DAVOS, Switzerland (CBS News) – Nearly 50 years after abortion was legalized in the United States, a wave of restrictions, bans and court cases have made the future of abortion access less certain than ever.
Wednesday marks the 47th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide. While attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Planned Parenthood acting president Alexis McGill Johnson spoke with CBS News in an exclusive interview about the state of abortion access in the United States.
“Here we are talking about the fourth industrial revolution and yet we are still talking about the impact of all of these onerous restrictions and bans on access to safe and legal abortion in the States,” Johnson said on Wednesday morning. “I think there’s a perfect illustration of this, is the idea that there’s actually a tale of two cities right now, the idea that … in one state there’s a girl who’s literally opening up her imagination, her ability to think about her future in a totally different way, and in another state and city she’s actually fighting just to get access to basic, basic health care.”
This year could prove to be a landmark year for abortion access. In March, the Supreme Court will hear arguments for June Medical Services v. Gee — the first time it will hear a case on abortion practices since the addition of the high court’s two new conservative justices, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
“We’re already living in a world where there are abortion deserts, where it’s difficult to access. When you layer on this case, which, if it doesn’t overturn Roe will have the impact of … effectively gutting Roe, the work that we have to do is really push back,” Johnson said.”
At the center of June Medical Services v. Gee is Act 620, Louisiana’s “Unsafe Abortion Protection Act,” a 2014 state law not currently in effect. Similar to a Texas law that was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2016, Louisiana’s law requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital no more than 30 miles away. If the law is allowed to be implemented, all of Louisiana’s abortion clinics would close, as first reported by CBS News.
Last year, state legislatures introduced an unprecedented number of abortion restrictions and bans. State lawmakers introduced over 300 anti-abortion measures in 2019, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion rights research organization. Twelve states passed bans on the procedure, including a near-total ban on the procedure in Alabama. Though all have been blocked by federal judges, many other restrictions have gone into effect, including mandatory waiting periods and other measures designed to dissuade women from choosing an abortion.
In 2020, Johnson said to expect “more of the same.”
“We expect to see more of the targeted restrictions against abortion providers, limiting their ability to provide access to services or we will see more intense scrutiny and burdens put, placed … on the person seeking the abortion,” Johnson said.
This legislative session, lawmakers in South Carolina will look at a six-week ban on the procedure while politicians in Tennessee and Ohio are set to consider near-total bans on the procedure.
While at Davos, Johnson said she is discussing how these restrictions impact the workforce.
“We know that if we want women to succeed in business, if we want to increase the level of participation of women at the CEO level or the C-suite level, it’s incredibly important for women to be able to control their reproductive health because we know that access to controlling and planning when … you will be pregnant, also impacts your ability to engage in the economy,” Johnson said.
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