Following the ruling of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization and subsequent reversal of Roe v. Wade, employers have begun to re-strategize how to help their employees legally access abortions. Several U.S. companies, including Amazon, Meta, Apple, and Microsoft, have released statements that they will cover transportation costs to other states for employees seeking an abortion.
On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court finally handed down its long-awaited opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. In this decision, the Court set aside nearly 50 years of precedent and unequivocally overruled Roe v. Wade, declaring that there is no Constitutional right to abortion. This decision will unsurprisingly change laws and significantly impact millions of people across the country. Although pro-choice activists have been bracing for this outcome and mobilizing to maintain access to abortions, they have to contend with a consideration that did not exist to the same magnitude the last time that abortion was illegal in the US: anti-abortion laws’ impact on data privacy.
Texas Senate Bill 8 (“SB 8”), also known as “The Texas Heartbeat Act,” went into effect on September 1, 2021, banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy or after the fetus’s heartbeat has been detected. Additionally, it awards any civilian who successfully reports someone for aiding, abetting, or performing an abortion after the six-week mark with $10,000. The United States Supreme Court, as Justice Sotomayor described, “buried their heads in the sand” and decided not to comment on the abortion ban’s constitutionality under the guise of a technicality. Historically, abortion bans have been death penalties to many people seeking abortions and contribute up to thirteen percent of pregnancy-related deaths. Abortion bans do not reduce the number of abortions, but rather reduce the number of safe abortions while increasing avoidable deaths. Abortion bans work as a form of dangerous regulatory mechanisms that function as the state-sanctioned killing of poor people who are often Black, Brown, and indigenous who cannot travel outside the state to receive care.
On February 22, 2019, the Department of Health and Human Services submitted a final rule to the Federal Register, substantially altering existing guidelines for family planning programs’ reception of federal funds under Title X of the Public Health Service Act (PHS Act). Among other things, the new regulations prohibit qualifying programs from referring patients to abortion providers. Public statements from organizations such as Planned Parenthood suggest lawsuits for injunctive relief are imminent.
Roe v. Wade has been a controversial Supreme Court decision ever since it was decided in 1973. Critics have tried to overturn it multiple times over the years. Some states have attempted to circumvent the ruling and implement their own abortion laws, while other states have implemented laws to solidify it in the event the decision is overturned. On the 46th anniversary of the opinion, New York passed a new abortion law called the Reproductive Health Act, which has caused an uproar across the country. In addition, this month the Supreme Court ruled to stay on a Louisiana Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (“TRAP”) law. The question becomes how will states comply with the ruling of Roe v. Wade when its future seems unknown.