This reporting was supported by the International Women’s Media Foundation’s Reproductive Rights Reporting Fund.
Six justices and a pink house in Mississippi changed everything.
For nearly 50 years, Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that protected the right to an abortion, seemed inviolable. The landmark decision faced challenge after challenge — in 1992, 2000, 2007, 2016 and 2020 — and stopped some of the harshest abortion restrictions from taking effect. Though Roe’s power weakened dramatically over the years, it survived unceasing legal attacks from anti-abortion advocates.
Never had the nation guaranteed its people a right and then taken it away. Until June 24, 2022.
By that time, the right to an abortion existed in name only in some parts of the country: Mississippi and Missouri each had only one clinic; in Texas, abortion was effectively outlawed for anyone beyond six weeks of pregnancy. Still, under Roe, states could not ban access to the procedure entirely.
Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case centering on a Mississippi abortion ban and a Pepto Bismol pink abortion clinic — the last in the state — would give a new conservative Supreme Court majority a chance to take on Roe. They could make possible what had once felt like a moonshot for anti-abortion advocates.
And with a 6-3 decision, that’s exactly what they did.
Legal medical procedures became felonies. State governments began enforcing abortion bans that had been passed more than 100 years ago, in some cases turning to legislation passed before they had even become states. Under a patchwork of new laws, doctors in many states no longer knew if they could provide life-saving care. Patients in clinic waiting rooms were sent home.
- Behind this oral history:
But the story of Roe v. Wade’s overturn cannot be summed up by a single day. It spans the decades leading up to the Dobbs decision and continues even now, as states both shore up and gut abortion protections. But three key moments help illustrate the first year without federal abortion protections: May 2, when, in an unprecedented breach of the court, the Dobbs decision leaked; the court’s official ruling on June 24, allowing state abortion bans to take effect, in some cases immediately; and August 2, as voters responded to a world without Roe for the first time.
The 19th spoke with people from across the country about those historic days: lawmakers, physicians, organizers on both sides of the abortion fight and pregnant people navigating a new world. Their recollections — by turns raw, reflective, exhilarated and infuriated — illustrate the chaos and uncertainty that characterized last summer. And they underscore just how deeply the end of Roe transformed American life.
The 19th also reached out multiple times to 16 Republican lawmakers in Congress and statehouses — many who had sponsored anti-abortion legislation and spoken publicly about the Dobbs decision — and anti-abortion groups the Susan B. Anthony List and Kansans For Life. None agreed to participate in this project.
These conversations have been edited for length and clarity.
May 2, 2022
Monday, May 2, 2022, at 8:32 p.m. ET, Politico ran a story with the headline, “Exclusive: Supreme Court has voted to overturn abortion rights, draft opinion shows.”
It was a shock. A decision in the Dobbs case — the highest-profile of the court’s term — wasn’t expected until the end of June. Few could remember another time an early draft of a Supreme Court decision had been made public. For legislators, activists and abortion providers, it was an unexpected starting gun.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic senator from Massachusetts, was at her home in Washington, D.C.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren: I was in my kitchen on the phone with my daughter. We were in the middle of talking about something and she said, “Oh, my God — oh, no, no, no.” I thought, “Oh, dear, one of the grandchildren has been hurt, something’s happened right in front of her.” I kept saying, “What?” And finally she said, “I don’t understand the Supreme Court, they put up an opinion, they’re gonna take back Roe v. Wade.” She obviously was reading her phone while she was talking to me. I started punching on my own phone at the same time.
It felt like a full-body smack from the top of your head all the way down to your toes.
My mind went back to when I was a girl. I lived in an America where abortion was illegal. But women still got abortions. Sometimes they died, and sometimes, because abortions were hard to find, they couldn’t get help. There were young women who killed themselves rather than face a pregnancy that they couldn’t manage. All of that came flooding back. I thought my daughter and my granddaughters would be protected against that. And now the Supreme Court had made clear they were not.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren discusses the moment she learned of the leaked opinion suggesting the Supreme Court would overturn Roe v Wade. Listen here.
