Should Pregnant Women Boycott Travel To Republican States After The Supreme Court Abortion Ruling?

The Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization – overturning Roe v. Wade – hits home for many women in a way that few other cases could.

One common point I’ve seen made since the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling is that pregnant women should now avoid travel to Red States.

Basically, if I was pregnant or thought I might be, I would not travel to a red state. Because if you find yourself in an emergency situation, you will not be able to get the care you need. And that’s the saddest travel tip I’ve ever given.

— Laura Motta (@guttersniper) June 25, 2022

I am not going to dive into the question of whether a woman who knows she is pregnant but finds she needs an abortion for medical reasons while traveling is likely to face restrictions – that’s a political question guessing what each state will do at a fairly granular level.

It’s not just about bans on abortion (whether in total or after a certain number of months) but about whether there are medically-necessary carveouts as well. Suffice to say I would guess several states imposing restrictions will have carveouts of various kinds if only for political expediency.

However I’d make the point that abortion won’t simply be outlawed in ‘Red States’. There are several conservative-leaning states whose state constitutions have been explicitly interpreted to protect abortion rights. Examples include Alaska, Kansas, and Montana.

What’s going to be confusing for awhile is what exactly each state attempts to do – in terms of restricting and proactively protecting – reproductive choice. That’s going to take some time to work out. And to the extent these decisions influence travel choices you want to make it’s going to mean following the details of each state, and determining where you draw your own lines.

I’m genuinely curious, since in the U.S. the Supreme Court has made this issue focal. Has abortion been an issue that women considered when traveling to Europe while pregnant? It’s far more restrictive there in most countries than it has been in the U.S.

  • Abortion is illegal without exception in Malta
  • It was illegal in Ireland until 2018 expect for life of the mother, and current law is more restrictive than the one upheld in Dobbs
  • Many doctors refuse to perform abortions across much of Europe, making it challenging to get one on parts of the continent
  • Second trimester abortions are frequently limited

However I think it’s also worth highlighting the constitutional right to travel. The right to travel meant that thousands of women in Ireland traveled to the U.K. for abortion. Here, post Dobbs several companies, including Alaska Airlines and American Airlines, have emphasized the extent to which employees can travel and take advantage of their health care.

The Supreme Court’s ruling in Saenz v. Roe 526 U.S. 489 (1999) clearly and explicitly articulates a constitutional right to travel. See also generally Crandall v. Nevada, 73 U.S. 35 (1868) and United States v. Guest, 383 U.S. 745 (1966). Some states may seek to impose penalties on its citizens for obtaining abortions out of state. I would not expect those attempts to ultimately be upheld.

I support reproductive freedom – though at some point during the second trimester these questions become really hard. Fortunately about 95% of abortions are during the first trimester, and only 1% in the third. I would not ban medically necessary third trimester procedures. And I worry that restrictions earlier in a pregnancy don’t merely lead to fewer abortions but also some abortions taking place later – the opposite of what you’d want.

But I understand those who come to different conclusions than I do, since I’m not certain in my position. It’s precisely because I do not believe I know the ‘right’ answer here that I’m reluctant to impose a decision on others.

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