Note: This piece will be updated as the landscape of the Dobbs v. Jackson Supreme Court decision changes circumstances on the state level. As this legislation shifts on a daily basis, we will make every effort to keep this as current as possible with information and resources.
In a 5-4 decision on June 24, the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the 49-year-old landmark case that established that the U.S. Constitution provides the right to privacy to anyone who wants to receive an abortion. The court’s decision on the Mississippi case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization held that the Constitution does not guarantee the right to an abortion, which overturned both Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 case that established the “essential holding” of Roe.
This decision officially turned over abortion access to the states; nearly half of the states in the U.S. have restrictions or trigger bans that automatically made abortion illegal. Despite Kansas’s victoy for abortion rights, by the time of the August 2 primary, 10 states had fully banned abortions, with Wyoming, West Virginia, Idaho, Tennessee, Arizona, and North Dakota with either impending or temporarily blocked bans.
On July 8, President Biden signed an executive order to safeguard some rights to abortion in the U.S. The executive order does the following, according to a statement from the White House:
“President Biden has made clear that the only way to secure a woman’s right to choose is for Congress to restore the protections of Roe as federal law. Until then, he has committed to doing everything in his power to defend reproductive rights and protect access to safe and legal abortion,” the statement reads.
After the Supreme Court decision, the effects were immediate across states with “trigger bans,” or laws that immediately outlawed abortion upon Roe’s demise. On June 26, two days after the Dobbs decision, a nurse named Ashley shared a tweet from her friend Lex, a fellow nurse, who shared her story of how pregnant people in states where abortion is banned are already in danger.
Lex shared that, after the trigger law went into effect in her state, she had a pregnant woman come in with an ectopic pregnancy, which means that the fertilized egg implants and grows outside the uterus, often in the fallopian tubes. A fetus does not survive this pregnancy. Lex said that, before her team could take action, they had to call legal counsel and make sure providing care would not cost them their medical licenses. By the time they could treat the woman, her fallopian tube had ruptured, she had dangerous amounts of blood in her abdomen, and almost died.
In Missouri, the first state to ban abortion upon the Dobbs decision, there is a medical exception to the total abortion ban. The state defines this emergency as “serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function.”
Dr. Jeannie Kelly, a Washington University OB-GYN, told St. Louis on the Air that the definition is not clear enough and could cause real problems for providers who are trying to save their patients’ lives.
“Medicine, in general, is not really black and white in many circumstances,” she said, before continuing. “There are many clinical situations that we are concerned [about]. The law is vague, and the law is not well defined [regarding] these trickier situations where we're not sure: ‘Is this a medical emergency? Does it qualify as an exception to this abortion ban? Or would we be risking our licenses and we'd be risking jail time if we perform the abortion in this circumstance?’”
There has already been a report that OBGYNs in the state are being told to observe patients with ectopic pregnancy but wait to take action until they have “a documented falling hemoglobin or unstable vital signs.”
This week, a 10-year-old abuse survivor in Ohio had to travel to Indiana to receive an abortion because she was six weeks and three days pregnant. Following the Supreme Court’s decision on June 24, Ohio’s law banning abortion after six weeks took effect immediately.
The 10-year-old was referred by a child abuse doctor in Ohio to Dr. Caitlin Bernard, who was able to provide her with care in Indiana. Bernard told the Cincinnati Enquirer that though she was able to help this week, she knows her window to do so is closing.
“It’s hard to imagine that in just a few short weeks we will have no ability to provide that care,” she said, referring to the Indiana legislature’s plan to call a special session in late July to further restrict abortion beyond its current 22-week ban.
These stories are examples of difficulties healthcare providers and pregnant people faced in the first 10 days since Roe was overturned.
In the days, weeks, and months following the Supreme Court’s decision, Americans will and should expect to see more restrictions on abortion at the state level. By the first full week of July, there were eight states—Michigan, Iowa, Kentucky, North Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, Arizona, and Nevada—where abortion bans had been blocked by the court, which means they remain vulnerable to any future legislation. Mississippi’s trigger law went into effect on July 7, with Idaho, Wyoming, and North Dakota’s trigger laws set to follow later in the summer.
Politico’s map gives state-by-state updates here.
Although it’s clear that things will get worse on the state level across the country, state leadership in key blue states are working to expand abortion access. In New York, for example, the Reproductive Health Act, which was enacted in January of 2019, expanded and decriminilized abortion, and eliminated several restrictions of state law.
Ahead of the Dobbs decision, the state fortified laws when Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a package of bills that would help to protect those providing and seeking abortions in the state from out-of-state legal action.
“We’ve already seen the threats of anti-abortion violence, and the climate out there is just getting more extreme every single day, and it’s only going to get worse,” Hochul said upon signing the protections, per Politico. “So we need to be ready for that as well. So that’s what we do here in New York. We don’t talk. We act. We don’t follow. We lead. We don’t wait. We get to work.”
On June 24, the governors of Washington, California, and Oregon issued a multi-state statement in which they committed the West Coast to being a “safe haven for all people seeking abortions and other reproductive health care services.”
On July 5, Maine’s governor, Janet Mills, signed an executive order to further protect abortion access in the state. The Order does the following, according to the website for the office of the governor:
These are just examples of current leaders who are making moves to safeguard access in their states for anyone seeking abortion care. Republican governors in four blue states—Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, and Vermont—have also said they will uphold abortion rights in their states.
In the wake of Roe’s demise, the majority of American voters have made it known that they are not aligned with the Supreme Court’s decision. In a May 2022 survey from the Pew Research Center, 61% of Americans polled said that abortions should be legal in all circumstances. In further affirmation of this data, a July Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 73% of American women between the ages of 18 to 49 say abortion is “very important.” In February of this year, 59% of the same group answered “very important.” The foundation also notes that six in 10 women voters between the ages of 18 and 49 also said they were “more motivated” to vote because of the Supreme Court’s June 24 decision to overturn Roe.
As a real-life reflection of this poll, on August 2, voters in Kansas voted overwhelmingly to preserve abortion rights in their state’s constitution. This follows misinformation associated with the proposed "Value Them Both" amendment, which abortion advocates argued would have paved the way for a total ban on abortion in the state, whose neighbor to the East, Missouri, was the first trigger state to ban abortion upon the overturn of Roe.
“The voters in Kansas have spoken loud and clear: We will not tolerate extreme bans on abortion,” Rachel Sweet, the campaign manager for Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, told The New York Times.
In addition to voting and advocating for pro-choice candidates in your state and at your local level, you can:
Hilary Weaver is a writer and editor based in New England. Her work has been published in The Cut, ELLE, Vanity Fair, Refinery29, Esquire, Cosmopolitan, The Nation, and more. She has covered reproductive rights both as a writer and as a fact-checker and researcher since 2015.