Dr. Cheryl Hamlin, a Boston-based physician, was at the apartment she stayed in during her regular trips to Jackson, Mississippi. For years, she traveled from Massachusetts to Mississippi to provide abortions at Jackson Women’s Health Organization. No local doctors felt safe staffing the clinic.
Dr. Cheryl Hamlin: I was with a medical student, who is not clueless in any other respect, but I think was a little clueless about this. She was like, “What? What do you mean? It can’t happen.”
She really did not think that this would happen — or even that Roe was at risk.
Kristan Hawkins, president of the anti-abortion group Students for Life, had been working to overturn Roe v. Wade for years. The looming Dobbs decision had prompted her to begin preparing her organization for a new phase in which states had the power to ban abortion.
When she learned about the leak, she and her family were temporarily staying in Houston as they traveled across the country in a camper van.
Kristan Hawkins: I was on my phone talking with another partner about unrelated subjects, and I saw it come up. I immediately was like, “I’ve gotta go.” I called our executive vice president, Tina: “Are you reading what I’m reading? Is this a joke?”
I was working in bed. My poor husband. I was like, “I’ve gotta go outside. You have to be with the kids.”
We all got on the line and had a work session. Our first statement was kind of cautious — like, “If this is true, one, this is egregious this happened. It totally violated the sanctity of the Supreme Court.” So initially we criticized the leak. And then we spoke to, “If this is true, and this is how a Supreme Court actually will rule, this is what we’ve been waiting for.”
I sat outside for hours. I got bit by so many mosquitos.
Ashley All, a liberal political communications consultant in Lawrence, Kansas, was at home with her family. At the time, All was working to defeat a proposal in Kansas that would eliminate abortion rights protections from the state’s constitution.
Ashley All: My husband and I had just started cooking dinner. It had been a long, busy day for both of us, and we poured a glass of wine and thought the day was done. And then my phone began to blow up. My heart just dropped.
I put my wine down and walked back to my computer, and spent the rest of the evening working frantically to get statements and put together social media posts. They’ve been chipping away at access for quite a while, but the way the draft opinion was written was much more stark than I think anybody had anticipated.
- When the draft leaked:
[The kids] had eaten dinner. I think I probably snuck up and gave them all hugs and kisses and got them to bed. They know when things are serious, and then they’ll come give me a hug. That was very helpful.
I think it was probably 1 a.m., and I was still awake working on things. Finally, I drank my glass of wine and went to bed to get up tomorrow and do all these things over again.
Dr. Gabrielle Goodrick, a Phoenix-based physician, was at a national conference for abortion providers. On March 30, 2022, her state had passed a law that would ban abortion for people pregnant past 15 weeks.
Dr. Gabrielle Goodrick: I was with some of the leaders of the National Abortion Federation and the providers from Arkansas. I knew for those people, it was going to be illegal in their state. There was massive grief. Everyone wanted to be together just to kind of cope with and deal with it. It was really bad. But I was kind of like, “Arizona is not going to be that way.” I don’t think I appreciated how bad it would be.
Rep. Cori Bush, a Democratic U.S. representative from St. Louis, who has spoken publicly about her own abortions, was at home that night. She learned about the leak when one of her staffers sent her a tweet.
Rep. Cori Bush: At first I didn’t believe it. Not that I didn’t know that it could happen, or that I thought it was so far off. But when it’s the moment, it’s the moment.
I remember sitting next to Rep. Barbara Lee during that Oversight Committee hearing a few months before and listening to her story. She spoke about how prior to 1973, the leading cause of death for Black women at that time was the sepsis that’s related to unsafe abortions. And just thinking, “Wow, is this what they want to go back to?”
It took me back to when I organized a protest, really an occupation, outside of my former senator’s office, Sen. Roy Blunt, during the Kavanaugh hearings. I, along with a few other activists, decided that we would just set up tents, occupy outside his office and really push him to hear us — to not be a yes vote for Brett Kavanaugh. There’s a picture of that moment when we heard the Kavanaugh vote. We were holding hands with our eyes closed, just hoping that we weren’t going to hear what we heard. Because we knew that that would help us get in the moment that we’re in now if he was confirmed.
