While the privileged and well-connected would still be able to nab private procedures from their physicians with a wink, or catch a plane to Chicago or New York City, Americans post-Roe would be living in a country where the fact of an unwanted pregnancy means either childbirth or risking arrest, not to mention their health and lives in the worst cases of illegal abortions, in some states. When the entirety of the Gulf Coast is abortion-free—a swath of land stretching from Texas through the Florida panhandle—or Midwesterners have to choose between Illinois or Minnesota for abortion care, unintended childbirth will jump to historically high levels. Abortion bans would exacerbate the already unaddressed issues of maternal mortality and child mortality, both of which the United States has the worst rates for among all developed nations. The real-life consequences of forced childbirth will become real for Americans for the first time since 1972.
If Roe is overturned in the United States, our current phase of post-Roe complacency will be seen not as a rational response to an era of secure reproductive rights, but as a warning sign. Disengaged abortion rights supporters might finally see the slow, steady erosion of abortion rights as symptomatic of a broader and ever-expanding suppression of reproductive rights, and they might finally understand why it is necessary to start addressing barriers to access due to race, class and geography, even when abortion is legal. Such a re-energized movement could prove powerful enough to reverse the rising red tide in state legislatures across the country. A new, more powerful abortion rights movement will certainly prove useful even after its advocates are able to restore the protections guaranteed by Roe v. Wade. Because, if history is any indication, it will only be a matter of time before opponents try to chip away at them again.