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Two years after Dobbs, the White House warns of Republican assaults on Americans' bodily autonomy

Abortion rights activists march past US Supreme Court
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Democrats are reminding Americans that Republicans and the conservative U.S. Supreme Court stripped them of their previously held rights to reproductive access. Now other bodily autonomy rights could be next.

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Two years ago Monday, theU.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision inDobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturned Roe v. Wade, setting off a seismic shift in the American legal and political landscape.

As the country approaches this grim anniversary, the repercussions of that decision are starkly evident. Jennifer Klein, the director of the White House Gender Policy Council, spoke to The Advocate about the ongoing fallout and the Biden administration’s efforts to safeguard reproductivehealth care.

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“The impact of Dobbs has been devastating,” Klein said. “More than 27 million women of reproductive age in the United States now live in one of 21 states with an abortion ban in effect. That’s one in three women of reproductive age. Doctors in these states face felony charges for providing essential medical care.”

Klein’s comments underscore the harsh reality facing many Americans. The Dobbs decision did not merely overturn a legal precedent; it unleashed a torrent of restrictive laws that have left millions without access to safe and legal abortions. “We’ve seen horrifying stories of women being denied essential medical care, forced to delay treatment, and traveling hundreds of miles for services,” Klein said.

Related: The Right Is Using the Anti-Abortion Supreme Court Ruling to Attack Trans Care. Will It Work?

The Biden administration has been vocal about the need to counteract these restrictions. “Republican officials are fighting to enforce archaic abortion bans and continue to pass extreme measures at both state and federal levels,” Klein noted. “They’ve even voted against contraception and in vitro fertilization, and they’re eyeing the Comstock Act to prosecute providers of medication abortions by mail.”

President Joe Biden delivers remarks DNC event protecting the right to choose Howard Theatre Washington DCNathan Posner/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Comstock Act, an 1873 law originally intended to suppress the distribution of obscene literature and articles of immoral use, is now being leveraged to restrict the mailing of abortion-related materials. This assault on reproductive rights intersects with broader attacks on gender-affirming care. Klein highlighted the intertwined nature of these issues: “The right to privacy, which Roe v. Wade protected, also safeguards same-sex marriage and healthcare access. The risk to these rights has surged since Roe’s overturning.”

According to the Williams Institute at UCLA’s Law School,lesbian,bisexual, and queer cisgender women andtransgender people assigned female at birth face unique challenges in reproductive health care. Lesbian, bisexual, and queer cisgender women are statistically as likely to have had abortions as straight, cisgender women. They also have higher rates of unwanted pregnancies and are less likely to receive cancer screenings, such as pap smears or mammograms.

LGBTQ+ organizations such as GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign, COLAGE, Family Equality, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights haveemphasized that the Dobbs decision directly harms LGBTQ+ families. They argue that LGBTQ+ people require abortion care for the same broad range of reasons that non-LGBTQ+ people do and, in some instances, are more likely to need such care. The National Partnership for Women & Families further highlights thatbans on abortion and gender-affirming care disproportionately harm LGBTQ+ people. Those who identify as LGBTQ+ are at greater risk for unintended pregnancy, partially because they are less likely to use contraceptives. Additionally, LGBTQ+ people who have previously been pregnant are more likely to have unwanted pregnancies or pregnancies resulting from violence and, thus, are more likely to need abortion services.

Since the Dobbs decision, 14 states have enacted total abortion bans, predominantly in the South,according to the health policy research firm KFF. Another six states have implemented early gestational limits between six and 15 weeks. To access abortion services, individuals in these states often must travel out of state, incurring significant costs, or obtain medication abortion drugs via mail from states with protective laws.

While all 20 states with bans or early gestational limits allow exceptions when the pregnant person’s life is at risk, six states do not include health exceptions, and ten states lack rape or incest exceptions. These restrictions often prevent physicians from practicing evidence-based medicine, as highlighted by ongoing legal challenges, including the federal lawsuit currently awaiting a decision from the Supreme Court against Idaho’s abortion ban under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act. In Idaho, abortion is illegal unless the mother’s life is imminently threatened.

prochoice abortion activists Planned Parenthood Texas signs SCOTUS buildingRena Schild/Shutterstock

As the end of the Supreme Court’s session draws close, Americans are bracing for further potentially regressive rulings. “The contrast between the Biden administration and Republican lawmakers is stark,” Klein emphasized. “While Republicans seek to strip away rights, we are fighting to protect and expand access to reproductive care.”

Klein urged Americans to stay informed and proactive. “Visit reproductiverights.gov to learn what is legal and available in your state. There are also non-profits that provide crucial information and support,” she advised. “Engage in conversations with friends and neighbors. Although opinions on abortion vary, the consensus is that individuals should have the freedom to make their own healthcare decisions.”

The stakes are high for women and all Americans who value privacy and autonomy in their healthcare choices.

Multiple states, includingAlabama,Arkansas,Florida,Tennessee, andTexas, have enacted laws to limit or ban gender-affirming care. These laws, many of which have been enjoined or struck down by courts, range from prohibiting healthcare providers from offering gender-affirming care to minors to restricting the availability of such care for adults. The intersectionality of these legislative efforts highlights a broader agenda to curtail the rights and healthcare access of marginalized communities.

As the country reflects on the second anniversary of the Dobbs decision, Klein said the administration will draw a stark contrast between Democrats and Republicans.

“We’ll be talking about what we’re doing versus what they’re doing, lifting up the stories and experiences of patients and doctors,” Klein said.

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Christopher Wiggins

Christopher Wiggins is a senior national reporter for The Advocate. He has a rich career in storytelling and highlighting underrepresented voices. Growing up in a bilingual household in Germany, his German mother and U.S. Army father exposed him to diverse cultures early on, influencing his appreciation for varied perspectives and communication. His work in Washington, D.C., primarily covers the nexus of public policy, politics, law, and LGBTQ+ issues. Wiggins' reporting focuses on revealing lesser-known stories within the LGBTQ+ community. Key moments in his career include traveling with Vice President Kamala Harris and interviewing her in the West Wing about LGBTQ+ support. In addition to his national and political reporting, Wiggins represents The Advocate in the White House Press Pool and is a member of several professional journalistic organizations, including the White House Correspondents’ Association, Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists, and Society of Professional Journalists. His involvement in these groups highlights his commitment to ethical journalism and excellence in the field. Follow him on X/Twitter @CWNewser (https://twitter.com/CWNewser) and Threads @CWNewserDC (https://www.threads.net/@cwnewserdc).
Christopher Wiggins is a senior national reporter for The Advocate. He has a rich career in storytelling and highlighting underrepresented voices. Growing up in a bilingual household in Germany, his German mother and U.S. Army father exposed him to diverse cultures early on, influencing his appreciation for varied perspectives and communication. His work in Washington, D.C., primarily covers the nexus of public policy, politics, law, and LGBTQ+ issues. Wiggins' reporting focuses on revealing lesser-known stories within the LGBTQ+ community. Key moments in his career include traveling with Vice President Kamala Harris and interviewing her in the West Wing about LGBTQ+ support. In addition to his national and political reporting, Wiggins represents The Advocate in the White House Press Pool and is a member of several professional journalistic organizations, including the White House Correspondents’ Association, Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists, and Society of Professional Journalists. His involvement in these groups highlights his commitment to ethical journalism and excellence in the field. Follow him on X/Twitter @CWNewser (https://twitter.com/CWNewser) and Threads @CWNewserDC (https://www.threads.net/@cwnewserdc).