The wife's earnings have become indispensible, even when the husband has pretty good income..

Even for couples where just one income would suffice, it's prudent for both to be able to earn enough for family survival were the other to become incapacitated.. Ruth Bader Ginsburg recounts that when early in their marriage her beloved husband Marty was diagnosed with an illness that was (at that time) expected to kill him, she was very glad that her own law studies and earning power would enable her to support herself and their one child.

Child rearing has become very very expensive.

The expense of rearing even one child is an added reason why the earnings of both partners are needed. The addition of a second child exacerbates this. Indeed, the addition of a second child is a major risk factor for bankrupcy in younger couples, neither of whom is an elite earner. The other major risk factor is long term unemployment or disability of one of the pair. A serious medical event to any family member is another high risk for bankrupcy. (note : the best research and publication on causes of bankrupcy is that of Elizabeth Warren.)

Most couples today should be aware that child rearing is hugely expensive. Probably most do not know in advance just how hugely expensive it is, and perhaps few of them think about this prior to arrival of the first child. However they may well have their financial consiousness raised when that first child causes them to experience the costs of day care or one partner's demotion to part-time work or stay-home status.

Technology has changed

You can buy anything you want over the Internet

(You might even be able to order take out from Alice's Restaurant.)

This is the change that makes government prohibitions extremely difficult or impossible to enforce. Like the origninal Prohibition of alcohol, back when there was no internet, prohibition of contraception, Plan B, and the Abortion Pill package is going to prove impossible to enforce. Censorship of knowledge, such as knowledge of how to use drugs or vacuum extraction will be impossible. At least these will be impossible without imposing a tyranny over the internet that will make all other societies seem utterly open.

If you don't trust the Internet as source, cultivate a friend in Canada who knows a compliant MD to prescribe for you. Send friend the needed money to trade for Canada's technicolor currency so friend can buy the drug and mail it to you, preferably by UPS or Fed-Ex rather than postal service, thus avoiding any risk of interception by US Postal Service. Given that Canadian drug prices are often much lower than US prices, you may well find that buying from Canada plus shipping costs is actually cheaper than buying in the US.

Plan B (Emergency Contraception) is available

Plan B (also called "morning after" pill) is currently legally available over the counter to adult men and women. It may or may not be available in your state without prescription to those under age 18. Find out ahead of time. Make sure your pharmacy stocks it and will sell it to you without any problem. If you live in a town with only one pharmacy and that pharmacist declares "religious objections" to selling Plan B, you may have to obtaine a supply over the Internet or by mail order. or maybe you just travel to another town. Try to find time to lead a protest march at the offending pharmacy and try to avoid buying anything, not even a package of Q-tips, at that store.

(note : I have done a quick google search for "Plan B", and I have done a search for "abortion pill" which also turned up sites selling Plan B.)

Plan B is actually levonorgestrel, a progestin (hormone) used in many birth control pills for several decades. I believe it's actually possible to use a large dose of some readily available birth control pills to achieve the desired result of prevention of pregnancy.

Side effects of Plan B may include nausea, abdominal pain, fatigue, headache, menstrual changes, dizziness, breast tenderness, vomiting and diarrhea. That's a lot less discomfort than you should expect during first trimester pregnancy. Side effects tend to be mild and uncommon.

It's wise to have a supply of Plan B on hand before you ever need it. The sooner it is taken after the risk creating event (either a broken condom or an uncontracieved intercourse) the more certain it will be effective. It must be taken within 3 days of the event, but you really want to take it within a few hours. Keep a supply in your medicine cabinet and in your daughter's purse and your son's backpack. Keep track of expiration dates and make sure your supply is within that timeframe. This is a relatively inexpensive drug (about $45 bought OTC).. If you cannot afford to keep it on hand, you sure cannot afford a pregnancy.

The Abortion Pill (Mifeprex) is available

"The Abortion Pill" (originally known as RU-486) is actually two drugs which are taken in sequence. The brand name in the US is Mifeprex or alternately Cytotec.

Currently Mifeprex is NOT available over the counter in the US. It legally requires a doctor's prescription and medical supervision in use. However it's a very safe drug protocol and there are many calls for it to be available OTC. Check your state laws on this. This drug IS available legally by e-commerce in many other countries and there is a movement to make it similarly easy to get in the US. .

