After Roe, we determine what comes next

May 4, 2022

On a quiet Monday evening when the country was distracted by Met Gala fashion, POLITICO reported leaked information indicating the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade this term. This ruling would be an earthquake of sorts with far-reaching social and political impacts for decades to come. Provided this does happen, the work to undo the harm caused by this will likely be a long game that spans generations

When I heard the news, I immediately thought of Sarah Weddington. As a young feminist activist on my college campus, I went to see a speech by Weddington, the attorney who, at age 26, had successfully represented “Jane Roe” before the Supreme Court in her very first legal case. Roe v. Wade landed in 1973, the year after my mom graduated from college. I’ve talked to my mom about what happened when her classmates needed abortion care, as she started college in 1968 and abortion was illegal in New York until 1970. Young people she knew had to cross state lines to get an abortion, traveling hundreds of miles to states like Maryland only to meet a stranger in a dirty hotel room for a hasty procedure they hoped was safe. For those who could not afford travel costs, she remembers students collecting money to support one another.

For low-income people during this time, especially those lacking the support networks a college campus provided, unintended pregnancy could mean injury, death, or deeper poverty for those forced to carry a pregnancy to term. The Guttmacher Institute reports: “Even in the early 1970s, when abortion was legal in some states, a legal abortion was simply out of reach for many. [Women of color] suffered the most: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that in 1972 alone, 130,000 women obtained illegal or self-induced procedures, 39 of whom died. Furthermore, from 1972 to 1974, the mortality rate due to illegal abortion for nonwhite women was 12 times that for white women.” Back then, some states also restricted contraception access to married women only. It’s distressing to think that older generations who remember these harsh realities will soon witness the post-Roe era.

For years, there have been warning signs, namely in the form of conservatives tiptoeing around abortion in their communication during and between elections while cementing an anti-abortion majority on the Supreme Court. While working at Alliance for Justice during the George W. Bush years, I witnessed this firsthand. My work there involved engaging a broad range of advocates in target states around lobby visits, letter-writing, U.S. Senate call-in days, and press conferences in opposition to the nominations of John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. More broadly, our messaging sought to inspire progressives to regard federal judicial nominations with the same eyes-on-the-prize mentality that conservatives did. In 2020, right after Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett was sworn in, I signed up as a Practical Support Volunteer with ACCESS Reproductive Justice, my local abortion fund. The role entails providing direct, on-call support to people seeking abortion in the Bay Area. Yes, that’s right: even in California, formidable barriers to abortion exist. Roe has never guaranteed complete access. Yet as a blue-state millennial, I think many of us simply came to take Roe for granted as we entered adulthood. It didn’t help that many talking heads called it “settled law” time after time. As the Supreme Court now seems prepared to touch the third rail of American politics, it’s admittedly hard to know what will come next. All we can know for sure is what’s required of us.

At Resource Media, we’re stalwart supporters of abortion, health equity, and bodily autonomy. We’re proud of our work with organizations like If/When/How, spreading the word about the Repro Legal Helpline and self-managed abortion and helping young people get abortion care without parental involvement through Judicial Bypass Wiki. Our target audiences are often intimidated, are now under attack, and are not sure who they can safely talk to about the care they need. They’re also brave, well-connected, and passionate advocates who navigate intersectional identities and stand for justice. Our work to reach both audiences has involved creating multilingual ads, working with TikTok influencers, and pointing people to online resources. As we catapult toward a post-Roe era, it’s important to remember that self-managed abortion is a safe and trusted option now, and we must work to protect and preserve that right.  

We’re ready to step up as an organization in the way this crisis demands. As individuals, I know we’ll also show up personally in our communities, supporting community care and mutual aid efforts, contacting our lawmakers, voting in every election, donating to abortion funds, and hitting the streets in protest. Especially for men, but for all of us – this is a time to get loud in a way that makes it infeasible for elected officials to remain neutral. As a part of the media ecosystem, Resource Media will also encourage reporters to accurately cover what is happening and tell the stories of real people navigating a post-Roe landscape.
We’re in awe of the savvy, resourceful reproductive justice organizers who have been diligently preparing for this moment for years now, as well as the abortion providers who risk it all to provide lifesaving care. We know that low-income people and communities of color, and everyone living in the U.S. states that are likely to fully rescind abortion access, have the heaviest burden on their shoulders. We know that a time of upheaval often means we can bend narratives more quickly, meaning we can actually determine what comes next rather than waiting to see how politicians and voters react. We also know that most people are on our side and that turbulence breeds innovation, so we’re unapologetically committed to the struggle ahead.

— Marla Wilson, Senior Program Director