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Reversal Roe vs. Wade could have implications for more than access to abortion; medical and legal experts say this could open the door to restrictions on other types of reproductive health care.
“To say we are extremely concerned would, I think, be an understatement,” said Dr. Kavita Arora, chair of the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists Ethics Committee.
Arora said the decision could have far-reaching implications for other types of care, including birth control, emergency contraception known as Plan B, trans-affirming healthcare and fertility treatments. such as in vitro fertilization, which can produce remnant embryos.
“It threatens our ability to care for patients on a daily basis,” Arora said.
Most types of birth control prevent a sperm from fertilizing an egg. But as a second line of defence, she said some can prevent an already fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus – considered the start of a pregnancy.
“By changing the definition of when pregnancy begins right at the time of fertilization, it would compromise our ability to provide access to really, really effective birth control methods like the copper IUD,” Arora said.
Some opponents of abortion rights consider these devices “life ending” because of the possibility that implantation may be interrupted.
Kristan Hawkins is president of anti-abortion rights groups Students for Life of America, which lobbies for state and federal legislation to recognize that human life begins “at conception.” Her group considers certain devices and pills that can prevent implantation of a fertilized egg to be “mislabeled” as contraception – a position at odds with the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, which defines pregnancy as beginning at the implantation.
“I think lawmakers should be able to have the right to decide and investigate if there are devices, if there are chemicals that are ending the lives of their citizens in their state,” Hawkins said. .
In an interview last week, Hawkins denied that birth control was at the center of his movement – and called the notion a “scare tactic”.
Some Republican leaders, including an Idaho state legislator, have expressed openness to entertaining questions about the safety of contraceptives, which are tested by federal regulators before they hit the market.
Last week, a Louisiana state legislator proposed a bill that would classify abortion as homicide – from the moment of fertilization.
On CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday, when host Jake Tapper asked Republican Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves about the bill in his neighboring state, Reeves declined to rule out support for similar legislation, saying only, “That’s not what we’re focused on right now.”
Under Roe, the right to abortion is guaranteed by the right to privacy. This is also part of the rationale for Griswold v. Connecticut in 1965, which recognized a right to contraception for married people – and eventually, for everyone else.
In its draft opinion on the important abortion case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization who leaked to Politico last week, Judge Samuel Alito argued that abortion is different from other rights, like contraception and marriage, because it destroys fetal life.
But Khiara M. Bridges, a law professor at the University of California-Berkeley, said Alito’s originalist vision of the Constitution offers no guarantee that women’s rights will be protected.
“Because women weren’t part of the body politic, rights that are important to people who can get pregnant are simply not contemplated by the Constitution,” Bridges said. “The framers of the Constitution didn’t care much about the concerns of women, what they needed to be fully human in society.”
If the court is prepared to strike down long-standing precedent like Roe, Bridges said, it’s impossible to predict what other rights might also be at stake.