Author: Delaney Biddy-Hoffman

Weakening Roe v. Wade: Conservative States Have a Plan

In 1965, illegal abortions performed in unsafe settings made up one-sixth of all pregnancy-related deaths. In 1973, the Supreme Court addressed this issue in the landmark decision from Roe v. Wade by holding that access to safe and legal abortion is a constitutional right. States that do not agree with this decision have consistently attempted to attack access to abortion, most often by imposing targeted regulations of abortion providers, or “TRAP” laws. These restrictions, which impose costly, severe, and medically unnecessarily requirements on abortion providers, are designed to make access more difficult by effectively putting providers out of business. In 2016, the Supreme Court struck down Texas restrictions that created an undue burden for women seeking abortion services in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. Although this decision did not invalidate all TRAP requirements, it opened the door for challenges to other state TRAP laws.

Now, less than 50 years after the Roe v. Wade decision, states are devising new plans. Conservative-leaning states are introducing anti-abortion bills in hope that lawsuits will come before a Supreme Court that is now packed with appointees of the previous administration. The states are attempting to chip away at abortion rights by using the courts to add more restrictions on access. As a result of the democrat-led Congress and the new Biden Administration, the only way that the anti-abortion groups can achieve their goals is by pushing legislation through at the state level. Over a dozen states have introduced bills that would prohibit access to abortion medication through the mail and require doctors to offer an ultrasound before terminating the pregnancy. The most shocking of these, a Montana bill that would create a ballot initiative asking Montanans to decide whether fetuses that live through abortion are people with legal rights. It is highly likely that these proposed bills will become law, and subsequently will be challenged in court. Nicole Smith, a fellow of the Society of Family Planning confirmed that the onslaught of bills is going to result in a legal battle, starting in the states and progressing to the Supreme Court, which is exactly what the conservative states intended.

If conservative states are successful at weakening or overturning Roe v. Wade, less than half of U.S. states will retain its abortion protections. The highest courts in ten states have recognized the right to abortion as a fundamental right, and 11 additional states have passed legislation protecting access to abortions. That leaves 29 states that are lacking legal protection for abortions. Of those 29, there are approximately 24 that are considered hostile toward abortions and would likely attempt to ban access altogether. The remaining five states have not considered the question in their highest courts, and have no legislation guaranteeing rights, so the effects of weakening Roe v. Wade would be uncertain. Nearly one in four women in American will have an abortion during her lifetime – but where will these women go, and what will they experience, if abortion is outlawed in their state? As of January 2021, at least 19 abortion related cases are close to reaching the Supreme Court – which means that conservative states are one step closer to  restricting abortion rights that the Court once ruled were constitutionally protected.

Eat Your Fruits and Vegetables

There are a number of factors that interact with one another to shape an individual’s fruit and vegetable access and intake. These factors include public policies regarding food availability and nutrition programs; community factors, such as geography and cultural norms; institutional guidelines for schools, food retailers and producers. Interpersonal relationships created by household food norms and peer support; and certain individual characteristics. The CDC states that just 1 in 10 adults meet their fruit and vegetable recommendations. A lack of appropriate fruit and vegetable consumption puts people at risk for chronic diseases because of insufficient vitamins, minerals and fiber. The CDC recommends a number of strategies that may increase access to fruit and vegetables, including but not limited to, the expansion of farm-to-institution programs, improved access to stores that sell high quality produce, and ensured access to fresh produce in cafeterias and food service venues.

Healthy People 2030 sets data-driven national objectives to improve health and well-being over the next decade. The program includes 355 objectives, that are distributed among 42 topic areas. One of these topic areas is Nutrition and Weight Status, which documents and highlights the practical application of law and policy to improve health.

According to the CDC, in the United States 18.5% of children aged 2-19 years are obese. Children that were obese during childhood are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure and high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, breathing problems, joint problems, psychological problems like anxiety and depression, low self-esteem, and bullying. Furthermore, children who are obese are more likely to become adults who are obese, which is associated with increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. Healthy eating in early childhood is critical to establishing lifelong healthy eating patterns, and the law can influence healthy eating habits in children, by setting strong and specific nutrition standards to increase the availability of fruits and vegetables.

Starting healthy habits young and improving access to fruits and vegetables in schools is only the beginning. There are a number of laws and policies that can be used to influence health behaviors. Taxing certain food items creates an incentive to purchase the items that are taxed lower. Accordingly, eliminating or reducing tax on healthy foods, or implementing a higher tax on foods with “minimal-to-no nutritional value” would motivate consumers to purchase the healthier options. Local governments may also set stocking requirements, so stores would have to have, at least, minimal healthy food options. Local communities could adopt ordinances to prevent property owners from restricting development of grocery stores in order to make grocery stores more accessible in every community. Additionally, in terms of accessibility, states and localities can allow SNAP benefits to be used on fresh produce or at farmer’s markets. Restaurants can also lend their assistance, by requiring caloric information to be posted on menus, thereby allowing individuals to make informed decisions about what to eat when dining out. Lastly, but certainly not least, local governments can decrease regulations when they act as a barrier to health. For example, land use and zoning codes often require costly permits to sell homegrown produce, so updating or removing these restrictions would encourage more people to grow their own produce, which would lower the cost of their grocery store visits.

Each of these laws and policies would move the general population one step closer to improving its cumulative health, and in so doing, improve its overall well-being. Healthy People 2030 uses evidence based policy solutions that can be used in nearly all communities to achieve their objectives, and provides guidance for how to apply the program in your own life.