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EXPLAINER: How overturning Roe v. Wade impacts women’s health

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn its 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade ruling means the decision on whether an abortion is legal reverts to the states.

The SCOTUS ruling leads to many changes for women’s reproductive health in the United States.

By one month after the Court’s decision, abortion will likely be unavailable in at least 13 states, home to 67 million Americans.

In some states, bans on abortion have remained on the books, but were blocked by the Roe and the Planned Parenthood v. Casey decisions. Since Roe was decided in 1973, other states began to introduce and pass “trigger laws,” or laws that would trigger a ban on abortion should the case be overturned.

A total of 13 states have trigger laws. With the ruling, abortion is immediately outlawed in four states, including Oklahoma, Kentucky, Louisiana and South Dakota. Trigger laws will take effect after certification, likely within hours, in six additional states including, Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.

Then, within 30 days, three more states will ban all abortions: Idaho, Tennessee and Texas.

Other states have passed laws known as “heartbeat bills,” making abortion illegal if a fetus’ heartbeat can be detected -- which generally happens at about six weeks.

The overturning of Roe v. Wade raises several questions about what it means for women and what’s next. We’re breaking it down here:

Abortion statistics in the U.S.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 629,898 legal induced abortions nationwide in 2019, from 49 reporting areas. Among 48 reporting areas with data from 2010 to 2019, in 2019, the abortion rate was 11.4 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44 years old.

Also, similar to previous years, in 2019, women in their twenties accounted for the majority of those who had abortions in the United States -- 56.9%.

In South Carolina, 5,101 women got abortions in 2019, according to a report from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

A report from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said 23,495 people in North Carolina got abortions in 2019.

Impact to abortion access

In states where abortion will become illegal with Roe v. Wade overturned, women seeking an abortion will then have to find alternative options. Those options include traveling to a state where abortion is legal, or ordering pills online from outside the country.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision also means Black and Hispanic women will bear the brunt of the decreased access to care, according to statistics analyzed by the Associated Press.

Where abortions are outlawed, those same women — often poor — will likely have the hardest time traveling to distant parts of the country to terminate pregnancies. They could otherwise end up raising children they might struggle to afford, according to Laurie Bertram Roberts, who is Black and once volunteered at Mississippi’s only abortion clinic. Roberts is also executive director of the Alabama-based Yellowhammer Fund, which provides financial support for women seeking abortions.

Across the country, U.S. Census Bureau information analyzed by the Associated Press also shows fewer Black and Hispanic women have health insurance, especially in states with tight abortion restrictions.

In North Carolina, people of color comprise 39% of the population. However, they represent 70% of women receiving abortions, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, which tracks health statistics. In South Carolina, people of color comprise 37% of the population but 52% of women receiving abortions are people of color.

Would the number of US abortions change?

With the ruling, abortion rates are likely to decline more because women would have to travel farther to reach a state where the procedure is legal. Many women who get abortions are poor, and long travel distances can be difficult for them, The New York Times reported. The states that will ban abortion are also concentrated in the South, Midwest and Great Plains.

Research from December on the estimated changes in distances to women’s health clinics found that, if Roe was overturned, the number of legal abortions is likely to fall by around 14%, according to The New York Times.

The newspaper reported that Texas provided an example. In September, a law went into effect banning abortion after fetal cardiac activity is detected -- at around six weeks. Abortions at Texas clinics fell by half, but many women were able to obtain abortions in neighboring states or by ordering pills, resulting in an overall decline of only around 10% in the state.

What happens next?

With Roe v. Wade overturned, clinics in some states will most likely begin closing within days. In other states, it would take several months.

Trigger laws will immediately go into effect in four states, including Oklahoma, Kentucky, Louisiana and South Dakota. In six additional states, trigger bans will take effect after certification, likely within hours, in Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.

Then, within 30 days, three more states will ban all abortions: Idaho, Tennessee and Texas.

Other states have passed laws known as “heartbeat bills,” making abortion illegal if a fetus’ heartbeat can be detected -- which generally happens at about six weeks.

What alternatives are there to the procedure?

In North Carolina, NCDHHS offers Pregnancy Services, which provides support in solving medical, social, educational and psychological issues associated with unplanned pregnancies. The services also have information on alternatives to abortion including counseling, parenting or adoption.

The State Maternity Home Fund, a component of Pregnancy Services, can provide maternity housing or alternative care services for any North Carolinian expectant mother who is experiencing an unplanned pregnancy.

For more information, click here.

South Carolina DHEC also offers services for pregnant women, including counseling and information on adoption. Click here for more.

Mental health resources

For people struggling with mental health following the overturning of Roe v. Wade, here are some resources to help find support that’s available near you:

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

(WATCH BELOW: Roe V. Wade: What you need to know)

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