Abortion in US with no Roe v. Wade would get very complicated, attorney Kathryn Kolbert says

Kathryn Kolbert argued the 1992 abortion case Planned Parenthood vs. Casey.

May 5, 2022, 5:55 PM

Attorney Kathryn Kolbert has spent a majority of her career thinking about the after-effects on reproductive rights if the Supreme Court was to overturn Roe v. Wade. She believes prohibiting abortions will force some women to turn to unsafe practices to terminate pregnancies that will put their lives in danger.

“Women are crafty,” said Kolbert. “I'm not advocating that they break the law, but the reality is, as in the days before Roe, the underground market will operate.”

PHOTO: Kathryn Kolbert speaks to the press on the steps of the Supreme Court immediately following her argument in Planned Parenthood v. Casey while her son Sam peers out from behind her in Washington, April 1992.
Kathryn Kolbert speaks to the press on the steps of the Supreme Court immediately following her argument in Planned Parenthood v. Casey while her son Sam peers out from behind her in Washington, April 1992.
Courtesy Kathryn Kolbert

Kolbert is best known as one of the lawyers who argued and helped win the landmark 1992 abortion case Planned Parenthood vs. Casey. Now, a leaked draft opinion for the Supreme Court appears to indicate that the court is poised to fully overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

Kolbert told ABC News’ podcast “Start Here” that if the ruling is overturned, so-called “trigger laws” will immediately go into effect to ban or prohibit abortions across half the country.

“The reality is that women in those 25 or 26 states will not be able to obtain the reproductive health care that they need,” said Kolbert. “The bottom line: Women will have to travel hundreds of miles, sometimes thousands of miles, to obtain reproductive health care. That's what they did in the 1970s.”

PHOTO: Author Kathryn Kolbert is pictured in an undated promotional photo.
Author Kathryn Kolbert is pictured in an undated promotional photo.
Wayne Mora

If women cannot afford to travel to obtain proper reproductive care, Kolbert said that some women will take dangerous measures, either through unsafe surgical abortions or medical abortions, that could result in serious consequences.

“They'll figure it out and there's all kinds of ways they can do that. Internet access from doctors around the world, getting drugs from their friends… traveling across the border, and picking up the drugs, all kinds of ways,” said Kolbert.

Kolbert said that, although medical abortions, which is the use of different medications to terminate a pregnancy, are safe under medical supervision, there are still always risks that women can bleed more than expected. For those who obtain the drugs illegally, they’ll often be deterred from seeking follow up medical care when they need it.

PHOTO: Kathryn Kolbert speaks with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf in Malvern, Pa., Oct. 1, 2020.
Kathryn Kolbert speaks with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf in Malvern, Pa., Oct. 1, 2020. Kolbert argued before the High Court in Planned Parenthood v. Casey which has been credited with saving Roe v. Wade.
MediaNews Group via Getty Images, FILE

“[A woman in Texas] was prosecuted for self-managing her abortion. They dropped those charges eventually, but [she] was dragged into court,” said Kolbert. “[Authorities] found out because she went to a hospital, because she was bleeding and wanted appropriate health care.”

Kolbert said another risk is women receiving “bad drugs.”

“For the most part, [medication is] safe when you get the right drug, but there's unscrupulous people out in the world and that's a risk,” said Kolbert. “But the reality is, even with the risks of medication… [For some women] being forced by the government to carry your pregnancy to term is unthinkable and they will do, as they did in the days before Roe, just about anything to terminate a pregnancy.”

PHOTO: Abortion rights demonstrators outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, May 4, 2022.
Abortion rights demonstrators outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, May 4, 2022.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

The World Health Organization estimates that nearly 13% of annual maternal deaths can be attributed to unsafe abortions. The same study states that in developed regions, it is estimated that 30 women die for every 100,000 unsafe abortions.

For now, abortions are legal while the final Supreme Court decision remains pending. Kolbert said that there are three things people can do to help: donate money to abortion rights causes, get political and build "a badass social justice movement" because “change has never happened until there has been a cry for change.”

“The young people in our country really need to demand that their rights, their liberties that they've enjoyed their entire lifetimes, be respected,” said Kolbert. “It is not appropriate to tell women that they can't make decisions about their lives. It is not appropriate to tell women that their bodies do not belong to themselves. We need to stand up and say, ‘No way.’”

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