The Body Politic: Rebecca Traister
New York magazine|April 11-24, 2022
The Last Days of Roe: Republicans are ready for the end of legal abortion. Are Democrats?
Rebecca Traister

AS WE SPEED toward this summer’s Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, and with it the likely overturn of Roe v. Wade, there is a lot of bad news coming from states rushing to pass ever-more-totalitarian restrictions on those who seek abortion care.

Following the lead of Texas, which last fall passed a six-week ban that deputizes citizens to sue anyone who helps a patient get an abortion, Missouri Republicans in March proposed a law that would authorize citizens to sue anyone who assists a person traveling out of state to terminate a pregnancy.

And as if Republicans’ creative decision to sample the Fugitive Slave Act wasn’t chilling enough, April began with the sudden and terrible passage of a near-total ban on abortion in Oklahoma, one that would put abortion providers at risk of a ten-year prison sentence. The law is an especially gutting blow since Oklahoma was the state that, since September 2021, had been the primary refuge to those abortion seekers able to make it out of Texas.

Oklahoma is among the 21 states that, according to the Guttmacher Institute, have laws that could be used to restrict the legal status of abortion as soon as Roe falls. Some of those laws date back to before Roe was decided in 1973; others have been crafted in anticipation of its expected reversal. Many of these states are grouped together in the South and Midwest, creating a geographic nightmare for people who need abortion care. Every single state that can preserve its access will become a crucial destination.

In the chaos of this imminent and inhumane catastrophe, it’s been pretty hard to find political leaders who have any fresh ideas about how to proceed. An exception may be Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer, who on April 7 announced that she was doing something new—something aggressive, risky, and proactive—about protecting abortion access in her big and important midwestern swing state.

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