The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Post-Roe, the human tragedies mount

Protesters wave signs and demonstrate in support of abortion access in front of a New Orleans courthouse on July 8. (Rebecca Santana/AP)

The human toll of denying abortion to people who want or need one can be, and often is, appalling. The state legislatures racing to impose sweeping abortion bans, enabled by the conservative Supreme Court majority that overturned Roe v. Wade in June, have done so despite abundant research on the devastating impact these policies have on Americans’ well-being and livelihoods. Now more evidence is emerging of the suffering they are already causing — for real women, real girls, real families and real lives.

In Louisiana, a woman whose fetus cannot survive outside the womb — it is missing the top of its skull, a fatal condition known as acrania — is now barred from ending her pregnancy in the state. “It’s hard, knowing that I’m carrying it to bury it, you know what I’m saying?” Nancy Davis told local news outlet WAFB-9.

The state’s draconian new antiabortion law, which took effect automatically after the Supreme Court overturned Roe, allows for some exceptions in rare cases, including to prevent death or devastating injury to the woman and if a pregnancy is “medically futile.” But acrania is not among the conditions that qualifies for an exception, according to a Louisiana Department of Health list. And doctors said other potentially deadly afflictions are also not listed.

Even though the health department said its list of exceptions is a work in progress and would be updated, it’s not clear that will happen in time for Ms. Davis. She is roughly 12 weeks pregnant and cares for three children at home, including a toddler. If Louisiana refuses an abortion, she would need to drive to Florida or another state to undergo the procedure, a trip that would be costly and time-consuming.

Other examples have emerged of the misery that harsh antiabortion laws, enabled by the court, are causing, and many more will continue to make headlines. Granted, similarly heart-wrenching cases were common enough even before the court’s decision, given the preexisting legal hurdles in some states. A 16-year-old girl in Florida is currently blocked from terminating her pregnancy by a judge’s determination that she is “not sufficiently mature” to do so — even though she has the consent of her legal guardian for the procedure to go ahead. That inane ruling — in the case of a girl recently traumatized by a friend’s death, and by her plausible account unready to care for a child — was also possible before Roe was overturned.

A landmark study by the University of California at San Francisco found that people unable to have abortions suffer from long-lasting economic struggles, including greater probability of eviction and bankruptcy, and of struggling to provide food, housing and transportation. They are also more prone to physical and mental health problems, and are more likely to end up raising a child alone.

The study, based on 1,000 women from 30 clinics who mirror the abortion-seeking population in the country, also concluded that children born as a result of an abortion’s denial are more likely to grow up in poverty than subsequent children born to the same woman.

Behind each of those findings is a human tragedy, to which court-emboldened antiabortion crusaders are apparently blind.

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