Chicken little forecast

Still Chugging Along

Volcanoes are erupting in The Philippines, but on-fire Australia received some welcome rain. The Iran war cries have been called off and The Donald’s military powers are about to be hamstrung by the Senate. Meanwhile, his impeachment trial is starting, and we’re all on Twitter for a front-row seat.


What Could Go Right? In a post-Roe US

What happens now, state by state, and some suggestions

Emma Varvaloucas

Emma Varvaloucas

This is our weekly newsletter, What Could Go Right? Sign up here to receive it in your inbox every Thursday at 6am ET. You can read past issues here.

Against the tide? The United States to roll back abortion rights

“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in a draft majority opinion leaked to Politico on Tuesday. “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”

A draft is just that—a draft—and the opinion will not go into effect until it is published. With the ever-applicable caveat that we don’t know what the future will hold, it looks likely that the Supreme Court will end federal protections for the right to an abortion in the coming months. Current federal law allows abortions up until 24 weeks of pregnancy, setting the United States among the most liberal countries in the world. 

That is including in comparison to most of Europe, where in many countries abortion access is better and more even but where the cutoff for an abortion lies around 12 weeks. With this rollback, the United States would join Poland, El Salvador, and Nicaragua as the only countries to have tightened abortion laws since 1994. “In that period, 59 countries have expanded access,” reported The New York Times, from Ireland to Argentina.

We join many other media outlets in emphasizing: as of now, abortions are still legal in the US. And even if the Supreme Court moves in the way the draft indicates, abortion will not suddenly become illegal nationwide. Many states have a codified right to abortion that exists apart from federal decision-making. Prior to this leak, some even characterized 2021 as a “watershed year for reproductive justice,” with many states, like New Mexico, Illinois, and Virginia, solidifying abortion rights or expanding the availability of care. One state has gone even further. Connecticut, in response to laws in Texas, Idaho, and Oklahoma that allow citizens to sue abortion providers, last month passed a counter-law that protects their residents from such lawsuits. Other states may do the same.

What happens now, state by state
What the situation will look like going forward highly depends on which state you live in, which in many ways it already does. The worrisome areas, should the Court go ahead, are the at least 13 states where near-total abortion bans will take effect immediately or soon after the Court’s decision comes down. 

The coverage of exactly what will happen in each state, if Roe is overturned, is difficult to wade through. What we have done for the list below, which is slightly simplified, is check national coverage against each state’s local coverage by hand. States with near-total bans have varying rules around exceptions; for instance, some allow for abortion in cases where the baby will be stillborn, and some do not. We recommend looking at local coverage of your own state for complete details.

  • States that have pre-Roe abortion laws on the books that would likely not go into effect: Michigan and Wisconsin
  • That may set an earlier cutoff: Arizona (15 weeks), Florida (15 weeks), Montana (20 weeks), and North Carolina (20 weeks)
  • That would impose a near-total ban, with exceptions for when the mother’s life is at risk but not for cases of rape: Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, South Dakota,Tennessee, and Texas
  • That would impose a near-total ban, with exceptions for when the mother’s life is at risk and for cases of rape: Idaho, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming
  • States where it’s unclear what will happen: Kansas and West Virginia

Where Americans stand on abortion is . . . complicated. (Large majorities agree it should be available in cases of rape and endangerment to the mother, but numbers dwindle after that, and many of the states that will enact bans enjoy popular support for them.) Unlike other “culture war” issues, like LGBTQ rights, where the American public has grown more progressive over time, stances on abortion over the last 50 years have remained relatively the same even as the numbers of abortions have gone steadily down.

Some suggestions
A pre-Roe US is not the same as a post-Roe one. “Should federal protection for abortion be obsolete, the best-case scenario for abortion access” is that “state laws will enable a plethora of different approaches,” including “abortion-travel networks and abortion-inducing drugs,” writes Elizabeth Nolan Brown in Reason. So far, those options have worked well enough that Texas’ September 2021 law, which essentially banned abortion after six weeks, resulted “in an overall decline [of abortions] of only around 10 percent,” reported The New York Times. And since the vast majority, over 90%, of abortions in the US take place in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, activists see pharmaceuticals and self-managed abortions—which are safe—to be the future of abortion access, and are working on making that option well-known to the public.

That is, of course, a pro-choice proposal of action. There is also one that by logic should appeal to both sides of the fence. The falling numbers of abortions since the 1970s is due to sex education, widespread adoption of birth control, and the (perhaps concerning?) fact that today’s younger generations aren’t having as much sex with one another. One measure to continue that drop, then, is for the Food and Drug Administration to approve over-the-counter birth control.

And for those of us who are tired of the intense politicization of the country’s highest court, a suggestion from TPN Member James Fallows that is pertinent, nonpartisan, and powerful: abolish life terms for Supreme Court justices. “No other serious country appoints its most powerful judges for open-ended life terms,” he wrote on Twitter. He suggests 18-year fixed terms, with each president receiving one appointment to the Supreme Court every two years.

Before we go

A small collection of recent progress for women (and men!) worldwide: Singaporean women can now freeze their eggs for non-medical reasons—but they can only use them in the future if they get married. Kids in Italy used to get their father’s surnames, period. Now parents can choose between the father’s or mother’s surname, or decide on an order that includes both. New Mexico is offering free childcare to most of its residents for a year.

And, we really appreciated this email, posted by TPN Member Tyler Cowen, that lists the 12 trends that point to Russia not turning to its nukes.

Below in the links section, Gen Z and college-educated workers are driving shifts in modern-day work, the world’s first floating city is coming to South Korea, and more.

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that Oklahoma’s abortion ban does not make an exception for cases of rape. It does make an exception for cases of rape and incest, and the article has been edited to reflect that.

Words of wisdom from Braver Angels’ Mónica Guzmán

Pandemic “Retrospective” | S2 Ep. 6

Are we moving “out of the pandemic phase” of COVID-19? We talk with the Director of the Human Nature Lab at Yale University, Nicholas Christakis, and Special Advisor to the Director General of the World Health Organization, Ezekiel Emanuel, about what we’ve learned over the past two years and where we can go from here. | Listen to the episode

TPN on The Daily Zeitgeist

TPN Founder Zachary Karabell and Executive Director Emma Varvaloucas sat down with The Daily Zeitgeist’s Jack O’Brien and Miles Gray to talk about their search histories, Greek rappers, billionaires, and constructive good news. | Listen to the episode

Progress, Please

(Found good news? Tweet at us @progressntwrk or email.)

Other good stuff in the news

United States:


TPN Member originals 

Reverse-summit this week’s long list of progress links.

Upcoming Events

Upcoming Events

Until Next Time

Meet us at the middle ground.👇

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post a Comment
Emma Varvaloucas

Emma Varvaloucas is the Executive Director of The Progress Network. An editor and writer specializing in nonprofit media, she was formerly Executive Editor of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review and is the editor of two books from Wisdom Publications.