A wave of deaths from illegal abortions isn’t inconceivable. The Guttmacher Institute, in a 2017 report, noted that worldwide, “some 22,800–31,000 lives are unnecessarily lost each year” from abortion-related complications, with death rates far higher in “developing regions” because “countries that legally restrict abortion are concentrated in the developing world.” The case fatality rate in Africa was 141 per 100,000, whereas in America, it was less than 1 per 100,000. (In the year before Roe was decided, America suffered 39 deaths from illegal abortions.)
One devastating death transformed abortion rights in Ireland. The country banned abortion by referendum in 1983. In 2012, as reported by The New York Times, a 31-year-old dentist named Savita Halappanavar died from “an infection she contracted after she was denied an abortion during a miscarriage,” and “for many young Irish women, hers was the first tangible story of how the Eighth Amendment, which was introduced in 1983, could affect them.” Six years later, in another referendum, Ireland repealed the ban.
America’s goal should be to galvanize voters before someone dies from an illegal abortion. Any morally acceptable post-Roe strategy has to include support for organizations that help people access abortions no matter where they live.