What Does the Overturn of Roe v. Wade Mean for You?

    The Supreme Court’s decision will immediately affect people seeking reproductive healthcare in states across the U.S.

    A patient speaks to their doctor. Photo: Getty Images

    The Supreme Court on June 24 overturned the 1973 landmark decision Roe v. Wade, along with a 1992 case, Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, that previously affirmed the constitutional right to an abortion. The 6-3 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization removes those federal protections and gives each state the authority to expand, limit, or ban abortion.

    The change applies most urgently to more than 33 million women and other people of reproductive age across the U.S. who live in states where abortion is now expected to be severely limited or practically banned.

    More on Healthcare Privacy

    More specifically, the court struck down the long-standing argument that the Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which guarantees a right to privacy, also applies to the right to seek an abortion.

    While many Americans will still have access to abortion if they live in a state where it remains legal, access will become difficult or impossible for many others. 

    “It’s going to be total chaos,” says Greer Donley, an assistant professor of law at the University of Pittsburgh Law School and an expert on reproductive health law. “Every state has always had different abortion laws, but there was this federal floor that created a lot of uniformity and ensured that a lot of people—not everybody—had access to abortion. What we are going to see in the future is truly extraordinary disparity in how states are treating abortion.” 

    Consumer Reports described what the state landscape looked like in the year prior to the Roe v. Wade decision in this July 1972 article (PDF). 

    Just as CR called out the possible harms that consumers faced before that landmark decision nearly 50 years ago, the organization will continue helping consumers to make informed, safer choices for themselves, says Marta Tellado, Consumer Reports CEO. That includes navigating new risks to privacy and data security that come with the digital age.

    “Since 1936, Consumer Reports’ mission has been rooted in guiding consumers with trusted, science-based information to make informed decisions,” Tellado says.We have long supported access to safe, affordable healthcare for all consumers. As we evaluate the Supreme Court decision to overturn the protections of Roe v. Wade and its impact, we recognize the return to a very real safety threat for millions of people who will no longer have safe, legal access to reproductive services.”

    Today’s Supreme Court decision raises pressing questions for millions of people about what’s next on the reproductive healthcare landscape. Here are answers to some of those questions.

    Where Is Abortion Illegal Immediately?

    Thirteen states already have passed so-called trigger laws, which effectively ban or severely limit abortion access as soon as Roe v. Wade is overturned, according to an analysis by the Center for Reproductive Rights, a global legal advocacy organization. The states are Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi (which is at the center of the Supreme Court’s recent decision), Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming.

    Several of those states, as well as others, already have restrictive laws on the books.

    Where Could It be Illegal Soon?

    The Guttmacher Institute, which collects and analyzes data on abortion and contraception, says Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wisconsin all have either pre-Roe abortion bans on the books or existing six- or eight-week bans on abortion.

    Florida, Indiana, Nebraska, and Montana are all also politically inclined to place a ban on abortion in the near future, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

    But the fate of abortion in some of those states remains far from certain, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights, because the current governors in some—including Michigan and Wisconsin—are supportive of abortion rights.

    Can I Legally Get the Abortion Pill From a Healthcare Provider Online? 

    The “abortion pill” is actually two medicines, mifepristone and misoprostol, and can be taken up to 11 weeks of gestation. The Guttmacher Institute says about half of all abortions in 2020 the U.S. are now medication abortion (vs. surgical abortion). 

    Currently, about 18 states have either banned using a telehealth visit to get a prescription for a medication abortion or effectively banned it by requiring that a healthcare provider be present when a person takes abortion pills, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis. But in many of these states, all types of abortion—including via medication—will be illegal now or may be soon since Roe v. Wade has been overturned. (Read more about telehealth visits and medical abortions.)

    Will Conversations With My Healthcare Provider About Abortion Remain Private?

    In general, yes. In-person conversations about your medical care in a traditional healthcare setting such as at a doctor’s office, a hospital, or a clinic are private. 

    But there are exceptions. Medical personnel are allowed to call law enforcement about a patient if they suspect a crime has been committed. If you seek treatment for a miscarriage in a state where abortion is illegal, for example, and a healthcare provider suspects you’ve induced an abortion with the abortion pill, they could call the police. In the future, state laws could even require them to.

    The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, the federal law that generally makes conversations between you and your doctor private, “would be of no help because it includes numerous exceptions that permit mandatory healthcare provider reporting,” says Jennifer Oliva, a law professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law who has studied reproductive health law. She spoke earlier with CR for a more in-depth article on this topic.

    Are Web Searches, Emails, and Texts About Access to Abortion Private?

    No. Your searches for abortion information or emails and texts about seeking an abortion are no more private than any search you do on any other topic. 

    “HIPAA only covers communications between you and your doctor—not communications with Google or with an app,” says Justin Brookman, Consumer Reports’ director of consumer privacy and technology policy. “The U.S. has relatively flimsy privacy laws, so a company that knows what medical issues you’re interested in generally is free to share that with whomever they want.”

    What If I Use a Period-Tracker App or Something Similar? Will That Information Remain Private?

    Probably not. Most period tracking apps store your data in the cloud, and many also share your data with third parties, such as advertisers. An analysis by CR’s Digital Lab did find a few period tracking apps that protect users’ privacy, however: Drip, Euki, and Periodical. (Read more about our investigation.)

    Head shot of CRO author Lisa Gill

    Lisa L. Gill

    As a dorky kid, I spent many a Saturday at the Bloomington, Ind., public library, scouring Consumer Reports back issues for great deals. Now, as a (much) bigger kid, that's still my job! Identifying products and services, especially in healthcare, that are safe, effective, and affordable—and highlighting those that aren't—is my top concern. Got a tip? Follow me on Twitter ( @Lisa_L_Gill)