Donald Trump has named Brett Kavanaugh as his nominee to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court. His record, which includes a dissenting opinion on a 2017 case involving a teen migrant who was seeking an abortion, leads experts to believe it’s only a matter of time before Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion, is overturned or new laws put in place that change the scope of its protections. This not only would affect women and girls who are faced with an unwanted pregnancy, it would have widespread impacts on U.S. economics, health care, society and culture. Everything from crime rates to dating norms would be affected. Here’s how.
First, A Little History
Roe v. Wade was a 1973 ruling decided by the Supreme Court. That means all 50 states are governed by this decision, which states that women and girls have the right to a safe, legal abortion without undue restrictive interference from the government. It is considered part of an individual’s right to privacy, which falls under the 14th Amendment. However, in many states, government does interfere, through a variety of individual rulings and restrictions, most imposed within the past 10 years, making abortion effectively illegal for many of their residents. Such rulings have led to the closure of clinics that provide safe and legal abortion; restrictions on health care providers; restrictions on access to information about the procedure; and restrictions on who is eligible to receive abortion services, and when, and after what series of interventions or delays. In 2017 alone, 19 states passed 63 abortion restrictions. Since 2012, 400 laws have been passed to restrict access. Six states have only one abortion provider, which means patients have to travel hundreds of miles; in states like South Dakota, that doctor has to fly in from another state. Therefore, abortion remains only legal in theory in places where it is in practice impossible for many women to access it.
A new Trump administration rule, now under review at the White House budget office, would bar organizations that mention abortion, refer patients elsewhere for abortions, or provide abortions under their roofs from receiving Title X funding. Title X is a federal program that provides at least $260 million a year for contraception, screenings for sexually transmitted diseases and other reproductive health services to millions of low-income people.
The rule, known by abortion rights advocates as a “gag rule,” is aimed at Planned Parenthood, which congressional Republicans are determined to defund, despite that no federal funds are used to pay for abortions, and many Planned Parenthood clinics offer only birth control, STD treatment, and other reproductive health care, such as cervical and breast cancer screening.
Conservatives are sending abstinence-only curriculum into classrooms at increasing rates, and a new study shows these programs are not only ineffective but unethical. Congress and the Trump administration are working to reverse the trends of more comprehensive sexual education, which had begun to improve during the Obama administration.
WHAT THE STUDY SHOWS
A report published in September’s Journal of Adolescent Health (JAH) finds that sexual education programs promoting “abstinence only until marriage” (AOUM) fail on numerous levels based on scientific data. Researchers evaluated previous scientific research, reviewed articles on the subject, and data from human rights groups to reach their conclusions. This wealth of evidence starkly contrasts with the small number of studies that support abstinence-based education programs—long endorsed by conservative groups.