Supreme Court Overturns Roe v. Wade, Threatens Abortion Access Across America
Editor's Note: This article is being updated with new information as it becomes available.
- On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
- The overturn of Roe v. Wade immediately denies over 40 million people access to safe abortions across the United States.
- Overturning Roe v. Wade directly impacts nurses on many levels, especially those in anti-abortion states.
On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade after serving as federal protection of abortion rights in the United States for nearly 50 years. The court's decision caused a ripple effect across states, setting trigger bans in motion to immediately ban or restrict abortions.
Overturning Roe v. Wade affects nurses in many ways, including:
- Job security
- Safety to talk about and provide abortion care
- Safety to receive abortion care
- Threat to their licensure
- Potential legal action against abortion providers
Many abortion clinics have closed their doors to patients starting Friday, July 1, in states where abortion is now illegal or restricted. Trigger laws, laws that immediately ban abortion after the overturn, have gone into effect in many states across the country. This final court decision comes nearly two months after the initial Supreme Court draft considering the overturn of Roe v. Wade was leaked.
How Abortion Laws Differ Across States
As of now, the federal government has not outlawed abortion but has left it up to individual states to decide if abortion is legal. Today, abortion is legal in:
- New Mexico
- New York
- New Jersey
The states where abortion is illegal or expected to be banned soon include:
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
The states with restrictions on abortion are the following:
- South Carolina
Banning abortion access denies people healthcare. Historically, legalizing the ban on abortions doesn't stop them from happening. The overturn can actually increase maternal risks, such as:
- Unsafe abortions
- Travel risks
- Medication restrictions
- Maternal and fetal death
Also, denying people the right to abortion directly affects historically marginalized communities. These communities include:
- Disabled people
- LGBTQ+ individuals
- People of color
- People living in lower socioeconomic status
"This ruling will make it more frustrating and difficult for middle class and upper middle class people to obtain an abortion," says family nurse practitioner Lauren Haines. "However, this will make it nearly impossible for people of lower socioeconomic status to obtain a legal abortion."
The overturn of Roe v. Wade might infringe on other reproductive rights like the right to use contraception and fertility treatments.
The American Nurses Association (ANA) put out a statement on June 24, disagreeing with the decision. They write that the ruling "removes the right of all women to access high-quality healthcare and make personal decisions about their sexual and reproductive healthcare. In doing so, it potentially paves the way for laws that will fundamentally come between patients and healthcare professionals, including nurses, who must be guided by ethical obligations to their patients and the profession."
Despite the Supreme Court decision, the Pew Research Center reports that the public favors legal abortions. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said at a press conference that "women today have less freedom than their mothers."
Nurses Already See Impacts on Several Fronts
Abortion Clinics in Anti-Abortion States
Abortion clinics in some of the trigger states have already closed their doors. There is no grace period for this ruling. Pregnant people who had appointments in these areas on the day this was overturned were turned away, and future appointments were canceled.
Providers Fear Legal Implications
This ruling puts nursing licenses and careers in jeopardy. At least initially, providers will be extremely cautious about performing any sort of pregnancy termination. Providing any sort of abortion-related care or even advice in some states will be breaking the law.
"This will force nurses into providing patient care that aligns with the law, but may or may not align with the best possible outcome for the patient," Haines says.
There are already significant delays in the care for pregnant individuals who are experiencing life-threatening conditions and afraid to terminate too soon. Now providers might fear the legal implications, so some may wait until the pregnant person is septic or in severe distress before being willing to terminate the pregnancy.
Access to Reproductive Care
There is also a concern about other restrictions, such as on birth control and emergency contraception. An influx of in-person and telehealth visits for these contraceptive treatments is most likely out of both need and precaution.
"There is a huge population that just do not have the ability to drive or fly hours away to obtain medical care due to disability, finances, family obligations, job obligations, etc.," Haines says.
Resources for Patients
Meet Our Contributor
Lauren Haines, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC
Lauren Haines, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC, is a board-certified family nurse practitioner (FNP) providing sexual health services for TBD Health, an innovative startup that offers at-home sexual transmitted infection testing. She also works part time providing abortion care and volunteers as an abortion clinic escort. Haines started her medical career as a first responder. She earnd her bachelor of science in nursing from the University of Connecticut and went on to work as an emergency room nurse and sexual assault nurse examiner. Haines earned her master's degree and FNP certification in 2014 and has experience working in sexual and reproductive health, telehealth, and nursing education.
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