Anti-abortion activists had already been debating what policy to push if Roe fell. Some wanted to argue for a law banning abortion at 15 weeks. Others, like Hawkins, felt that was insufficient. They wanted an outright prohibition on all abortions.
- Anti-abortion activists react:
Kristan Hawkins: Earlier that day — we obviously had no idea the leak was coming, nobody knows who did the leak — but we had issued a letter to our friends on Capitol Hill saying we have heard that our members may be looking at introducing a 15-week prevention act. We strongly would advise against this, because if we’re not preventing abortions in the first trimester, we’re not doing what we’re supposed to be doing. And I got a lot of pushback.
I was on the phone all morning with people who are angry with me for doing that. Then they were like, “Did you know the leak was coming?”
Andrea Gallegos was working from her home in San Antonio. Her father, Dr. Alan Braid, had worked as an abortion provider in the state since 1973, when Roe was decided. Gallegos ran two clinics: one in Texas, where abortion was already banned after six weeks of pregnancy, and another in Oklahoma, where the legislature had just passed a bill based on Texas’ law. Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt was expected to sign it — and as soon as he did, abortions after six weeks would be outlawed.
Andrea Gallegos: I was in the middle of calling patients for the Tulsa clinic. Just because of everything that was happening in the state, we were expecting the governor to sign the ban at any moment. I was talking to patients when I got the call from my dad.
I think it was really a defining moment for him. He had been incredibly optimistic. Throughout everything, he had put a lot of faith into Roe. It had always been there, and that had been his experience so many times before. And I think it was that moment that it really hit him hard that this was likely not going to go our way.
The morning of May 3, the U.S. Supreme Court confirmed that the leaked document was a draft of its pending ruling in the Dobbs case. Protesters congregated in Washington, D.C. President Joe Biden issued a statement criticizing the substance of the opinion. And at abortion clinics, patients kept showing up for their appointments.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren: I went into the office the next morning. I was angry, but I was also very determined that we’re not just going to take this lying down. So I went over to the steps of the United States Supreme Court. I just had no speech, no plan in advance — I just spoke to people about that anger, but also about that determination that the United States Supreme Court, this extremist court, will not get the final word. That was my commitment. And it remains my commitment now.
There were a lot of people who were crying, people who were very upset. But talking about turning that fear, that anger, into action seemed to pull us better together, to make us stronger together. You could almost feel the ties reaching out.
Patients coming into the clinic at the center of the Supreme Court case, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, hadn’t yet heard the news. Hamlin started telling them, one by one, that while abortion was still legal in Mississippi, it looked like it wouldn’t stay that way much longer.
Dr. Cheryl Hamlin: The leak made me ratchet up the intensity, telling patients, “This is happening, you have to make sure that the right people get elected.” At that point, we were seeing a lot of people from Texas. So, I was saying, “You people from Texas, you don’t want to have Gov. Greg Abbott get reelected.”
I used to try to be neutral, but as of that day, I was not neutral anymore. Because it was happening: You’re flying to Jackson because your state outlawed abortion. And now, pretty soon, Mississippi is gonna outlaw it. I think a lot of people didn’t believe it was really happening.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren: I went back to my office after this, and the first thing I did was start making phone calls: What can we do? What can the federal government do? What can the Department of Justice do? What can the Food and Drug Administration do? What can the Veterans Administration do? What can the Department of Defense do? Where are all the pieces — what can we do?
We still hoped that there wouldn’t be a final decision that overturned Roe, that maybe seeing an outpouring here would back up the Supreme Court a little. But we needed to be ready.
I was calling everywhere, including the White House.
Andrea Gallegos: We saw a lot of other clinics decide to stop and start again, and stop and start again, which I totally understand. We had those same conversations — should we keep going?
But that was literally all we could do. Just keep going, keep seeing patients. And we did.
Rep. Cori Bush: There were different groups of Congress members that were meeting and having conversations about what we could do — not only what we could do, but how they could message.
Messaging was a big deal. In my district, I can speak very plainly. I can say “abortion,” and I can talk about my experiences. I can be as open as I want, because I ran that way, I was that person before I ever started running for office, I was talking as an activist, I was speaking about my abortions and all the disparities and the issues that I’ve had. But we understood that there were people who don’t have that type of a district. And so it was how to make sure that they were comfortable, that they felt supported, that the messaging was there for them.
