ATLANTA, June 3 — Two decades ago the 17-year-old daughter of poor immigrant farm-workers living in rural South Georgia faced a difficult choice: The high school drop-out could carry an unwanted pregnancy conceived from an abusive relationship with a 23-year-old man to term or seek an abortion, and draw the stigma and moral judgment of her Latino and Catholic family.
She made the hard decision. Today Alma, who wished to be identified by her first name for fear of professional repercussions, has a successful career, was the first in her family to graduate from college, and has a loving husband and son. That “American Dream,” she said, would have been impossible without access to abortion.“Everything that I went through, including abortion: Yes, it was my American Dream for sure,” she said.
But with the Supreme Court expected to overturn Roe V. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that made abortion access a constitutionally protected right, the laws that permitted Alma to continue her life as a student and pursue a successful career are set to radically change. Legal experts say a Supreme Court reversal of Roe v. Wade could quickly call into effect Georgia’s 2019 ‘Heartbeat Bill’ (HB 481).
And for Georgia women, that could mean having to take to the roadways to find the one or two states in the South where they can legally have an abortion.
The Heartbeat Bill would ban abortion access after six weeks, a point at which women may not even know they are pregnant, let alone have time to plan or consider options. It provides exceptions up to 20 weeks for cases of police-documented rape, incest, or cases of medical necessity such as a threat to the life of the mother or fetal non-viability.
What if HB 481 had been the law when Alma sought an abortion? It is a “what-if” she cannot fathom. “I don't want to think about it. I mean, I honestly don't want to because there was no way that I would be in the place where I am now, or be alive even,” said Alma, now 39.
When Alma sought a second abortion, she and a friend drove the 3-and-a-half hours from her university in South Georgia to Atlanta for the procedure.
In a post-Roe v. Wade Georgia, seeking an abortion could likely take a woman across state lines. Driving to North Carolina or Florida, the nearest likely options, could be a hardship beyond the obvious reason of distance, but those states have mandatory waiting periods, piling on the added expense of lodging.