Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade: U-M experts available to discuss

June 24, 2022


Siobán Harlow is a professor emerita of epidemiology and global public health, and obstetrics and gynecology. She is also the director of the Center for Midlife Science.

“The Supreme Court decision reflects a woeful misrepresentation of history and disregard for the context of many women’s lives. Recent laws banning abortion place in danger the health and lives of women who miscarry and who are without access to safe abortion. These laws will lead to an increase in maternal morbidity and mortality, they will not stop abortion.”

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Paul Fleming is an assistant professor of health behavior and health education. His research focuses on the root causes of health inequities, with a particular focus on developing and evaluating interventions in poor and marginalized communities.

“Abortion is health care and part of a person’s right to choose if and when to have a child,” he said. “Overturning Roe v. Wade will cause harms that are entirely preventable and increase inequities we see in health and other outcomes.”

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Leah Litman is an assistant professor of law focusing on constitutional law, federal courts and federal sentencing. Her research examines unidentified and implicit values that are used to structure the legal system, the federal courts and the legal profession. She’s the host of “Strict Scrutiny,” a podcast exploring news, arguments and opinions from the Supreme Court.

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Barbara McQuade, professor from practice of law, specializes in civil rights, public interest law and criminal law.

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Richard Friedman, professor of law, is an expert on evidence and U.S. Supreme Court history. 

“Most of the American public consistently supports allowing women to abort pregnancies, at least in the first trimester, and the full force of that view will now be directed into political channels,” he said. “We can expect this to help Democrats and put many Republicans on the spot. Pro-choice organizations will raise money much more easily, and I believe that, though some states will try to prevent them, far more women will be able to travel out of state for safe and legal abortions. Also, the great majority of abortions are performed in states where the law will not change as a result of this decision.”

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Paula Lantz, professor of public policy and health management and policy, studies the role of public policy in improving population health and reducing social disparities in health. 

“More than 1/3 of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned or mistimed. And we know from a great deal of research that denying abortion services to those who are not ready or able to support a child has life-long negative health and economic effects on the children, women and families involved,” she said. “This is especially the case for those who are already struggling economically when faced with an unexpected pregnancy.  

“Research shows that women who want but are unable to obtain an abortion in the U.S. are more likely to experience household poverty lasting at least four years, are more likely to be evicted and become bankrupt, and are less likely to finish their educational plans compared to those who were able to get abortion services. And in the U.S., children born into poverty are likely to stay in poverty for most or all of their childhoods.”

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Anna Kirkland is a professor and director of the Institute for Research on Women and Gender.

“Abortion access is about to be dramatically restricted across large swaths of the United States,” she said. “Some people who need abortions will still be able to get them by traveling or using medication, but many more people will be forced to give birth against their will. Some will take desperate actions and some will die from pregnancy complications.

“This is by far the most radical right-wing majority we have ever seen on the Supreme Court, and so I am wondering whether and when they will take further steps like declaring that a fetus is a person, making all abortions illegal no matter what the state would like to do, or removing rights of access to same-sex marriage or contraception. Republican state legislatures are certainly ready to oblige them with these laws. These are theocratically driven ideas that have found a majority on our court.”

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Gary Harper is a professor of health behavior and health education, whose research and community work focuses on the mental health and sexual health needs of adolescents and young adults who experience varying degrees of oppression and marginalization.

“The court’s willingness to overturn precedent could also be extended to the 2015 SCOTUS case of Obergefell v. Hodges granting marriage rights to same-sex couples,” he said. “These marriage rights are not just about being able to say ‘we are legally married’ but about having legal rights and protections afforded to married couples. 

“In the current legislative session, state legislators have introduced more than 340 anti-LGBTQ bills, most of which are targeting transgender health. This is the largest number in the history of our country. I am fearful that this precedent of allowing states to regulate women’s bodies will be used as a way to support some of these state-level bills which propose to remove the rights of transgender youth, their parents and their doctors with regard to the use of hormones and puberty blockers. Where does it end? All of these decisions are about giving states the right to regulate and surveil the bodies of minoritized people, especially cisgender and transgender women, and to force them to conform to standards created by oppressive people with power, many of whom are white cisgender heterosexual men.”

