The constitutional right to an abortion officially ended one year ago, on June 24, 2022, when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. But for many in the United States, the promises supposedly offered by Roe had never been kept. In 1970, three years before the Roe decision, the first nationwide abortion restriction took effect, preventing organizations that received federal grants under the newly created Title X family planning program, which provides affordable contraception and reproductive health care to people with low incomes, from using those funds for abortion services. And every year since 1976, Congress has attached the Hyde Amendment, which bans the use of Medicaid funds for abortion, to the federal budget. State legislators, often backed by the Supreme Court, imposed so many obstacles on abortion care during the 2010s that it had become practically inaccessible in dozens of states long before the Dobbs ruling.
Still, the end of Roe marked a turning point. Over the past year, 13 states have banned abortion altogether and some 70 clinics have closed or stopped providing abortions. There have been dozens of reports about patients with life-threatening pregnancy complications whose doctors refused them abortion care for fear of breaking the law. Many women have suffered serious medical consequences, and an unknown number of patients have died, further exacerbating the country’s maternal health care crisis.
Even in this grim moment, public support for legal abortion is at an all-time high, and a number of popular ballot measures and constitutional amendments have protected or expanded abortion rights, including in red states like Kansas and Montana. But thanks to gerrymandered state legislatures and the antidemocratic nature of the US Senate and the Supreme Court, majority support for abortion rights can only mean so much.
The fall of Roe has been a piercing reminder that our rights will never be secured from on high—they must be won by the activists and movements that have been preparing for this moment. Resources like INeedAnA.com and If/When/How’s Repro Legal Helpline are stepping up alongside abortion funds, providers, and unapologetic abortion storytellers declaring, “Free Abortion on Demand Without Apology.” The activists and organizers understand what will always be true: People will continue to have abortions, no matter who is in the White House and what the nation’s highest court has decided.
The bravery of everyone fighting back—from providers to pro-abortion state lawmakers to frontline activists—is not only changing the landscape on the ground. It’s also changing the way we understand what it means to achieve liberation—for everyone to be able to do what he or she or they want with their own body, free of political constraint. This fight is intertwined with the fight for LGBTQ rights—and not only because the same groups that fund the anti-abortion movement are backing efforts to attack trans youth, drag queens, and gender-affirming care, but also because, despite the right’s attempts to divide us, this fight belongs to all of us.
It’s in these moments we are reminded that bodily autonomy is not only an issue of individual rights but also a measure of the strength of one’s community. For that reason, our focus in this special issue is not just on abortion rights but on “body politics” of all kinds.
Our issue features on-the-ground reporting from the epicenter of the abortion fight—Texas—where activists are risking arrest or worse to help people access abortion care across the state’s borders. It examines the onslaught of attacks on trans kids and shows how anti-trans laws work hand in glove with the demonization of public schools to erode trust in our shared public institutions.
The issue also highlights how body politics show up in the false choices faced by disabled people lacking the state support they need, in the holy work of honoring an individual’s wishes for their body, in the extraordinary world-building of Black mothers, and in the choices made by teens navigating their sexuality and a newly digital world at the same time.
This post-Roe era is about everyone’s right to live freely, and our special issue on body politics aims to capture the defiant spirit of the moment we’re in with the same fierce determination of the many voices highlighted in these pages.