A crowd holds up signs advocating for reproductive rights.
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The University of Michigan Ford School of Public Policy, the Institute for Research on Women and Gender, and the Center for the Education of Women+ partnered to host a virtual event titled “What Comes after Roe?” on Wednesday. Experts in public policy, economics and medicine from the University discussed potential reverberations that may arise on campus, state and national levels should Roe v. Wade be overturned. 

In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade established the constitutional right for an individual to have access to abortions. Last month, a draft by the Supreme Court — which would overturn the decision of abortion as a constitutional right — was leaked.

Anna Kirkland, professor of women’s and gender studies, was the keynote speaker at Wednesday’s event.

“The draft opinion is very similar to the final ruling that we will see, which would permit, but not require, states to criminalize abortion,” Kirkland said. “This is particularly important for those seeking abortion access in Michigan since future policies in the state are still uncertain.” 

Kirkland said the potential overturning of Roe v. Wade can be attributed to the decades-long legal and political mobilization by anti-abortion religious advocates in the Republican Party. Kirkland also said the structural features of the U.S. political system might have influenced the draft opinion, as the Supreme Court is currently much more conservative than the general public.

Should Michigan become a ban state, self-managed medication abortionse — which represent more than half of U.S. abortions — will become more commonly used. 

Betsey Stevenson, professor of public policy and economics, spoke on the important advances American women have made since the 1973 ruling.

“Over the many decades since Roe (v. Wade), women have become the most educated people in the U.S., and their work experience gaps have narrowed,” Stevenson said.

Sarah Miller, assistant professor of business economics and public policy, discussed key findings from the recently published Turnaway Study, which contrasts the long-lasting effects on people who received or were denied an abortion.

“There are additional financial penalties associated with a mistimed nature of birth,” Miller said. 

The Turnaway Study found that people turned away by abortion clinics experienced worse economic outcomes, such as higher rates of poverty and lower employment, along with increased mental and physical health issues.

Additionally, should Roe v. Wade be overturned, racial disparities in U.S. healthcare will worsen, as maternal mortality rates are significantly higher among non-Hispanic Black women compared to non-Hispanic white and Hispanic women. 

Kirkland said that, as far as long-term implications, political action against abortions could be taken further.

“When abortion opponents realize that overturning Roe (v. Wade) does not stop abortions from happening,” Kirkland said, “they may seek a national ban from Congress.”

Daily staff reporter Lena McDonough can be reached at lenarose@umich.edu.