Breaking down SCOTUS’ decision on Roe v. Wade, possible statewide impacts
The U.S. Supreme Court has eliminated federal abortion protections, but Nevadans enshrined statewide abortion access in a 1990 voter referendum. KUNR’s Bert Johnson sat down with Emily Hobson, chair of the Gender, Race and Identity department at UNR, to talk about what the ruling could mean for the state.
Bert Johnson: Emily, thank you so much for joining us.
Emily Hobson: Thank you for having me.
Johnson: Here in Nevada, abortion access is protected by state law, but that doesn’t always mean everyone who wants an abortion can get one. How do factors like race, class, gender identity and immigration status play into this?
Hobson: It’s a great question. There’s a long history of kind of cascading restrictions on access to abortion that have played out. So, for example, the Hyde Amendment, which was enacted in 1977, restricts abortion coverage for federally funded health care. People who are on Medicaid and Medicare, people who receive health care through Indian Health Services, people who are either active in the military or receive health care benefits through the VA – none of those sources will fund abortion services, except in very limited cases.
It also affects, of course, people who are in immigrant detention facilities or in federal prison. And then more generally, abortion remains expensive, and varying kinds of layers of political attacks on abortion access mean that it is increasingly challenging and intimidating for healthcare providers to provide abortion which restricts access to big cities.
Johnson: How do you expect the Supreme Court’s decision to impact marginalized groups in Nevada?
Hobson: I think that it’s certainly possible that many people will hear about the Supreme Court decision and not necessarily hear that Nevada is still one of those states with a legal right to abortion. So, I think that people who are not able to access that information will be particularly affected and may simply assume that they no longer have access. Also, given that more and more people from states that will enact restrictions – Idaho, for example, or other states in the Mountain West – those lines to access care will get longer.
Johnson: The current debate around abortion access in the United States is very different than it was in the past. For example, this wasn’t a major concern for evangelical voters until the 1970s. So, what changed? What are the historical roots of the anti-abortion movement?
Hobson: This is not a kind of issue that is detached from questions around access to equal education, the privatization of education, attacks on voting rights, or the growth of white nationalist movements, for example. These are interrelated forces.
Now, that's not to say that everyone who has been opposed to abortion believes in all of those things, but all of those different kinds of political strands have been organized together. And in many ways, I would say that some of the roots of the anti-choice movement are in reaction to Roe v. Wade and to the changing sexual, gender and racial norms that helped to secure the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.
One of the places to really look for the roots of the anti-choice movement is in those groups that began to directly attack abortion-care providers and clinics.
Johnson: Protections for abortion access in the Roe v. Wade decision were based on privacy rights in the Constitution. That’s also the basis for decisions that allow gay marriage and birth control, for example. What are the potential implications this most recent decision could have for communities whose rights are guaranteed using the same constitutional logic?
Hobson: This is a great question, and I think [about] both privacy and due process. Justice Clarence Thomas pointed to that in his concurrence on the Dobbsdecision: that decisions using due-process criteria should all be reevaluated. Those specifically are the 1965 Griswold ruling that grants married couples the right to access contraception — this is not even just anyone the right to access contraception, it is specifically a ruling about married couples’ rights to access contraception — and then Lawrence v. Texas is the 2003 Supreme Court ruling overturning laws against sodomy. And Obergefell is, of course, the ruling around same-sex marriage.
The dialogue that is going on is certainly one about really envisioning very serious restrictions on a whole host of personal decisions that very much affect women, LGBTQ people, and people whose sexual and gender behaviors are outside of an extremely limited, theocratically-envisioned Christian — and broadly white nationalist — agenda, to be candid.
Johnson: Well, Emily, thank you so much for joining us to talk about this today.
Hobson: Thank you so much for having me.
This conversation aired on KUNR FM on Friday, June 24.
The photo included in this story is licensed under Flickr Creative Commons.