After Roe #PeterAltschul #abortion #politics #healthWorld

After Roe #PeterAltschul #abortion #politics #healthWorld


After Roe

Peter Altschul, MS Copyright 2021

September 2, 2021

I have adapted the following essay from one of the same name in my book Riding Elephants: Creating Common Ground Where Contention Rules (2021).

In late January 1973, the United States Supreme Court legalized abortion through the Roe v. Wade decision, resulting in endless acrimony that has settled into predictable channels.

Not for long, for once Roe is overturned or made irrelevant, each state will be able to decide how it wants to address abortion. Some will make it illegal, some will mandate varying degrees of restrictions, and a few will maintain the status quo.

According to friends who attended college in the 1950s and 1960s, wealthy women wanting abortions either traveled to Europe or had the procedure done in a hospital. Those with less money often resorted to coat hangers, poisons, and other life–endangering procedures.

“But surely you and your friends engaged in less unsafe sex back then?” I would ask.

After a certain amount of genial laughter, my pre–Roe contacts regaled me with stories about illicit affairs, sudden disappearances of their pregnant friends who would return not pregnant, and how sometimes their female friends were kicked out of school while their sex partners were allowed to stay.

How many abortions took place annually prior to Roe?

I’ve seen figures ranging from 100,000 to 1.3 million, but no one knows for certain. It was difficult to keep accurate statistics for a procedure that was both illegal and frowned upon.

These pre–Roe patterns will reemerge if Roe is overturned. On steroids. For those women wanting abortions who live in no–abortion states, some might decide to carry their baby to term, some might travel to states with more liberal abortion policies, and some might resort to more dangerous methods.

Providers in abortion–lenient states might market their services to women in no–abortion states through on–air and social media campaigns. Foundations might be established to assist women with little money to get that abortion done in semi–legal safety.

Technology will make the abortion process less invasive. Pills now exist to terminate a pregnancy, though their side-effects can be fatal. The overturning of Roe will encourage entrepreneurs to create something that will allow women with unwanted pregnancies to bypass the traditional abortion swamp more safely. Just take those pills. Or put some contraption near the womb. No worries. Federal and state government leaders might try to intervene, but our experience with illicit drugs suggests that businesspeople will create and distribute products despite government huffing and puffing if enough money can be made.

Pro–life activists will build upon their current strategies: protests, prayer vigils, crisis pregnancy centers, and proposing legislation to prevent those at–home remedies. More ominously, they might build on actions taken in Tennessee, Arkansas, ,Wisconsin,1 Montana2, and most recently in Texas, charging women with felonies for using drugs that endanger the life of their unborn child or subsidizing people to sue those who support those women who choose to terminate their pregnancies.

How will the number of abortions change? No one will know for certain, but all activists will weaponize any available statistics.

Pro–life and pro–choice advocates might remember that a woman experiencing an unplanned pregnancy often feels alone, alienated, and unsupported. They could ponder that, according to Karlyn Bowman, a polling expert at the American Enterprise Institute, a majority of people in 2015 thought that abortion was murder and that it should still be legal. They could look toward Europe for answers, where abortions, teen pregnancies, and the surrounding rancor are all lower.

In 1998, I became part of a project that encouraged pro–life and pro–choice activists across the United States to dialogue and, whenever possible, work together to address abortion–related issues: preventing teen pregnancy, encouraging parents to communicate better about the connection between love and sex, promoting adoption, and creating conditions where abortions are less likely to take place.

Could this cooperative energy be harnessed again to encourage some joint action? If not, overturning Roe v. Wade will cause the current hostility to morph from one dreary battle fought in predictable channels to 50 battles that will interact in unpredictable ways, perhaps resulting in real bloodshed.

After all, pro–life activists have compared abortion to the Holocaust and slavery.

Both of which resulted in carnage.

{Heading 3} Notes




  1. Thanks for sharing this interesting post, Patty.

    1. You’re welcome. Peter is a guest writer for Patty’s Worlds.
      Thanks for reading and for commenting to let us know you did.

  2. Thanks for reading; reactions welcomed.

    1. Hi Peter, you’ve a reader who has already commented.

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