Columbia Law’s Carol Sanger on SCOTUS’ abortion ruling, and when a right becomes a crime

Life for women of reproductive age in the post-Roe era is about to be played under strict new rules.

For the last 50 years, American women have been secure in the protections of Roe v. Wade, a name recognized around the world. Roe held that the constitutional right to privacy included a woman’s right to choose abortion.

That was a good moment. Women could shape their reproductive lives with regards to the timing of pregnancy, the number of children, or whom they wanted to have children with.

But those days are over.

Columbia Law professor Carol Sanger. CBS NEWS

On Friday, in a case called Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the current Court reversed Roe. What has been a common medical procedure is now, in various states around the country, a crime, subject to surveillance and prosecution like other crimes.

This brings new uncertainties: Can an abortion-banning state punish women who travel to a legal state for the procedure? Can a woman receive abortion pills through the mail? And who should be punished for violating abortion bans? DoctorsWomen themselves? Or, as in Texas, anyone who helped at all?

Dobbs also invites a new era of woman-shaming. The stigma some women felt under Roe will be intensified: there is no longer the claim that they are simply exercising a protected right.

Poor women particularly will confront the calamity of unwanted pregnancies, with greater expenses, distances and logistics.

But here, poor women are not alone. All women now face the imminent removal of an established and cherished right, touching on the most intimate aspects of family life.

In the over 230 years since the adoption of the Bill of Rights, American women have worked hard to expand our rights as women. Now, a big one that woman have relied on for nearly 50 years has been taken away.


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