On May 27, The Associated Press’ David Crary and Clara Johnson wrote an article that uncritically repeated talking points from anti-abortion advocates to claim that if the Supreme Court decides to overturn Roe v. Wade, the impact will not be as drastic as pro-choice activists allege it would be. In reality, overturning Roe could have detrimental impacts on low-income communities’ ability to access care and could spur a reinvigorated anti-choice movement pushing to restrict access to contraceptives and abortion in states where these reproductive rights are currently protected.
Crary and Johnson began the piece by stating that recently adopted state restrictions on abortion access have “set off speculation” about what would happen if the Supreme Court overturned Roe, thereby reverting abortion policy to individual states. The article explained some of the “abortion-related changes that have unfolded since 1973,” the year Roe was decided, and quoted a few abortion rights advocates. But Crary and Johnson also talked to two anti-abortion advocates, and the journalists failed to fact-check the anti-abortion misinformation they offered.
Dr. Donna Harrison, the executive director of the anti-abortion group American Association of Pro-life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, told the AP that advancements in ultrasound technology mean pregnant people who view ultrasound images -- as some states mandate they do -- change their minds about having an abortion. However, research shows that viewing an ultrasound “does not alter decisions of the large majority of women who are certain that abortion is the right decision.”
The AP also spoke to Michael New from the anti-abortion group Charlotte Lozier Institute, who “said the debate [about abortion] is far more polarized now than in 1973, with fewer Republicans favoring abortion rights and fewer Democrats opposing them.” However, Crary and Johnson failed to provide the context that, when talking about the overturning of Roe specifically, polling shows that a majority of Americans -- including most Republicans -- support upholding the decision.
While Crary and Johnson also simplified a post-Roe world as just “a patchwork map” of states choosing whether to ban abortion completely, limit access, or uphold complete access, they failed to take into account the power of the present-day anti-abortion movement. The movement has already attempted to close clinics in states such as in Missouri, which may not have a single clinic by the end of this week that provides abortion. Right-wing media and anti-abortion groups have also pushed lies that states are promoting “infanticide” when legislators there only want to protect access if Roe is overturned.
In addition, while Crary and Johnson pointed to the ability of people to self-manage medication abortions or to have access to an increased range of contraceptives, the Trump administration seems likely to block the purchase of abortion pills from other states or overseas or to otherwise curtail access to birth control. Perhaps most egregiously, the authors overlooked the significance of abortion regulation returning to states for low-income communities' ability to access care. The picture the AP article painted of a post-Roe world is a fairly rosy one -- and it’s unlikely to be our reality.