What happens to healthcare providers if Roe v. Wade is overturned?

On May 2, Politico leaked a document showing that the US Supreme Court is likely to overturn Roe v. Wade this summer.

Last week, we looked at what this would mean for people seeking an abortion in the US. This week, we’ll explore how overturning Roe v. Wade could affect healthcare providers. We’ll also look at some groups that are planning to fight the decision.

Impact on healthcare providers

Here are some ways overturning Roe v. Wade would change healthcare in America:


An influx of patients. Clinics in states where abortion remains legal will see a significant rise in patients, as women from states where abortion access will be restricted or totally blocked will have to travel to get care.

This increase in patients has already become the norm for some areas that border states which already have abortion restrictions in place.

New clinics on state lines. To make abortion access easier, new clinics will likely open close to state lines. Planned Parenthood’s Ianthe Metzger points out that this has already begun, with the Saint Louis, Illinois region’s Planned Parenthood opening a clinic near the Missouri border, to help patients who can’t get abortions in that state.

The government’s new role in the doctor-patient relationship. The choice to have an abortion is between a patient and their physician. But making abortion illegal and possibly implementing laws like Texas’ SB 8, which encourages people to report someone they believe has had an abortion or is providing abortions, implies that the government also plays a role.

This change is condemned by the American Medical Association (AMA) and dozens of other medical associations. AMA president Dr. Gerald E. Harmon called overturning Roe v. Wade a “dangerous intrusion into the practice of medicine” that will “potentially criminaliz[e] care.”

His words carry a warning: If we let the government have a role in a patient’s right to choose what to do about a pregnancy, will we also become willing to let the law dictate health decisions in other ways?

A likely increase in demand for abortion pills from overseas pharmacies. Mifepristone and misoprostol, the pills used for self-managed abortion, may be banned or blocked for some patients by state laws. But there are some workarounds, including, at least for now, ordering the pills from overseas pharmacies.

If Roe v. Wade is overturned and US-based healthcare providers and pharmacies aren’t able to provide these pills to patients, overseas pharmacies will face even more of a demand. Anticipating this, organizations like AidAccess have been created to help people find and order abortion pills.

Fortunately, as we reported in last week’s article, restrictions may not be able to be applied to misoprostol, since it has other medical uses.

Legal issues could become the norm. As we reported in our previous article, if additional states create laws like SB 8, both healthcare providers and patients would constantly be threatened by lawsuits and other legal recourse.

In addition to accusations from outside parties, this legislation could cause divisions between healthcare providers and patients….

Healthcare providers reporting patients who’ve had a self-managed abortion. In April, a woman named Lizelle Herrera was arrested in Texas after a healthcare provider reported that she’d had a self-managed abortion a few months prior. There was no legal obligation for the healthcare provider to report this, and, fortunately, public outcry, as well as a closer reading of the law, exonerated Herrera.

But the specter of her arrest is a chilling vision of how things could go if more states vote legislation like SB-8 into law. Not only may healthcare providers mistakenly believe they have to report a patient they believe has had abortion; women may also be accused even if they never had an abortion, since it’s nearly impossible to tell the difference between a pill-induced pregnancy termination and a miscarriage.

Fighting back

A number of organizations have spoken out about overturning Roe v. Wade. What’s surprising - and encouraging for those who believe in a person’s right to choose - is that these groups come from many different backgrounds and walks of life. They’re not always what you might expect.

Those fighting abortion bans and restrictions include:

Some US states

At least fourteen states currently have legislation that protects abortion access, with others considering establishing these protective laws.

Additionally, the state of California is not only legally protecting its own residents, but also proposing legislation that would help out-of-state patients get an abortion. This may include covering costs, which would help lower-income patients who would otherwise be unable to afford travel or accommodation.

Religious groups


Another source of hope for those who support a person’s right to body autonomy comes from what might seem an unlikely source: religious organizations.

Some members of the Mormon faith, including powerful internet influencers, are openly pro-choice and working to inform followers as to why.

And members of the Jewish community, including a number of rabbis and community leaders, are working to formulate a lawsuit that would contest the banning of abortion because such a ban goes against freedom of religion (some religions, like Judaism, allow abortion, at least in certain cases).

Advocates and human rights organizations

Groups like the World Health Organization have spoken out against banning abortion, stating that it doesn’t stop abortions from happening, but only makes them less safe. And advocacy groups have sprung into action - for instance, If/When/How, a reproductive rights group, has set up a legal helpline and defense fund.

Banning or restricting access to abortions would mean some dramatic changes to healthcare in the United States, some of which have troubling implications for the future of healthcare in general.

Fortunately, advocates and groups will fight to maintain what has been the right of women in the United States for nearly half a century.


A healthcare provider's hands, holding pills

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Contact Our Writer – Alysa Salzberg


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