“He is just getting started": Another Trump presidency could totally destroy reproductive freedom

Women in red states know just how bad things can get when Republicans are in charge of healthcare decisions

Published June 21, 2024 4:18PM (EDT)

Demonstrators protest and argue outside the U.S. Supreme Court on March 26, 2024. (Michael Nigro/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Demonstrators protest and argue outside the U.S. Supreme Court on March 26, 2024. (Michael Nigro/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Donald Trump continues to brag about almost single-handedly demolishing Roe v. Wade, the constitutional right to an abortion that was thrown out by the Supreme Court on June, 24 2022. Two years since, Trump  and his anti-abortion allies are continuing their step-by-step efforts to whittle down reproductive rights, extending their attack to in vitro fertilization (IVF), birth control pills and other vital reproductive healthcare. 

“They're not going to stop at that,” Silvina Alarcón, political director at the advocacy group Reproductive Freedom For All, told Salon. “That is just the beginning.”

In the last two years, women all across America, and especially in red states, have been stripped of the power to decide what happens to their bodies. In Alabama, the state's highest court ruled that frozen embryos were literal children, raising the prospect that couples using IVF to have a child, and the medical professionals assisting them, could face criminal penalties. In Idaho, a near-total ban on abortion provides no exceptions for the life of a mother.

Recent polling suggests as many as one in five voters blame President Joe Biden for the 2022 Dobbs decision, when three Trump appointees joined with the Supreme Court's other conservative justices and overturned Roe v. Wade. But Alarcón explained that Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have in fact “done more to protect reproductive freedom than any other administration,” arguing that the contrast between the Biden and previous Trump administration couldn’t be “starker.”

There's also reason to hope for a better future. If Biden were to win another term, Alarcón said, and "we are able to flip the House, hold the Senate, have four more years of the White House, we are going to have a [Democratic] trifecta that is going to allow us to have a path to be able to codify Roe into law, into the Constitution."

There's also reason for alarm. If Trump wins, regardless of the color of the state — red, blue or purple — women and others who need access to reproductive care will suffer the consequences.

Trump has boasted of his role in rolling back reproductive freedom, saying that Republican-led states imposing abortion bans in the wake of the Dobbs decision has been “a beautiful thing to watch.” He also recently suggested he would favor state limits on birth control, comments he backtracked from following widespread criticism.

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Democrats, for their part, have been seeking to highlight some of the dangers of another Trump presidency, seeing these broadly unpopular policies as a vulnerability for Republicans. At a press conference Friday, Democrats from the red states of Alabama, Kansas, and Idaho shared the harsh reality of the ongoing fight for reproductive freedom in the places they call home.

“MAGA Republicans following in the footsteps of Donald Trump, who has bragged repeatedly about his role in the Supreme Court’s decision have waged war on reproductive healthcare in this nation,” Alabama state Rep. Marilyn Lands said at a press conference, describing her state as "ground zero” in “Trump’s war against women and families.”

“What starts in Alabama seems to spread rapidly to other states,” Lands said. “Our maternal outcomes are the worst in this country because we could be the last state to extend Medicaid," she added, noting that Republicans who claim to support life have denied healthcare, including prenatal care, to its poorest residents.

Kansas Democratic Party Chair Jeanna Repass spoke emphatically about the state bans that, in Republican eyes, “are working the way they should.” She drew attention to Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and her role in blocking aggressive Republican proposals to further roll back reproductive rights in the state, including a near-total ban on abortion and drugs such as mifepristone.

Idaho Democratic Party Chair Lauren Necochea likewise noted that Republicans in her state do not even want exemptions to their abortion ban that would protect mothers. She said she has discouraged her own daughters from raising a family in Idaho, noting that women there must be "airlifted" to other states if they face life-threatening complications during pregnancy.

Democrats also know that the issue of reproductive freedom is a winner for them, politically, and an albatross for many Republican politicians, who have sought to portray themselves before a national audience as more moderate than they are in real life.

Alarcón told Salon that Democrats are right to focus on the issue for moral reasons, but it could also help keep the party in the White House and help it regain complete control of Congress in November.

"We know that eight in 10 Americans are with us, including 58% of Republicans that say that we should have legal access to abortion," she said.

By Nandika Chatterjee

Nandika Chatterjee is a News Fellow at Salon. In 2022 she moved to New York after graduating from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign where she pursued a B.A. in Communication and a B.S. in Psychology. She is currently an M.A. in Journalism candidate at NYU, pursuing the Magazine and Digital Storytelling program, and was previously an Editorial Fellow at Adweek.

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