The women’s healthcare environment could be in for a seismic shift depending on the outcome of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a pending Supreme Court case that will decide whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional.
On Monday night, Politico published a draft opinion of the case authored by Justice Samuel Alito that would effectively overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case that legalized abortion in the U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed the authenticity of the draft opinion Tuesday morning and said that the court would investigate the leak.
President Joe Biden called the draft opinion a “radical decision,” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi deemed it an “abomination,” while Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called for a vote to codify abortion rights.
If Roe were overturned, abortion would be legal in 21 states and protected by state statutes or state constitutions in eight additional states. It “likely would be prohibited” in 24 states and three territories, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.
The question facing healthcare marketers, and millions upon millions of Americans, is what women’s health would look like in a post-Roe world.
Kate Ryder, the founder of Maven Clinic, a telehealth company that provides women’s and family health services, wrote in an internal email she later posted to her LinkedIn page that she started the company around the principle that “people — particularly women and families — deserve more access to better healthcare.”
Ryder added that overturning Roe would place the heaviest burden on the “most vulnerable and marginalized women,” and that the company condemns regulations that roll back access to safe and affordable reproductive care, “including safe abortions.”
Still, Maven has preparations in place to assist patients in need if access to reliable reproductive care is curtailed as a result of the court’s decision in Hobbs v. Jackson.
“Since last September, when the Texas legislature passed SB-8, which banned abortion after 6 weeks, Maven teams have been planning and working on how to continue to support access to care if Roe v. Wade gets overturned,” Ryder wrote. “That means leveraging Maven Wallet to help American companies cover expenses for women seeking out-of-state care, and it means supporting members with options counseling and providing a safe forum for people to learn about their choices regarding pregnancy.”
Varsha Rao, CEO of Nurx, a female-focused digital healthcare company, said the draft opinion is “deeply concerning” because limiting access to healthcare “limits what’s possible for women.”
“With less control over whether and when you have children comes less control over your education, your career, your relationships, and your chance to realize your dreams,” she explained. “And of course, that’s not just a loss for individual women. All of society loses when women can’t achieve their full potential.”
Rao added that while the focus is currently on abortion, many people face barriers to birth control and live in so-called contraception deserts. She said that Nurx has seen an increased demand for emergency contraception – including a 300% spike for Ella, its morning-after pill – since the draft opinion leaked.
Additionally, Rao said the company has heard from patients asking whether birth control will be available if Roe is overturned.
“Restrictions on abortion make it more important than ever for people to have convenient and affordable access to birth control and emergency contraception to prevent unplanned pregnancies,” she noted.
As healthcare companies attempt to meet consumer needs at a time when many people are likely to live in states where access to certain healthcare options will be unavailable, emphasizing convenience, privacy and education are key, Rao added.
Telehealth has been a “crucial” tool for advancing women’s healthcare, because even patients in states where sexual or reproductive healthcare is restricted can request care and get their questions answered at their convenience from a licensed medical provider. These patients also don’t run the risk of running into their provider in public.
Education is also essential for patients to clear up common misconceptions around abortions, birth control, and emergency contraception, Rao noted.
See also: How 7 pro-choice organizations responded to the leaked Supreme Court decision