The summer of 2022 undoubtedly became a pivotal moment in US history when, on June 24, the Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 to overturn Roe v. Wade, the definitive piece of legislation that made abortion access a federal right in the United States. This decision dismantled nearly 50 years of legal abortion protection and cleared the way for individual states to decrease or completely ban abortion access. In response to the Supreme court’s ruling, the Biden-Harris administration is taking executive action to ensure abortion care remains available to all burdened by the verdict. A policy action tracker developed by The Century Foundation follows the administration’s critical measures to make abortion accessible.
On August 5, during a special legislative session following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Indiana became the first state in the nation to sign new abortion restrictions into law. On the Indiana Senate Republicans website, it reads as follows:
Effective Sept. 15, 2022, SB 1 (ss) prohibits abortions except to protect the life or physical health of the mother, in cases where a pregnancy is forced on a woman through the horrific acts of rape and incest, or when an unborn child suffers from a lethal fetal anomaly.
“I told the legislature I wasn’t going to dither,” Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said. “I said if this met my threshold of making progress, as maybe imperfect as it was, that I was going to sign it.” Despite criticism of the legislation from both abortion rights supporters and anti-abortion activists, Holcomb, who ran as a pro-life candidate, went on to say at an event in Carmel, Indiana, “The bottom line is that it’s progress towards valuing the sanctity of life and expressing it through law.”
SB 1 states that “victims of rape and incest who become pregnant may seek an abortion up to ten weeks post-fertilization.” A pregnancy is separated into trimesters. First trimester (0 to 13 weeks), Second Trimester (14 to 24 weeks), and Third Trimester (27 to 40 weeks). Is it possible for pregnancy not to be discovered within ten weeks (First Trimester)?
“It’s not out of the question,” Michael Cackovic, an OB/GYN at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells WebMD. “There are women who don’t have routine sex, don’t have routine periods, and don’t regularly see a doctor.” In the same article, Cackovic references that health problems like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia can also keep a minor or woman from knowing or understanding that she is pregnant. WebMD shows that uncontrolled diabetes, eating disorders, obesity, health problems like polycystic ovary syndrome, medicines, or stress can influence period cycles and explains why a minor or woman missing that first period might not be a sign of pregnancy. Cackovic also explains that if the placenta is in front of the uterus, a minor or woman may not be able to feel baby movement well into 20 weeks or the Second Trimester of pregnancy.
According to the International Rescue Committee (IRC), there are four reasons why safe abortion care is critical to family planning and female health care.
• According to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, access to abortion is a human right. That right to choose whether to carry a pregnancy to term is central to a person’s autonomy. A vital component of reproductive health care; abortion is a simple and safe procedure when delivered in a health facility or involves prescribed medication.
• Abortion restrictions do not stop women, regardless of their age, or political or religious affiliation, from having abortions; instead, restrictions on abortions increase the likelihood that a woman will have an unsafe procedure that could result in permanent mental and physical harm.
• The World Health Organization estimates that 810 women die each day in childbirth. Unsafe abortion care is the leading cause of maternal death and is far more common when abortion is illegal or heavily restricted.
• Abortion restrictions harm low-income and already disadvantaged women. Why? Because people with more resources can often pay for access to safe abortion care regardless of where they live.
Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Indiana, WilmerHale, and the Lawyering Project filed a lawsuit on behalf of abortion providers, including Women’s Med Group Professional Corp, All-Options, and Planned Parenthood, challenging the legality of SB 1. The lawsuit claims SB 1 violates Indiana residents’ privacy rights, equal privileges, and immunity guarantees. Because of SB 1’s ambiguous language, the lawsuit claims SB 1 also violates the Constitution’s due course of law clause. Monroe Circuit Court Judge Kelsey Hanlon heard the case on September 19 and, on September 22, ruled that the plaintiffs had shown a “reasonable likelihood” that the law’s significant restriction of personal autonomy violated the Indiana constitution and blocked Indiana from enforcing SB 1 during the legal challenge.
“We knew this ban would cause irreparable harm to Hoosiers, and in just a single week, it has done just that. We are grateful that the court granted much needed relief for patients, clients, and providers but this fight is far from over. Indiana lawmakers have made it abundantly clear that this harm, this cruelty, is exactly the reality they had in mind when they passed SB 1. There are 1.5 million people of reproductive age in the state of Indiana, and every single one of them deserve the right to make their own decisions about their bodies, families, and futures,” released leaders of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and other plaintiffs, in a joint statement.
In response to the injunction, Mike Fichter, Indiana Right to Life CEO, said, “Today’s blockage of Indiana’s new law means over 161 unborn children will continue to lose their lives to abortion every week this injunction stays in effect. We are encouraged by the judge’s acknowledgment of the state’s legitimate interest in protecting unborn babies and are hopeful the blockage will be brief. There is clearly no right to abortion in the Indiana Constitution.”
Since 1973, college students have never known life without access to legal and safe abortion care. Regardless of one’s position on abortion, every UE student should understand that there is no immunity from the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. UE students, regardless of gender, must stay current on SB 1 and the reproductive options available in Indiana and their own home states.
Justice Clarence Thomas voted to overturn Roe v. Wade. In a concurring opinion, Thomas writes, “In future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold v. Connecticut (contraceptives), Lawerence v. Texas (sexual conduct), and Obergefell v. Hodges (gay marriage).” It has not gone unnoticed that Judge Thomas, an African American married to a white woman, did not also include revisiting Loving v. Virginia (interracial marriage).
Newsweek reports that newly released voter registration data from TargetSmart shows a surge in women registering to vote. What can UE students do to advance their voice on reproductive rights and other issues? The general election is on Nov. 8, 2022. Visit Vote.gov to educate yourself on your eligibility to vote. Are you already registered to vote? Then arrange to get your election ballot. Want to see if you are eligible to vote in Evansville? Visit the Vanderburgh County Election Office or call (812) 435-5122.
There will be confusion and misinformation about the overturning of Roe v. Wade and the temporary block of Indiana SB 1. Knowledge is power! Research your home state’s reproductive rights laws, vote for candidates who support your positions, and stay informed about Indiana SB 1 and Evansville’s reproductive health care and safe-sex resources.