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Opinion | Abortion Bans Will Affect Americans Rich and Poor

But the wealthiest are in for some unpleasant surprises when it comes to abortion. The scenarios where a woman needs an abortion include medical emergencies where any delay in treatment can have severe, even fatal consequences — and in those circumstances abortion pills obtained by mail won’t help. One in 50 pregnancies in the United States are ectopic pregnancies, for example, where a fertilized egg implants outside the uterus. The embryo must be removed, and delaying that treatment can result in sepsis, internal bleeding and death. Placental abruptions must be addressed immediately to avoid extensive bleeding, renal failure and even, in some instances, death. Any woman who finds herself in either of these scenarios is not going to be able to pack her bags and go for a long drive. Even for someone with the means, an airlift to a medical facility in another state may not be quick enough to save her. She will need to be treated locally and immediately. Some of the bans going into effect around the country include medical exceptions for these situations, but if there’s any ambiguity about what the law allows, the time it takes a medical professional to consult a lawyer may be the difference between life and death.

Some states are expected to try to ban interstate travel for abortions. Bans in Texas and Oklahoma leave room for that possibility. Planned Parenthood’s Montana branch has reportedly decided that it will no longer provide medication abortions for patients from certain states where bans are in effect or in the works, citing the “rapidly changing” legal landscape. It’s also clear that many Republicans view the Roe reversal as an inroad to a total federal ban. If they gain electoral victories in 2024, this is a very likely outcome, and in that case there will be no blue state abortion clinics to travel to. Even now, the lines and waiting times at abortion clinics in safe haven states are likely to get very long.

Many people also assume the wealthy can always find a local doctor willing to perform an abortion, even in a state where it has become illegal. This seems unlikely. While some providers did flout the law and provide women with abortions before Roe in 1973, the ubiquity of digital surveillance and other mechanisms for violating the privacy of women seeking abortions have made it far more difficult for them to do so privately and safely. Trigger laws are already forcing medical professionals to consult lawyers before they provide care, and laws that criminalize abortion leave health care workers with little incentive to violate them. When faced with the prospect of prosecution or losing a medical license, how many doctors will take this risk, even when money is offered? Meanwhile, anti-choice conservatives are already working to make it harder to access abortion pills.

Some believe abortion bans won’t affect them because they’ll never find themselves in need of an abortion. Conservatives might imagine the typical woman who needs one fits an archetype: poor, single, liberal, promiscuous, anti-family and irresponsible. But most women who get abortions are already mothers (60 percent). Nearly half of abortion seekers live below the poverty line, but a significant portion are not poor. (Women with higher incomes have more access to contraception, but that dynamic might change if the Supreme Court follows through on Justice Clarence Thomas’s suggestion to revisit earlier rulings, including the right to contraception.) Conservative families also include teenagers and young women whose privacy, autonomy and ability to seek medical care, regardless of whether their parents approve, will be severely compromised by abortion bans.

The reality is that women from every demographic need abortions. Well-off conservative women are not immune to contraception failures, gynecological emergencies, miscarriages, incest or rape. Many women find that despite their beliefs, carrying a pregnancy to term is just not something they can go through with, for a range of reasons. Pregnancy itself can be life-threatening for women with certain pre-existing medical conditions, and even for women who don’t have those risks, it is life-altering. The kind of person who might need or want an abortion is, put simply, any person capable of getting pregnant.

Women will die because of this — disproportionately poor and middle-class women, but not just poor and middle-class women. Rich women could just as easily suffer and die too — even those who think they would never need an abortion, or that they would never be denied essential medical care in the United States of America in 2022.

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