If you watch or read any sort of news, or even if you’re on social media at all, you’ve probably heard about some of the big decisions that the Supreme Court has made over the last month, including overturning Roe v. Wade. Because almost every article I’ve come across has shared different details, with some focusing on the logistics of the case, some on the impacts, and very few giving a full picture, I want to spend some time with this blogpost focusing on the details and impacts of this decision, including what actually happened, what might happen next, and how this case will impact our Oregon community. In future weeks, we will break down some of the other decisions the Supreme Court has made this session as well. 

The decision to overturn the right to an abortion for those who are up to 24 weeks pregnant was officially announced on June 24th, as a result of the Supreme Court case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, just under two months after an unofficial drafted decision had been leaked to the media. This Supreme Court decision reversed previous precedent that was established with Roe v. Wade, which stated that abortion was within an individual’s right up until the pregnancy was viable, generally at 24 weeks. The new ruling through Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization returns the authority to determine whether people should have the right to an abortion to state legislatures. As a result, abortion is now illegal in five states, with another eight that will begin enforcing their abortion ban in the next 30 days, and ten to twelve more that many predict will follow in the coming months to years (for an exact breakdown of state-by-state laws regarding abortion, check out this article from Politico.  

In some ways, the impacts of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization are very clear: states now have the option of creating more strict regulation or outright banning abortion, meaning those who might seek an abortion would either no longer be able to get one, or would have to travel across state lines for the procedure. But there are other important, but less immediately obvious, impacts as well. For example, studies show that the risk of domestic abuse or homicide rises significantly while pregnant, with murder skyrocketing to the number one cause of death during pregnancy. Initial predictions from Forbes also suggest that increased birthrates will have a large impact on the economy, leading to an increase in reliance on government assistance, an increase in demand for pregnancy and newborn necessities, and an increase in demand for childcare facilities and caregivers, but likely a decrease in workforce participation, earning potential, and overall financial health for those who are now carrying out pregnancies they would have otherwise terminated. Lastly, the future impacts on all the cases the Supreme Court has decided based on the precedent that Roe v. Wade set cannot yet be determined. For more information about other potential court cases that may be impacted by this ruling, check out this article from CNN.  

So how, if at all, does the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade impact Oregonians? Oregon has some of the strongest abortion protections in the country, and legally, not much is expected to change at this time. Oregon has had laws protecting abortion since 1983, and in 2017 the state passed the Reproductive Health Equity Act, which requires private insurance to cover abortion services and provides state-funded coverage for abortion services for those on the Oregon Health Plan, as well as undocumented individuals in the state. But there are ways that Oregonians will be affected. For Eastern Oregonians, the closest clinic that provided abortions was in Boise, Idaho, which will no longer be available after July. These patients will now be required to travel much further, either into Bend as the furthest East location in Oregon, or into Washington in the Tri-City area. Both of these trips can be difficult to make depending on weather and the time of year, and the additional cost and time required for these trips are most likely to have a negative impact or be an insurmountable barrier for poor and marginalized communities specifically. Additionally, because Oregon has such strong abortion protections, patients from states like Idaho will be traveling to Oregon to utilize abortion services here. Consistently over the last decade or more, the Oregon Health Authority has found that approximately 10% of abortions in Oregon were for patients that traveled from out of state, but as recently as the last few weeks, there has already been a spike in out of state patients, according to Lisa Gardner, executive director of Planned Parenthood of Southwest Oregon. This increase in demand may mean longer wait times for in-state patients as well, meaning abortions happening later into pregnancy when they are more likely to have negative side effects. Looking further into the future, we may see the law regarding abortion in Oregon change in ways we cannot currently predict, depending on the goals of future Governors and legislatures (for more information about abortion stances of current Gubernatorial candidates, check out this article). Furthermore, it is too early to know what potential ramifications an Oregonian might face if they decide to help someone from another state travel to Oregon for an abortion, as this will depend on whether states try to prosecute their own citizens who travel to another state for abortion as well as anyone in that state who aids them. For more information about the impacts that Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization will have on our Oregon community, check out this article.  

Even though the impacts on Oregonians are significantly less than those in states that have chosen to ban abortions, we at JCLS want to encourage civic engagement in our community, which includes learning about changes happening in our legal system and how they impact us as individuals and as a whole. The library is happy to provide materials and reference help to learn about these changes and impacts! If you’d like to learn more about the history and impacts of Roe v. Wade and abortion, check out JCLS databases like Opposing Viewpoints, or consider a book from this list. That being said, it is also important to recognize that no matter your personal political beliefs or relationship with abortion, some of this news may be difficult to engage with or learn about. Recognizing the need to take time away from news, whether personally upsetting or just a lot to digest and understand, is invaluable, and the library is here to help with this too! If you’d like to spend some time learning about self-care, personal wellness, and reducing stress amid trauma, check out this list.