Earlier this May, we learned that the U.S. Supreme Court plans to overturn the landmark case Roe v. Wade. If it is overturned, states would have the power to implement heavy restrictions or bans on abortion . I believe that denying anyone in any state access to safe, legal abortion is incredibly harmful. Not only does denying abortion access ignore the pressures that cause people to seek abortions in the first place, but it grants fetuses rights that even people do not have, forces people to seek dangerous means of terminating pregnancies, and is proven to hurt the well-being of people who are denied abortions.
There are many reasons why people may decide to get an abortion. These decisions tend to be very personal and complex and typically involve several reasons, with some common ones being financial instability, unreadiness, a need to focus on other children, and interference with educational or career plans . Furthermore, our nation exacerbates the problems that give rise to these reasons through many shortcomings. On a federal level, the U.S. does not require employers to grant parents paid maternity or paternity leave, which is especially abysmal in comparison to other countries such as Estonia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Japan, and more, which give parents over a year of paid leave . Quality child care and health care are also costly and inaccessible to many American families [4,5], not to mention that we are nearing a cost-of-living crisis  and are in the midst of a baby formula shortage. Banning abortions does not address these pressing issues that make pregnancy and parenthood undesirable for many individuals.
Abortion access is vital for bodily autonomy. In her video titled “Doctor Explains Roe vs Wade - What Overturning Means for Health & Autonomy in Pregnancy,” board-certified OB/GYN and mom to four Dr. Danielle Jones states, “You cannot give a right to a fetus that no other human has, which is the right to use someone else’s body without express and ongoing consent.” She uses this hypothetical example: if her kid was dying and she could save them by giving a blood donation, she could not be forced to donate blood - even if her kid died as a result of her refusal. Furthermore, Dr. Jones explains how pregnancy is not “health-neutral,” as pregnancy presents an array of health risks, which she details in her video. Simply put, any person who is able to get pregnant is more safe when they are not pregnant. She also points out that people who get desired abortions generally lead better lives than they would have if they did not get an abortion. People who are denied a desired abortion are proven to be more likely to experience socio-economic hardships and bankruptcy, have food insecurity, be evicted, face domestic violence, and raise a child alone. A large portion of those who seek abortions are already parents, as well, and termination results in better outcomes for their existing children. (To learn more about these findings, I recommend looking at The Turnaway Study.) Lastly, Dr. Jones points out that the question of when life begins is not a political issue or a medical issue, but rather a personal philosophical matter, and we cannot force our own philosophical beliefs upon others .
Abortion access that is safe and legal is an important aspect of health care. Due to the various reasons people may have for seeking abortions, abortions will occur regardless of whether they are legal and safe. Illegal abortions can be very dangerous - even life-threatening. From 1972 to 1974, the years neighboring the Supreme Court’s nationwide legalization of abortion in 1973, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that illegal abortion procedures in the U.S. drastically decreased from about 130,000 to 17,000 and deaths associated with them decreased from 39 to five. By banning abortions, we put the lives of those who can get pregnant at risk. Abortion access is also a social justice issue. The same study found that “women who died as a result of illegal abortions typically were black, were more than 12 weeks pregnant and had self-induced in their own community” . Moreover, Americans, compared to Scandinavians, are six times more likely to die during the maternal period. Not only does the U.S. have the worst maternal mortality rate of any developed country, but African-Americans, low-income individuals, and those living in rural areas have even higher maternal mortality rates . And, African-Americans as well as other marginalized groups face more barriers to reproductive health care. So, minorities will be more severely impacted by bans on abortion access. (To learn more about this dynamic, I encourage you to look at this link.) By allowing states to ban abortion, existing health care disparities will deepen, as the rich and privileged will have more resources to seek out and travel for safe abortions.
Even those with planned and wanted pregnancies need abortions in some cases. Medical conditions can arise in which a pregnancy becomes dangerous for the mother, for example: the development of a twin pregnancy with one normal fetus and one hydatidiform mole. Parents may also resort to abortion if their fetus is diagnosed with a serious condition with a poor or fatal prognosis such as anencephaly, in which babies die either during childbirth or soon after birth if carried to term. These situations are usually extremely difficult and emotional and full of grieving . People may also turn to abortions in other traumatic situations, such as those involving rape, incest, abuse, and/or minors.
