When lawmakers in Alabama, Georgia, Missouri, Ohio, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Kentucky passed legislation this year effectively ending all or most abortions in their states, it seemed to confirm what many Americans, pro-choice and anti-abortion alike, have long anticipated: The post-Roe era is coming. What would that new landscape look like? For those who protested the new laws with red cloaks and coat hangers, it’s a nightmarish mashup of the dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale and the bad old days of back-alley abortions. Meanwhile, the president of Americans United for Life scoffs at such “ominous warnings,” insisting that “women can, and will, flourish in a society that does not constitutionalize abortion on demand.”
This moment has been a long time coming, the result of a steadily building backlash against choice. Roe v. Wade was decided on January 22, 1973; the effort to undo it began soon after with a proposed constitutional amendment declaring the fetus a person. Since then, states have enacted more than 1,200 restrictions on abortion—more than a third of them since 2010—casting them as measures to protect women’s health, parental rights, or religious freedom. President Donald Trump’s appointments to the Supreme Court have provided an opening for anti-choice activists to solidify these gains and strike directly at Roe through a favorable ruling on an anti-abortion statute.
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