Monday briefing: How the end of Roe v Wade has already transformed America

·10 min read
<span>Photograph: Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

Good morning. It took almost half a century to overturn Roe v Wade, the US supreme court decision that enshrined abortion as a constitutional right. But in the three days since the court’s new ruling was published, a settlement which Americans once assumed was permanent has been immediately shattered.

The conservative-majority court’s decision allows individual states to ban abortion for the first time since 1973. (For a summary of what it means, see this explainer by Jessica Glenza.) Like any supreme court ruling, the document published on Friday was long and complicated – but the consequences which flow from it are sweeping, and have proceeded at a pace which belies the court’s claimed solemnity.

Today’s newsletter takes you through how much has already changed in this sudden new American era. First, here are the headlines.

Five big stories

  1. Ukraine | Boris Johnson implored world leaders at the G7 summit to stand firm in their support of Ukraine, after reports that some countries could be persuaded by calls for Ukraine to relinquish control over some territory for peace.

  2. Monarchy | Prince Charles faced fresh controversy over the funding of his charities on Sunday, with calls for the government and the Charity Commission to investigate claims he accepted €3m in cash from a billionaire Qatari sheikh.

  3. Labour | Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy has said that the Labour party should refuse to back airline workers who are demanding a 10% pay rise. Unite, Labour’s biggest union donor, accused Lammy and Labour of launching a “direct attack” on workers.

  4. Conservatives | Boris Johnson claimed on Sunday that the record of his government was “remarkable” as he continued to brush aside internal criticism. But he sought to defuse a row triggered by his declaration that he intended to stay in office until the 2030s by saying he simply meant he was focused on his reform agenda.

  5. Brazil | The British journalist Dom Phillips has been laid to rest in Brazil, exactly three weeks after he was gunned down with the Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira while they journeyed through the Amazon together.

In depth: What’s happened since Roe was struck down?

Protesters gather following the supreme court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade on Friday.
Protesters gather following the supreme court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade on Friday. Photograph: Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP

***

In some states, abortion was banned the moment the court ruled

The picture in the immediate aftermath of the court’s decision was chaotic. But according to the pro-abortion rights research group the Guttmacher institute, 26 states were certain or likely to ban abortion as quickly as possible after the supreme court overturned Roe v Wade. In 10 of those states, “trigger laws” have already been enforced to outlaw abortion automatically or by rapid certification by officials, with three more expected within 30 days. Eight of those 13 only exclude cases where the mother’s life is in danger – with no exception for rape or incest.

Wisconsin and Michigan, two states with Democratic governors and public majorities in favour of abortion access, have antiquated laws on the books which could now come back into force – and Republican legislatures unwilling to repeal them. The laws – instituted in 1931 in Michigan and 1859 in Wisconsin – again make no exception for rape or incest.

Some states have promised to protect the right to an abortion. Lawmakers in California are expected to enact a new constitutional amendment protecting reproductive rights today. But anti-abortion activists are already turning towards a larger goal: a national, constitutional amendment banning abortion completely.

***

Abortion providers in many states have suspended services or closed completely

The New Yorker’s Stephania Taladrid was in an abortion clinic in Houston, Texas, at the moment the supreme court ruling was published. Staff wept, hugged, and broke the news to patients in the waiting room. “Mi amor, the supreme court just ruled that abortion is banned in Texas,” Ivy, a supervisor, told one woman. “We cannot assist you.” By the end of the day, the clinic had closed.

Chabeli Carrazana reported for the 19th and the Guardian on another clinic in Fort Worth, Texas, where people cried, screamed, and begged for help when they heard the news. In Arizona, where there is confusion over the standing of a 1901 ban, Planned Parenthood halted procedures at all seven of its clinics. Clinics also closed in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wisconsin. (This piece sets out some ways to support abortion access in the new climate, including donating to help keep such clinics open.)

One study produced in advance of the decision estimated that at least 100,000 women would be unable to secure an abortion within the first year of a ban, and 75,000 would give birth as a result. The closest abortion provider to New Orleans is now in Illinois, more than 800 miles away.

Providers are trying to minimise this gap by bringing abortion as close to abortion ban states as possible. Planned Parenthood is renting office space in an Oregon town on the border with Idaho. Another organisation, Just The Pill, is organising mobile clinics to come to state borders.

***

Demand for abortion pills has spiked

One significant change in the half-century since Roe v Wade is the rise of “medication abortion” through pills. They accounted for more than 50% of US abortions in 2020, according to the Guttmacher Institute. President Joe Biden said he would protect access to those drugs in the aftermath of Friday’s ruling.

Just The Pill said that orders quadrupled on Friday alone, the New York Times reported. Abortion rights advocacy group Plan C meanwhile told the Daily Beast that it had fielded 100 inquiries from clinicians interested in prescribing abortion pills.

The delivery of drugs by post is likely to be difficult for anti-abortion states to completely stop, but legitimate providers will be subject to strict regulation, and their use will be limited by fears of the ramifications of a hospital visit for those using them illegally.

