After the vote between Roe and Wade, access to contraception could come under scrutiny

Last night, Politico received a first draft majority opinion from Justice Samuel Alito, revealing that the Supreme Court ruled Roe v. Wade will likely knock down. If Alito’s point of view prevails, abortion will immediately be illegal in the 18 states that already have full or near-complete abortion bans. The wording of Alito’s statement has some experts concerned that access to contraceptives could continue to be restricted in the future.

Previous debates on abortion rights have typically concerned the rights of the unborn fetus. Roe v. Wade granted American women the right to abortion in the first two trimesters of pregnancy, with some restrictions in the second trimester. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992, the court overturned this trimester framework in favor of a feasibility study. In other words, abortions could be restricted if the fetus could survive outside the womb.

The difference with current opinion is that the debate is no longer about the rights of the fetus. Instead, Alito’s rationale for toppling Roe stems from the fact that abortion is not mentioned in the Constitution. “The Constitution does not relate to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision,” writes Alito. His argument is why some are suggesting contraception rights could be next.

On The Rachel Maddow Show, constitutional scholar and Congressman Jamie Raskin explained that the original Roe decision was based on a 1965 Supreme Court case, Griswold v. Connecticut, which struck down a law banning contraception. In this case, the Supreme Court said individuals have a right to privacy over confidential decisions.

“We know there is a right wing war on contraception now, but if Casey is to fall if Roe v. Wade should fall, then Griswold v. Connecticut falls because the word ‘contraception’ or ‘birth control‘ is not in the constitution. In fact, the phrase “right to privacy” does not appear in the Constitution. So that seems like an invitation to have Handmaid’s Tale-style anti-feminist regulations and laws across the country,” Raskin told Maddow.

Not only does Raskin believe that access to contraception is at risk, others are weighing. Congresswoman Barbara Lee, in a tweet originally written on April 25 but wrote, retweeted after Politico’s report: “PSA: If Roe falls, your constitutional right to birth control is also at risk. It was never just about abortion. It’s about controlling and criminalizing our bodies.”

And on April 4, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed legislation Monday codifying abortion and contraception rights in the state. It seems unlikely that contraceptives would be included unless the state braced itself for the possibility that the US Supreme Court could also overturn access to birth control.

Giving women access to family planning is not just a family issue, it impacts women’s careers and incomes. Harvard economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz assessed the impact of birth control on women’s careers. They write: “In 1960, 18.4% of the working population were women, as were 4.7% of the ‘high-performance jobs’. By 1998, 36.4% of the workforce and 25.1% of the high-level subgroup were women.” The researchers attribute much of this increase to women’s access to birth control pills. They argue that access to reliable contraception gives women the opportunity to invest in their education and careers. They write, “The ratio of women to men in professional programs began its rapid ascent in 1970, just as the first pill cohorts were graduating from college.” These economists say there is another factor likely affecting these advances for women as well has access to abortion.

Another study found a direct link between access to contraceptives and a woman’s salary. Women who had access to legal contraception from the age of 18 to 21 earned 5% more per hour and 11% more per year by age 40. The study’s authors again suggest that access to contraceptives such as the pill allows women to delay having children, allowing them to invest more in their education and career choices.

We don’t know what the court’s final ruling will be, but if it looks like the leaked draft then it represents a major setback to women’s rights and the advancement of women in the workplace.

Comments are closed.