The First 100 Days
It's been roughly 100 days since Roe fell. Here's the devastating tally.
A little more than 100 days ago, a group of six reactionary far-right religious extremists, five of them appointed by presidents who lost the popular vote in their first term, stripped American women of our fundamental right to decide whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term. In doing so, they put us in league with some of the most conservative and misogynist nations in the world, set American women back a century, undermined their own legitimacy, and put the country squarely on the path to misogynist authoritarianism. Tremendous work all around.
66 abortion clinics have closed down.
Some 22 million American women — nearly one in three — lost access to abortion care in her state.
Zero of the states that have criminalized abortion have significantly scaled up support for women and the children they are forcing those women to bear.
Zero of the states that have banned abortion have passed paid parental leave policies that would enable women forced into motherhood to care for their infants.
And then, of course, there are the numbers no one’s counting, but that we know are ticking up:
How many rape victims have been told they have to bear their attacker’s child?
How many children raped by adults have been told they have to risk their lives and mortgage their futures because adults have decided, in so many different ways, that their small bodies are for someone else’s use?
How many women with much-wanted pregnancies learned that something had gone terribly wrong, and that their child would not live, or would be born with serious problems incompatible with life, and were nonetheless told, sorry, under the laws of this state you have to carry this pregnancy to term — and face the congratulations and belly-pats of strangers; go through the pain and trauma of childbearing; and then have a stillbirth, or watch a much-wanted child live a short, agonizing life?
How many women miscarrying pregnancies were not given a full range of options? How many were told to go home and wait it out, and only come back if they showed signs of a full-blown life-threatening infection? How many wound up in the ICU with infections that would have been preventable had they been given the option for a D&C? How many saw their fertility compromised or lost their uteruses?
And how many women aren’t in extreme circumstances but are just regular people who want, as most women around the world do, the right to chart their own course and decide their own future? How many women found out they were pregnant when they didn’t want to be and were told they are legally obligated to carry a pregnancy they don’t want, have a child they can’t afford, and narrow the aperture of their own dreams?
And then there are the costs we know we will pay in the future:
More people will die. It seems inevitable that some will die of unsafe abortions, but even if a DYI abortion with sticks or chemicals doesn’t kill a single person, childbirth is a deadly endeavor for women — far more dangerous than abortion. And so simply by virtue of forcing women to carry pregnancies to term that they would have otherwise ended, more women will die than would have if abortion were safe, legal, and available throughout the US. It’s also worth nothing that the same states with strict abortion bans are also among those with the highest maternal mortality numbers — these are the states in which women are already the most likely to die while giving life. And these states have just forced many more of them to gamble their lives in the name of “pro-life” politics.
Some of those people who die will be children and teenagers. We know already that pregnancy is the #1 leading killer of adolescent girls around the world. We know that when we force children to give birth, whether those children are 8 or 10 or 16, children die — and to be clear, the global anti-abortion movement and the Republican Party in the US have been clear that they believe children of all of these ages should indeed be forced to give birth.
Fewer women and girls will have the opportunity to go to college. We know that having a baby as a teenager radically decreases a girl’s chance of continuing her education. There is much we could do as a country to support more young mothers in pursuing higher education, but as things stand, having an infant or young child — if you’re a girl or a woman — is a huge impediment to getting a college degree.
Fewer women will succeed professionally. We know that abortion is one way that college-educated women maintain their toehold on the middle class: women with at least some college education are more likely to end a mistimed pregnancy than women with a high school degree or less. That’s a refection of money and access pre-Dobbs, but also of women in college or with a college degree correctly assessing that an unplanned and mistimed pregnancy with cost them.
More women will slide into poverty, or get stuck there. We also know that when women who are struggling financially get pregnant unintentionally and conclude that they cannot afford to have a child, they are usually right. Compared to women who were able to terminate pregnancies, women denied abortions are more likely, years later, to be living below the poverty line and reliant on welfare programs; they are both less likely to escape poverty and more likely to fall into it.
More women will be stuck in abusive relationships. Something else we know about women who are denied abortions: They are less likely than women who are able to terminate unwanted pregnancies to escape abusive partners, and are more likely to be tethered to them in the long term (which makes sense if you have a kid together).
More children will die. Anti-abortion states have among the highest rates of infant mortality in the nation. More forced pregnancies = more infants who never make it to their first birthdays.
More children will languish in poverty. Anti-abortion states are among the worst at supporting women and children, and already have among the highest rates of child poverty in the nation. More women who are forced to bear children they cannot afford means many more children who are poor, hungry, and struggling.
And finally, there’s the more amorphous stuff: The novels that won’t be written. The movies that won’t get made. The songs never sung, technologies never invented, innovations never dreamed up. When you take the reins of a woman’s life out of her hands, well — you take her life out of her hands; you slow her down; you steer her in a direction she didn’t choose. And we are all the worse off.
This is our new “pro-life” America. And it’s a pretty dark place.