The haziness of the legal picture over abortion pills is likely to create one of the major flashpoints in the post-Roe era. “We haven’t been in a situation where the FDA has approved a drug as safe and effective and you can use it legally in one state without any problem and then in another state it’s banned,” Alina Salganicoff, of the Kaiser Family Foundation, told NBC.

***

The legitimacy of the supreme court is more threatened than ever

It was one thing to hear progressives argue, as senator and former presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren did, that the supreme court has “burned whatever legitimacy they may still have had”, or, as representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, that the court now “has a legitimacy crisis” with “7 of the 9 justices appointed by a party that hasn’t won a popular vote more than once in 30 years”.

More alarming for defenders of the court were the interventions of pro-choice Republican Susan Collins and conservative pro-choice Democrat Joe Manchin, who said that they were misled by Trump appointees Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch. Kavanaugh and Gorsuch claimed they would not overturn Roe in public and (according to notes produced by Collins) private statements before Senate votes on their appointment to the court.

Meanwhile, a snap poll conducted by CBS found that Americans disapprove of the decision by a near-20 point margin. And as David Smith notes in this piece, those saying they have faith in the court has dropped to a historic low of 25%.

Whatever the status of the court, though, many progressives said that they viewed its future as – for now – a secondary concern. “There’s nothing sacrosanct about nine members of the United States supreme court, but that is a long term question,” Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams told CNN yesterday. “What we have to focus on right now is the danger that this decision presents to women … across the country.”

What else we’ve been reading

  • Tabitha Lasley’s memoir of cocaine use in the chicken shop where she used to work is a corrective to the idea the drug is a solely middle-class indulgence. “Everyone takes drugs, all the time,” she writes. “They’re part of the civic culture.” Archie

  • Hope is not some naive luxury in the face of the supreme court ruling on Roe v Wade, writes Rebecca Traister, in this clarion piece for The Cut: it is a “tactical necessity”. “While it is incumbent on us to digest the scope and breadth of the badness,” she writes, “it is equally our responsibility not to despair.” Archie

  • The rail strikes have disrupted many people’s lives, but Kenan Malik argues that most people understand why unions have decided to strike, adding that, despite significant decline in the last few decades, unions still play a significant role in making the UK a fairer place to live and work. Nimo

  • In his parenting column, Séamas O’Reilly writes about the conversations he’s been having with his highly inquisitive four-year-old. Nimo

  • Charlotte Higgins, the Guardian’s chief culture writer, had never been to Glastonbury: she likes the Proms, Glyndebourne, and functioning sewers. Her first-time dispatch is a joy: Glasto, she concludes, is “either a highly advanced form of civilisation, or the opposite”. Archie

Sport

Cricket | England are on the verge of a 3-0 series win against New Zealand after Ollie Pope and Joe Root led their side to 183-2 in pursuit of 296 after Jack Leach took five wickets. Meanwhile, England’s one-day captain Eoin Morgan is understood to be considering retirement.

Tennis | Emma Raducanu will make her centre court debut as Wimbledon gets underway on Monday, playing against grass court veteran Alison Van Uytvanck. Andy Murray will also play on centre court.

Football | Gabriel Jesus is poised to join Arsenal from Manchester City after agreeing personal terms on a five-year deal. The striker will move for a fee of £45m following an agreement between the two clubs.

The front pages

The Guardian’s lead story is “Do not give ground on Ukraine, PM tells leaders” and the FT also goes with the latest from the summit in Germany: “G7 aims to hurt Russian war chest with price cap on crude exports”. The Telegraph has “Biden to block PM’s answer to food crisis” while “Leaders seek united front away from turmoil at home” is the splash in the i paper. The housing market is the lead in the Express – “Rush to cash in on homes before ‘crash’” – and the Mail focuses on scammers: “Britain is £3bn fraud capital of the world”. The Mirror’s lead is “True horror of NHS dentist crisis” while the Sun picks up the latest royal travails: “Charles ‘cash in bag’ probe”.

Today in Focus

Gustavo Petro.
Gustavo Petro. Photograph: Fernando Vergara/AP

Can Colombia’s first leftwing president deliver change?

Gustavo Petro has been elected as the Latin American country’s first leftist leader. But he faces a huge challenge if he is to deliver on his promises, says Joe Parkin Daniels

Cartoon of the day | Nicola Jennings

The Upside

A bit of good news to remind you that the world’s not all bad

Dr Laura Marshall-Andrews (above) loves her job as a general practitioner, but she is acutely aware of the crisis gripping GP clinics across the country. To try and make a difference in one clinic, Marshall-Andrews decided to include different methods for her patients, offering dance classes, art and foraging, for holistic treatments that try to improve people’s quality of life more generally.

Marshall-Andrew argues that social prescribing reduces pressure on the NHS, citing a study that showed that every £1 spent on arts in health saves the NHS £11. “People, I realised, are not textbooks.” Marshall-Andrew says, “they are far more complicated than that, and far more interesting.”

Sign up here for a weekly roundup of The Upside, sent to you every Sunday

Bored at work?

And finally, the Guardian’s crosswords to keep you entertained throughout the day – with plenty more on the Guardian’s Puzzles app for iOS and Android. Until tomorrow.

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