Roe v Wade: What happens when people are denied abortions?

When Ann walked into her doctor’s office six years ago, she expected to schedule an abortion. Instead, the college graduate in her early 20s learned she was between 23 and 25 weeks pregnant. With California’s cutoff set at about six months, she was turned away.

Ann had been taking Depo-Provera, a birth control shot, every three months. But she had recently started a new job and delayed getting the next shot until her benefits kicked in. She gained some weight, but explained it away.

“I was told flat-out that there was no other option,” Ann, whose name has been changed for privacy reasons, told Al Jazeera. “I remember crying, gasping. It was such life-changing news that I was not expecting to get.”

Without access to the abortion she wanted, she carried the pregnancy to term. At eight months, she developed severe eclampsia, experienced seizures, and nearly died.

“I woke up three days later in the ICU,” she said. “I ended up having an emergency c-section.”

On Friday, the US Supreme Court struck down Roe v Wade, the landmark decision issued nearly a half-century ago that guaranteed a constitutional right to abortion. Ann decided to share her story because she knows her experience is about to become more common.

Life-threatening complications

The Supreme Court’s ruling removes the federal right allowing states to set their own abortion laws, with about half of US states expected to ban or restrict abortion in response. People in restricted states will either have to scramble to find abortion pills that can be used early in a pregnancy, or travel long distances – across state lines or international borders – to access the procedure.

Those who cannot access abortion will be forced to carry unwanted pregnancies. Experts say the bans and restrictions will most severely affect young, low-income people of colour, who already face barriers in accessing contraception and abortion.

The denial of abortion services can lead to serious potential harms for the affected women, including economic hardships, a higher likelihood of staying in contact with a violent partner, and more serious health problems, according to a study conducted at the University of California, San Francisco.

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