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Common Misperceptions about the Reversal of Roe v. Wade

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Facts: The Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health overturned Roe v. Wade and returned policymaking on abortion to the legislative process, as in Europe where abortion law is determined by legislation, not court rulings. In Europe, different countries have different laws balancing the interests of the mother and the baby, ranging from abortion being totally prohibited in most cases, to being limited after 10 weeks to 24 weeks, depending on the country.

States may now regulate abortion, and 11 states have made abortion illegal in most circumstances. On the other hand, 21 states and the District of Columbia have acted to protect abortion as a right and/or expand abortion access. Voters and their elected representatives now have the power to decide what their state laws on abortion should say.

Facts: All of the states that have outlawed abortion make an exception for the health/life of the mother. Some of these states also make exceptions for abortions before 6 weeks of pregnancy, for severe birth defects and/or for cases of rape or incest. Federal Republican lawmakers have also recently introduced legislation that would limit abortion nationwide to the first 15 weeks of pregnancy; this bill also includes exceptions for rape, incest and the life and health of the mother.

Facts: Fringe efforts to ban contraception lack political support and are not constitutional. 

A poll commissioned by Independent Women’s Voice shows that 84% of likely Republican primary voters support safe access to contraceptives, with 74% strongly supporting. This finding is consistent across gender, age, and education. The poll also found that these voters draw a clear distinction between methods that prevent pregnancy, such as the pill and IUDs, and medications that end pregnancy. 

The Supreme Court in 1965 said married couples have a constitutional right to buy and use contraceptives, and extended that to unmarried people in a 1972 decision. Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health did not change this.

Facts: All types of FDA-approved forms of birth control remain accessible in all 50 states. In fact, insurance companies are compelled to cover all types of birth control with no copays, and emergency birth control (also known as Plan B) is available over the counter, in all 50 states, without a prescription. Nothing about the Dobbs decision changed this. 

But sadly, rumors, misinformation, and exaggerations abound. According to Women’s Health Magazine: “On Twitter, some users spread false information about a supposed ban on Plan B in Tennessee, which was inaccurate. A new law puts restrictions on the method in which medical abortion pills are prescribed, and doesn’t impact emergency contraception, the Tennessean reported.” And of new abortion restrictions in general, Women’s Health reports that they “do not pertain to emergency contraceptives, such as Plan B, or in vitro fertilization (IVF).”

Facts: No. There will be no changes in the treatment of ectopic pregnancies. 

Treatment for ectopic pregnancy and abortion are not the same. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg implants in a woman’s fallopian tube or ovary instead of her uterus. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that ectopic pregnancy “cannot result in the survival of a baby and entails a very substantial risk of maternal death or disability.” The medical definition of “abortion” is removal of an embryo and placenta from the uterus. Since ectopic pregnancies occur outside of the uterus, their removal is not an abortion.

The Planned Parenthood website previously provided clear information on this topic, saying: 

  • “Abortion is a medical procedure that when done safely, ends a pregnancy that’s in your uterus.”  
  • “Ectopic pregnancies are unsafely outside of your uterus (usually in the fallopian tubes), and are removed with a medicine called methotrexate or through a laparoscopic surgical procedure.”
  • “The medical procedures for abortions are not the same as the medical procedures for an ectopic pregnancy.” 

But each of these statements has been removed or altered since the Dobbs decision

Facts: No. Miscarriage care is protected by law. 

As commonly understood, abortion is an intervention that ends a pregnancy. A miscarriage is a pregnancy loss. Some miscarriage patients require medical treatment, and sometimes the treatment, such as a Dilation and Extraction (or “D&E”) procedure, which clears the uterus of fetal tissue, are similar to those performed on abortion patients. And sometimes miscarriage is treated with drugs that are similarly used to cause chemical abortions. The critical difference, of course, is that in the case of miscarriage the pregnancy has already been lost.

Among medical providers, the term “spontaneous abortion” is used to describe a miscarriage. What most people think of simply as “abortion” is called “induced abortion” in the medical world. But the two events are still distinct. Even Texas, the state with the most restrictive new abortion law, makes it clear in other statutes that healthcare providers can legally act to “remove a dead, unborn child whose death was caused by spontaneous abortion.” Therefore, miscarriage care is protected by law. 

Facts: It’s not so simple. Most Americans (including majorities of both Republicans and Democrats) want abortion to be legal in some cases and illegal in some cases. Only 8% of adults say abortion should be against the law in all cases, without exception, while just 19% say abortion should be legal in all cases, without exception, according to Pew Research Center. Most Americans fall in the middle, supporting some restrictions and exceptions. Majorities want abortion to be legal early in pregnancy, and illegal later in pregnancy. Majorities support exceptions for a threat to the life/health of the mother and in cases of rape. 

When it comes to a 15-week limit on abortion, public opinion shows more Americans support than oppose such a policy. A Wall Street Journal poll from April 2022 shows 48% in favor, 43% opposed. A Harvard-Harris poll from just after the Dobbs decision shows 72% of people think abortion should be limited to 15 weeks (or less).

If you care about more than the single issue of abortion, which will be an ongoing fight, your voice can make an difference now on other issues that matter.

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