Civil Liberties


Life After Roe


If Roe v. Wade were reversed tomorrow, what would America look like? As the Center for Reproductive Rights noted in a September 2004 report, many states still have laws on the books that could reinstate abortion restrictions immediately upon a reversal of Roe. Others would be quick to pass new ones.

But the practical effect on women might be less dramatic than it first appears. A 2000 study found that, for better or worse, 87 percent of U.S. counties–and the vast majority of nonmetropolitan counties–lack even a single abortion provider. For about a third of reproductive-age women, ending an unwanted pregnancy already requires a long trip.

Reversing Roe could also have counterintuitive political effects. As Benjamin Wittes noted recently in The Atlantic, Republicans now enjoy the best of both worlds: They can use the abortion issue to mobilize a hard-core pro-life base while not actually being obliged to enact the politically unpopular restrictions those groups would demand. Without the cover provided by Roe, many red governors of blue states might find themselves nostalgic for the old days.

Chart: Projected Status of Abortion Rights Absent Roe (by State) (not available online)

Source: Center for Reproductive Rights