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Is abortion a parenting issue? Yes — here's why

The majority of people who have abortions have at least one child at home.
Amanda Carter Gomes is one of many moms who have had an abortion. "I always knew I wanted to be a mom and have children. I just knew that moment was not the time," says Gomes, now a proud mother of two.
Amanda Carter Gomes is one of many moms who have had an abortion. "I always knew I wanted to be a mom and have children. I just knew that moment was not the time," says Gomes, now a proud mother of two.Courtesy Elizabeth Rudge

The Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on Friday, ending the constitutional right to access abortion care.

In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court upheld a Mississippi abortion ban that outlaws abortion care after 15 weeks gestation and before viability. In addition, the court ruled 5-4 to overturn Roe v. Wade, which granted federal protections for abortion.

Most people who have abortions are already parents.

Related: Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data from 43 states shows that 60% of patients who had abortions in 2019 had at least one child. A 2014 survey of all 50 states found that 59% of abortion patients had at least one child, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports access to abortion care.

In addition, 66 percent of people who do not have children at the time of their abortion later start a family, according to a report by the National Abortion Federation.

An estimated 1 in 4 women get an abortion during their lifetime, according to research published in the journal of the American Public Health Association; trans men and nonbinary people also access abortion care.

Dani Dugan, a mother of two and tech worker in Washington state, said she heard about the ruling before she took her daughter to her nine-month pediatric appointment.

“I’m devastated. It was the first thing I saw when I got out of bed,” Dugan, 32, told TODAY. “And my husband immediately said he was so sorry. He knows how significant this is in my life right now, because I didn’t talk freely about the abortion I had when I was 18 before this year.

“I would not have been able to attend a top-notch university, I would not have been able to have a great job in tech, if I didn’t have an abortion. It’s so upsetting and it makes me want to speak out more about me having had an abortion. I couldn’t be prouder of myself,” Dugan said.

Related: What is an abortion fund?

Meanwhile, Dr. Robin Pierucci, 59, a mother of three and member of the American College of Pediatricians, an anti-abortion group, praised the court's ruling.

“With this decision, the impact on future parents is that both mothers and their babies will be kept safer than ever before,” Pierucci told TODAY Parents. “The mother-infant dyad is something to be treasured.”

Studies have shown that abortion care is 14 times safer than childbirth, and 95% of people who have abortions do not regret their decision five years later.

The states with the strictest abortion laws also have the worst maternal and child health outcomes, studies show.

Related: Overturning Roe will worsen maternal health crisis, leading doctor group says

“This ruling ignores not only precedent but science, and will exacerbate the mental health crisis America is already experiencing,” Frank C. Worrell, Ph.D., president of the American Psychological Association, said Friday in a written statement.

“We are alarmed that the justices would nullify Roe despite decades of scientific research demonstrating that people who are denied abortions are more likely to experience higher levels of anxiety, lower life satisfaction and lower self-esteem compared with those who are able to obtain abortions.”

Related: NAACP says reversing Roe will hurt Black women disproportionately

Why people choose abortion

In a 2004 survey of abortion patients by the Guttmacher Institute, 74% said they terminated their pregnancy because they wouldn’t be able to work or care for the dependents they already had; 84% said they didn’t want to be a single parent; and nearly four in 10 said they had already completed their families.

The Supreme Court's majority opinion on Friday was virtually identical to a leaked draft of the decision. “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote, backed by Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. Chief Justice John Roberts also voted with the majority.

Related: How the Supreme Court justices ruled

Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor dissented.

"With sorrow — for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection, we dissent," the dissenting justices wrote.

Many states have "trigger laws" that will automatically ban or restrict abortion as a result of the ruling.

"Not having access to safe and legal abortion is going to impact all of us," Caitlin Abber, a 38-year-old mother and writer living in New York City, told TODAY Parents. "How do I protect my daughter and raise her to be ambitious and brave in a country where she doesn't have bodily autonomy? How do I instill self-worth in her when her own country thinks she is worthless?"

Experts worry the ruling will affect fertility treatments like in vitro fertilization (IVF), as well as impact pregnancy complications like miscarriages.

Related: How overturning Roe affects birth control

"There is the risk of fertility clinics being affected by this ruling in cases when our patients have unhealthy pregnancies, like a molar pregnancy or an ectopic pregnancy," Dr. Samuel Brown, founder and medical director of Brown Fertility, said after the ruling. "Those pregnancies do not result in a baby or child, ever. In fact, oftentimes those patients must be surgically treated. If we cannot treat those women their life would be in grave danger."

A dilation and curettage, commonly known as a D&C, is a surgical abortion that's also often used to treat miscarriage complications. A recent New England Journal of Medicine study in Texas found that doctors are “delaying treatment for pregnancy complications” and compromising miscarriage care for fear they’ll be sued under state law.

The ruling could also affect access to contraception, as well as the rights of LGBTQ+ parents.

In a concurrent ruling, Justice Thomas argued that the court should reconsider Griswold v. Connecticut, Lawrence v. Texas and Obergefell v. Hodges, previous rulings that granted protections for contraception, same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage.

"As a queer parent who had an abortion in Texas, I’m terrified that soon I won’t be able to marry the person I love, either," Paige Alexandria, 31, told TODAY Parents. "We don’t need to be afraid that this could happen. It’s already happening."

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