According to the Center for American Progress (CAP), which describes itself as an independent and nonpartisan policy institute, making abortion less necessary rather than less accessible is the only “humane, effective, and just” approach. Bans on abortion only ban safe and legal abortions - tens of thousands of people around the world die or face serious injuries due to unsafe abortions each year. A significant portion of abortions occur in unintended pregnancies. By reducing the number of unintended pregnancies, we can reduce the number of abortions. To do so, CAP suggests that we commit to these: “1) comprehensive sexuality education that includes medically accurate information about abstinence and contraception; 2) insurance coverage of and public funding for family planning services; 3) greater access to emergency contraception (which prevents pregnancy and does not cause abortion); and 4) programs that curb domestic violence and sexual abuse.” On the reduction of abortions resorted to by those without the resources to raise a child, CAP states this: “By providing low-income and young women with genuine education and career opportunities, health care, child care, housing, services for disabled children, and other basic supports, many would have the resources they need to fulfill the serious obligations that parenting brings.”
I also resonate with this powerful statement made by CAP:
“Moderation for its own sake and political compromise that sacrifices women’s well-being will not achieve the common goal of reducing abortion in this country. What is needed is leadership and commitment to a vision of society in which all women have the information and means necessary to prevent unintended pregnancies, to carry healthy pregnancies to term, to raise their children with safety, stability, and dignity, and, yes, to have safe abortions when necessary to lead healthy, productive, and fulfilling lives.” 
On another note, I find it very concerning that many politicians who are advocating for bans on abortion under the guise of being “pro-life” are simultaneously supporting initiatives that harm countless lives. I believe my concerns are better articulated by “Kids Only Matter When They’re Not Born Yet” - a short song by Emerson Brophy.
We must take better care of the people here, already born. We must strive to understand the plights of those different from us. Abortion is a complex matter, and abortion bans are not among the methods available to ethically reduce the number of abortions while preserving the health and well-being of people who can carry children. Ultimately, individuals deserve the right to make the choice that is best for them.
Note: In this article, I did not cover the idea of adoption serving as an alternative to parenting. This is also a very complex matter, and, for an overview of various perspectives, I recommend looking at the article “Why So Many Women Choose Abortion Over Adoption” by the Atlantic.
Hernandez, Joe. “Here's What Could Happen If Roe v. Wade Is Overturned.” NPR, 3 May 2022, www.npr.org/2022/05/03/1096094942/roe-wade-overturned-what-happens-next.
Stacey, Dawn. “Why Do People Have Abortions?” Verywell Health, Dotdash Media, 20 Dec. 2021, www.verywellhealth.com/reasons-for-abortion-906589.
Livingston, Gretchen, and Deja Thomas. “Among 41 Countries, Only U.S. Lacks Paid Parental Leave.” Pew Research Center, 7 Aug. 2020, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/12/16/u-s-lacks-mandated-paid-parental-leave/.
Kamenetz, Anya, and Mansee Khurana. “1 In 3 Working Families Is Struggling to Find the Child Care They Desperately Need.” NPR, 19 Oct. 2021, www.npr.org/2021/10/19/1047019536/families-are-struggling-to-find-the-child-care-they-desperately-need.
Robin Osborn et al., "In New Survey of 11 Countries, U.S. Adults Still Struggle with Access to and Affordability of Health Care," Health Affairs, Nov. 16, 2016, www.doi.org/10.26099/g7s0-3h12
Whiting, Kate. “Cost of Living: This Chart Shows How the Price of Products Has Risen in the US.” World Economic Forum, 25 May 2022, www.weforum.org/agenda/ 2022/05/cost-of-living-price-rises/.
Jones, Danielle. “Doctor Explains Roe vs Wade - What Overturning Means for Health & Autonomy in Pregnancy.” YouTube, Mama Doctor Jones, 16 May 2022, www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHrxSUgLvvA
“Abortion before and after Legalization.” Guttmacher Institute, 27 Nov. 2018, www.guttmacher.org/perspectives50/abortion-and-after-legalization.
Martin, Nina, and Renee Montagne. “The Last Person You'd Expect to Die in Childbirth.” NPR, 12 May 2017, www.npr.org/2017/05/12/527806002/focus-on-infants-during-childbirth-leaves-u-s-moms-in-danger.
Danielsson, Krissi. “Termination of a Desired Pregnancy for Medical Reasons.” Verywell Family, Dotdash Media, 17 Jan. 2020, www.verywellfamily.com/termination-of -a-desired-pregnancy-for-medical-reasons-2371777.
Arons, Jessica, and Shira Saperstein. “The Right Way to Reduce Abortion.” Center for American Progress, 20 Jan. 2006, www.americanprogress.org/article/the-right-way-to-reduce-abortion/#:~:text=Unintended%20pregnancy%20could%20be%20reduced,3)%20greater%20access%20to%20emergency.