Mifepristone and the companion Misoprostol are readily available for sale over the Internet. A quick google search for "abortion pill" easily finds these sites. (I tried that.) Some of the sites include very detailed instructions for use, what side effects to expect (world class "curse cramps", painful but far far less so than normal birth labor) when taking the drugs. Such instructions usually include what to watch out for if there are problems, ie when to seek care from an MD.. (Even though this is a very safe protocol, it may be a sensible precaution to already know which MD you would go to for help if problems occur. In some cases you might want an MD who is not a buddy of your husband if you prefer that your husband is to be kept unaware of events.)

Of course any time one contemplates buying medications over the Internet there are concerns about legitimacy of the supplier and whether the drug delivered is actually what it is advertised at. For this drug , being sure that it's the real thing is a lot more important than being sure that a designer handbag is authentic or a pair of shoes the right size.

Even if our current federal legislature and about to be Supreme Court anti-abortion majority wind up trying to outlaw Mifepristone and thus intimidate US pharmaceutical companies from selling it, the drug will still be available on the black market because the demand for it will make it very profitable.. The very same DEA that has proven unable to keep heroin and cocaine out of the country and out of customers' hands will be just as unable to keep the Mifepristone-Misoprostol combination out of the hands of determined women.

I do not know just how easy or difficult it would be for a covert lab to manufacture Mifepristone. Easy or difficult, such manufacture would probably be less dangerous to the "cook" than is "cooking" mephanphetamine. Likely there'd be less competition from other such labs, since the "cook" probably needs a level of knowledge of hormone chemistry. Misoprostol is an approved veterinary drug, so it would be available on black market without need for an underground lab.

Underground manufacture wouldn't be needed so long as black market importation from countries where these drugs are fully legal remains possible.

"menstrual extraction" is a safe do-it-yourself method

For quite a few years prior to Roe, many women's groups were teaching self-exam and some were teaching the do-it-yourself "menstrual extraction" method of aspirating uterine lining and any recently implanted embryo. This method could be used at the start of menstration to remove the messy fluids quickly, rather than endure several days of mess. Used very early in pregnancy, it could aspirate the lining and the embryo. Ie a do-it-yourself very early abortion. The needed equipment components are cheap and easily legally available. It is advisable to use aseptic technique, something one would need to learn.

As of 2016 this method was making a come-back. Instructions are easily found on the internet.

Vacuum extraction machines are probably available.

This is performed somewhat later in pregnancy than the time when DIY menstrual extraction is feasible. Currently it is a much used method at clinics, a good alternative to D&C or medical (drug) methods.

I'd bet heavily that a google search could also find instructions on how to build and use a vacuum extraction machine. Possibly even already complete kits for doing so. Possibly even ready-to-use machines. Likely not a great idea for do-it-yourself use. (There's probably no reliable data on safety as DIY. It's very safe as a clinic method, ie with properly trained person doing it.)

Underground clinics will become available, news spread through covert networks of women.

There are many MDs and DVMs who are women and who are strongly Pro-Choice.

Back in the pre-Roe era, almost all MDs and DVMs were male, thus the persons most qualified to perform an abortion by "D&C" were mostly male. While there were some well trained illegal abortionists who sincerely believed in providing this as a compassionate service to women, probably the majority of illegal practitioners were motivated by money. (note : in the era before Roe, in 1961, there was a wonderful episode,"The Benefactor", of the TV show "The Defenders" about an abortionist motivated by compassion for women, due to his daughter's death at the hands of a "back alley quack". Like many classic TV shows, The Defenders lives again on the internet.).

Today more than 50% of graduating MDs are women and more than 70% of DVMs are women.. There's almost certainly some of them who are committed feminists and who are committedly Pro-Choice. They are quite capable of helping a woman through the aftermath of an abortion and some of them are quite capable of performing an illegal abortion safely.

Underground referal networks and underground clinics will return.

In the dark era before Roe, there were many referal networks, some run by clergy and some by women, and there were underground clinics. preforming abortions. (The network known as "Jane" in Chicago provided aproximately 11,000 abortions over a 4 year period in the pre-Roe era) These will return, probably led by the children and grandchildren of those who ran the original ones.

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site author Pam Green copyright 2003
created 8/03/2018 revised 9/26/2018
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