Two Years After Dobbs, Women are Still Fighting to Reclaim Their Rights

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

In its Dobbs ruling two years ago this June, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Since then, abortion restrictions have had devastating effects not only on pregnant people but on our society more generally.

Abortion restrictions force poor women to travel out of state to seek care. This requires not only the funds to pay for the procedure, which can cost upwards of $1,300, but also the ability to take time off work, find accommodations, or locate child care.

Only one in three Americans can afford to pay an unexpected $400 expense without relying on credit cards or loans, so this is a tremendous hardship for most people. And beyond the up-front cost, denying reproductive services exacerbates existing inequalities — and risks lives.

The University of California’s Turnaway Study, which followed nearly 1,000 women for a decade, found that those denied an abortion were four times more likely than those who’d received one to be living in poverty years later.

Meanwhile, people of color are both more likely to seek abortions and to experience worse health outcomes in pregnancy and childbirth. Black women died from maternal causes at 2.6 times the rate of white women in 2022. For these women, forced birth can be a death sentence.

On a broader scale, maternity care has worsened since Roe was repealed.

For years, funding cuts have forced women’s health centers, a key source of reproductive care for low-income women, to close. But now, physicians themselves are being targeted by lawmakers for providing abortions, prompting many to flee their states altogether.

Those who remain fear prosecution for providing abortion care, even when it’s necessary for their patients’ health. According to a national survey, 68 percent of OBGYNs report that Dobbs hinders their ability to manage pregnancy-related emergencies.

In states where the only legal exception for abortion is the vague allowance to “save the life of the mother,” doctors are left unsure how much they can do — and their patients pay the price. In Idaho, some hospitals have resorted to flying patients out of state to receive medically necessary abortions, knowing that the trip alone wastes valuable time.

It’s not only doctors who don’t want to live in abortion-hostile states.

All over the country, teachersstudents, and workers are avoiding states with harsh abortion restrictions. One survey found that 45 percent of young people were likely to reject a job offer if it meant working in a state where abortion was illegal. All this compounds the direct economic damage of abortion restrictions.

But there’s a silver lining to this bleak story: Voters are fighting back.

This November, abortion-related issues will be on the ballot in as many as 10 states, including in Arkansas, Florida, Missouri,and South Dakota, where the procedure is currently banned. In other states — like Arizona, Colorado, Maryland, Montana, and Nevada — voters are working to expand and codify existing protections.

By fighting for abortion protections at the state level, we can work toward winning back some of the rights we’ve lost in the two years since Dobbs. Meanwhile, abortion funds are trying to mitigate the restrictions by helping pregnant individuals pay for their procedures, as well as travel costs when necessary.

Since Dobbs, abortion funds have steadily received less in donations, limiting their ability to help people. If you’re looking for a volunteer opportunity, consider donating your time and money to these funds that help those who need it most.

These harsh abortion bans are a war on all of us. But in the face of this new reality, we can still lift each other up to preserve not only the right to health care, but our ability to access it.

Georgia Jensen is a Henry Wallace Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.