The Supreme Court privately voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, according to an early draft of a majority opinion obtained by Politico on May 2. The draft is not a final decision, but many in the Elon community expressed their opinions, fears and support of the majority draft.
The majority opinion draft, written by Justice Samuel Alito, could strike down the landmark ruling in Roe v. Wade. Thirteen states already have trigger laws in place that would immediately go into effect if Roe v. Wade is overturned.
Though various bills that would restrict access to abortion in North Carolina have passed through the state legislature in recent years, Gov. Roy Cooper has vetoed all of them. Attempts to override the vetoes failed to receive three-fifths of the vote in each chamber.
Senior Honors Fellow Maria Mendoza spent the last two years researching how access to abortion clinics impacted eviction rates in Texas and Wisconsin. Elon News Network sat down with Mendoza to ask for her reaction on the news and what she thinks will happen next.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
Can you tell me a little bit about your research, especially getting into researching abortion and evictions?
“I've always been very pro-choice. That has always been something that ever since high school, I was always very active on reproductive justice issues. So, I really wanted to focus on women's rights, for whatever reason. It didn't have to be reproductive justice within my research.
When I was talking to my mentor, Dr. Steven Bednar, he was like, ‘Well, I did abortion research.’ When he was in his undergrad, he was in Berkeley, and he did his thesis on abortion at that time, and so I was like, ‘Oh, perfect.’ We found something in common, and I was going to choose him. And then he also did research on eviction, separately, so he was like, ‘How about we come together? How about we come with those two topics, and bring a story, and try to tell a story.’
With economics research, you have data, and you're able to run statistical regression to be able to see if there's a connection. I was able to find data on abortion clinics from these two papers that I read, these two other economic papers, and those writers, those researchers were able to send me their data. And then I also got eviction data from the Princeton Eviction Lab, and through that, I was able to create a theory of what I would find.
In eviction data, women are more likely to get evicted. In neighborhoods with large amounts of children have higher eviction rates. So, through my theory, I was able to see that if you lose access to abortion, because of clinic closures or anything like that, then maybe you will have a child that you weren't expecting financially, and then that could lead to evictions. That was my theory for my thesis.
I did find results that show this. I looked at two states, Texas and Wisconsin. They're very different demographically, and the size of them are very different, and politically they're very different. And I found that in Texas, lack of access to abortion did affect evictions a year after the closures of clinics, and then Wisconsin, I didn't find anything statistically significant.”
Could you tell me a little bit about your findings in Texas and what struck you as most important?
“The reason I think that only Texas was statistically significant was because I was looking at this time, House Bill 2 in Texas. This was a law that passed and closed almost half of the clinics. So originally in 2013, there was 41 abortion clinics in Texas, and after this law passed that put a bunch of really strict restrictions on clinics, half these clinics closed, and there was just a very fast loss of access compared to Wisconsin, who only had five original clinics, and only two of them closed. So it was already a state that had a very low amount of clinics. People usually would go to Minnesota or Chicago, which are nearby.
Finding statistically significant results in Texas meant more because there was such a big change and what happened … 20 clinics close.
What I found was that, like I was mentioning before, congestion. When more women have to go to a clinic than before, that's the variable that I found statistically significant. So as more women started going to the remaining clinics, then eviction rates increased, and that's what I found statistically significant.”
Seeing that you are passionate about reproductive justice and done research on it, what was your reaction to the news last night about Roe v. Wade?
“Definitely very disheartening. I kind of saw this coming, ever since Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away and they had to replace her, and the majority of Supreme Court justices gravitated more conservatively. I knew this would happen.
And just from doing research about what's happening in different states, like two weeks ago I think, Oklahoma passed a law that … if you provide an abortion, you could be sent to jail for 10 years … that was the most strict restriction on abortion yet.
I know a lot of states are thinking of taking away this right, so the fact that now the Supreme Court, majority of them, will vote against that, then obviously, it is very disheartening, and it's very sad.”
Do you think if Roe v. Wade is overturned, there will be similar impacts like you saw in your research across the country?
“When I was looking at my research, my specific variables for access to abortion were the distance — so how far a clinic got from you once the closer ones closed — and then also congestion, which means if a few clinics close near you, and there's just less clinics, so more women are going to try to go to those clinics. Longer waiting times are going to happen. People can't get appointments, and they pass maybe the first trimester, and it's no longer legal in those specific states.
But now, I don't know if you've seen the maps of the states that will overturn abortion if the Supreme Court overturned it, and it's kind of scary because they're all kind of bulked up in the South. All those women in those areas can't drive to California, or New York, or Washington state, so I think it definitely will impact not just evictions — evictions was just something I was passionate about. But you can look at anything. Educational attainment. If a teen mom gets pregnant, then maybe she won't be able to finish high school. There's so many other things, bankruptcy, bad credit, so many things in the economy that could go bad if you don't have access to abortion.”
I definitely would not have thought of economic impact with abortion access, that’s really interesting. As Elon students try to figure out what to do next, what do you think you can do?
“I've been thinking about this all today. But I think just being able to be very educated and helping people be educated. We are very privileged to be in a school and have economic possibilities. So, if we were to get pregnant, we would have other resources to go to. Maybe we could fly to California, if we needed to, but I definitely think just educating ourselves and educating other women.
Something that's going to be really big in the future … sex education will have to be such a big push in the future if Roe v. Wade is overturned, then abortion won’t be accessible to people, so people have to be thinking before. I think definitely in the future, just if it does happen to get overturned, we have to focus on how to educate women in their reproductive life.”
What would you tell an Elon student who may not know a lot about this issue?
“Like you mentioned, you never thought about the economic consequences that could happen from losing access to abortion.
I think it's obvious, we know what happens when you don't have access to abortion. You will have to continue a pregnancy. Maybe you can give up the baby for adoption, but that's not always a possibility.
There's other things that come with being pregnant and having a child that you weren't expecting. Your whole life changes. It's a very permanent decision and economically, like I said, you could be pushed back on your prospective future.
I think definitely just thinking outside of the box, not just knowing that, ‘Oh, no abortion, no access to abortion, means no abortion.’ No, there's so many other things economically and socially that affect things. Being educated, and again, knowing what your rights are, if you do live in a state that does provide abortion and will continue to provide abortion, just knowing that and how to help other people.”