Contact: gwharper

Sarah Miller is an assistant professor of business economics and public policy and faculty associate at the Population Studies Center at the Institute for Social Research. She researches health care and health economics and recently published a paper on the economic consequences of being denied an abortion.

“Our recent study compared women who are denied abortions on the basis of gestational age to women who sought and obtained abortions slightly earlier in the pregnancy,” she said. “Those denied abortions experience a spike in financial problems—including serious financial problems such as bankruptcies—that persisted for many years. Now that Roe v. Wade is overturned, millions will be put in a position where an unplanned pregnancy could expose them to serious long-term financial and economic hardship.”

Contact: 734-647-6978, [email protected] 

Josh Pasek is an associate professor of communication and media and faculty associate at the Center for Political Studies in the Institute for Social Research. His research explores how new media and psychological processes each shape political attitudes and behaviors and public opinion. He is also leading a project assessing abortion and public opinion.

“When Roe was decided, the ruling didn’t have partisan overtones because the issue simply wasn’t partisan. Today, the situation is far different, and the results of the court’s decision are likely to have enormous partisan effects,” he said. “As many states appear set to outlaw the procedure in the wake of the court’s decision, this will put Republican legislatures in conflict with the majority of Americans, who generally think abortion is a complicated issue and should be legal under at least some circumstances.

“Today’s ruling will also fuel a growing perception that the courts are partisan actors. But since so many legislative seats are locked through gerrymandering and changing the court’s composition is a slow process, it seems likely that one major effect of the decision will be a loss of perceived governmental legitimacy at both the state and federal levels.”

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William Lopez is a clinical assistant professor of health behavior and health education who researches and teaches on the ways in which policies impact communities of color.

“Public health research is clear that access to abortion is part of a full suite of reproductive health care,” he said. “Eliminating abortion access will increase cycles of poverty, criminalize pregnancy, and unquestionably lead to maternal mortality. As is the case with all regressive health care policies, the burden of morbidity and mortality will be born most heavily by people of color.”

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Ruth Zielinski is a clinical professor and head of the graduate midwifery program at the School of Nursing. Her research expertise is in women’s health around body image and sexuality and maternal health outcomes. In this recent Q&A, she discusses how the state of Michigan limits reproductive health services that midwives and nurses can provide, further limiting services women receive.

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Joelle Abramowitz is an assistant research scientist at the Survey Research Center at the Institute for Social Research. She studies health insurance, medical expenditures, marriage, fertility and general health topics. 

“Research has shown the detrimental effects on women’s health and well-being of policies restricting access to abortion services at the time they seek an abortion and over the course of the rest of their lives,” she said. “Policy environments in which abortion was legal and readily accessible by young women are estimated to have caused a 34% reduction in first births, a 19% reduction in first marriages and a 63% reduction in ‘shotgun marriages’ prior to age 19.

“I’ve found that when women ages 20-24 have ready access to birth control through health insurance, abortion rates fall by 10%. These findings suggest that when women use more effective birth control when they have access to it, resulting in fewer unwanted pregnancies, but despite the Affordable Care Act provisions mandating the availability of free contraception, in practice, insurers often do not provide full coverage.”

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Sara McClelland, associate professor of psychology and women’s and gender studies, is a feminist psychologist who studies stigma and discrimination, with a focus on issues of reproductive justice and critical sexuality studies. She has served as an expert witness on state cases related to abortion legislation, including Adams & Boyle v. Slatery. 

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Lisa Harris, professor of obstetrics and gynecology, directs U-M’s Fellowship in Family Planning. Her clinical work includes most aspects of general obstetrics and gynecology care, with a focus on miscarriage and family planning. In particular, her research explores abortion stigma, the experiences of abortion care providers, race and social class stratification of reproduction, and strategies for providing health care within a reproductive justice framework.

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Lauren Owens is a clinical assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology with specialist training in complex family planning and abortion care. Her research team will study the impact of geography on abortion care access in Michigan by analyzing data on the distance to abortion care by Michigan county, identifying areas that are most likely to be affected by a ban, and examining whether distance to abortion care is associated with county-level maternal morbidity, racial composition and socioeconomic status. 

The Conversation: What the Supreme Court’s ruling on abortion means for women’s health and well-being

Contact: Michigan Medicine media relations: [email protected]