Happy Friday, Beyond Roe readers. This may be the last time you and I meet here.
In May, we launched this newsletter with the idea that it would cover the moments leading up to the anticipated release of the Supreme Court’s well-previewed ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.
Obviously, we couldn’t stop there.
But 32 weeks later, with the midterms as a punctuation mark, it seems like the right time to say goodbye for now.
We may reshape or expand the newsletter in the new year and would love to hear your thoughts about what you’d like to see next.
Thank you for accepting me (most of you, anyway) and reading me (an amazing number of you). It was a regular delight to discover that people I met on other stories or IRL were getting my emails and reading Beyond Roe. It never stopped surprising me how hungry readers were for this information.
We live in crazy times. Writing this newsletter every week helped me make sense of it, too.
So what did we learn over the past seven months?
Most people want abortion rights, with some restrictions. Actually, we always knew this, and it has only been affirmed in recent elections. The Kansas election results that surprised pundits in August mirrored what pollsters have been reporting for years: a majority of people (about 60 percent) say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. In last week’s midterm elections, voters supported amendments to protect abortion rights in state constitutions in Michigan (57 percent to 43 percent), California (67 percent to 33 percent) and Vermont (77 percent to 23 percent). The margin was slightly lower in ballot questions in Kentucky and Montana, although abortion rights prevailed. Don’t mess with Texas, though. The state that was first in the nation to encourage bounty hunters to go after abortion doctors didn’t seem to flinch in the midterms. Incumbent Governor Greg Abbott coasted to reelection over Beto O’Rourke, despite devastating abortion-themed ads against him by a group called Mothers Against Greg Abbott.
Support for abortion rights is growing as state bans force voters to reconsider what they understood to be “choice.” When Roe was still in place, voters could tell pollsters that they were “pro-life,” assured that exceptions would remain in place for rape victims or in emergencies. Those presumptions went out the window after Roe was lifted and states began barring abortion without exceptions. Faced with all-or-nothing options, more voters are saying they want abortion rights.
Women’s progress went backward. The elimination of abortion as an option has elevated risks to women’s health in a nation that already had a terrible and worsening record on maternal mortality and morbidity compared to its peers. That’s not just risks to women who are seeking abortions. Women with wanted pregnancies are facing undue stress and risk due to their doctors’ inability to react quickly to pregnancy crises in a post-Roe world. The “abortion is health care” line gets overused, but stories have shed necessary light on how often it is health care for pregnant patients in crisis.
Black women are being hit hardest by abortion bans. That’s not only because they fare worst among racial subgroups on maternal mortality and morbidity; they also have a disproportionate number of abortions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Keep an eye out for demographic trends in the wake of state abortion bans. Ironically, at a time when the white supremacist “great replacement theory” hit the mainstream, conservative efforts to ban abortion could plausibly result in more Black babies — though it could also put more Black moms at risk of dying.
“It’s the misogyny, stupid.” My new favorite slogan came from a Cathy Young piece this week that called out nasty online efforts to blame single women for Republicans’ struggles in the midterms. I’m not sure what it will take for pollsters, pundits, and the general public to start listening to women. That hasn’t really happened in the six years I’ve been covering this beat, despite the exhortations of the #MeToo movement.
But at least I have a new mantra.
This piece first appeared in a special edition of Beyond Roe, our free weekly newsletter chronicling the fight for abortion rights in the United States. If you’d like to receive it via e-mail, you can sign up here.