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That evening, shortly before 5 p.m. CT, the Oklahoma governor signed the state’s bill to ban abortion after six weeks of pregnancy. The law took effect right away.
Dr. Christy Bourne, the medical director of Trust Women, an abortion provider with clinics in Wichita, Kansas, and Oklahoma City, felt like she had been living in a post-Roe world for nine months already — ever since Texas began to enforce its six-week abortion ban in September 2021, her clinics had become a critical access point for people seeking care. But often, it felt as if people didn’t consider what these laws meant for Oklahomans.
Dr. Christy Bourne: It feels like this is an often-forgotten part of our country, that Oklahoma was thought of as where Texans are getting abortions after the six-week ban. But no, people live in Oklahoma. This affects Oklahomans.
The Oklahoma ban was something that we were anticipating. The governor was talking about that since April. So honestly, he drug his feet on signing it until the very last moment. All the clinics had already responded in anticipation and had changed their patient volumes in Oklahoma.
Andrea Gallegos: I found out through our attorneys that it had been signed, and then the patient calls began. One thing we had done as we were still scheduling patients was make sure that they knew that this could come at any moment. We could make their appointment, but we may call them tomorrow, we may call them later the same day, and unfortunately have to cancel.
I’ll never forget the patient and her husband driving on the road from Texas to Oklahoma, halfway there because she had an appointment the next morning, and having to tell them that we would not be able to see them. She thought she was over six weeks. They’d already been told they couldn’t be seen in Texas.
First there was a lot of anger. Then there was, “Please, we’ll do anything, just make this exception. We took time off work, we’ve rented a car, we have child care.” And there was just not really anything else to say other than, “I wish I could help you, but unfortunately, I can’t.”
The next morning, I got a call. I answered my phone, and I quickly realized when she told me her name that this was a patient that missed my call the night before. She’s clearly on her way to the appointment. And I explained that if she felt like she was over six weeks, what was going on. And there was a very long silence, I thought we had gotten disconnected. She let me know that she had been raped — that’s how she was pregnant. And surely there was something that she could still do given her situation.
I explained to her that unfortunately, she was still not going to be able to get this done. It was tears, it was disbelief and devastation. She kept saying, “Please go ask someone else.” And even though I knew the answer, I put her on hold anyway, and I quickly texted my dad and our attorney. I told her I have verified and again — I’m so sorry.
Andrea Gallegos describes the day after Oklahoma banned abortion for anyone past six weeks — almost two months before Roe fell. Listen here.
In early June, just over a month after the decision had leaked, Diana, a lawyer who lives in Northern Kentucky, made a discovery: She was pregnant. By her math, she had conceived in mid-May; she estimated she was five weeks along. She knew she wanted an abortion, but wasn’t sure how to find one.
Diana, who is being referred to with a pseudonym because she sought an abortion in a state where it would be outlawed, turned to Aid Access, a European online medical service that can send Americans abortion pills.
Abortion wasn’t yet illegal in Kentucky, though the state had in April briefly enforced a law that shut down all the state’s clinics. But it had a trigger law on the books that would outlaw abortion once Roe fell. Neighboring Ohio would enforce a six-week ban on abortion, and West Virginia could default to a decades-old law banning access to the procedure. After the leak, Diana was worried that by the time she could schedule an abortion in her state, it might be too late — Roe would be overturned, and she’d lose her appointment.
Diana: I had never been pregnant before.
I was on the pill most of my 20s, and then the hormones started to to affect me, and I lost my insurance when I went to law school. So I went off of birth control, and I was fine. I ended up doing Paragard twice, because that was not hormonal. But it was so excruciatingly painful. I was off of birth control for maybe a year when I got pregnant, despite trying to track my cycles and do what I could.
I learned about Aid Access, and I was going to use it. And then I was very concerned about the timeframe. I was nervous about them getting here on time.
And I’m like, God, the longer I let this go, the more painful this is going to be. And what if by that time it’s too late to have a medication abortion? I’d have to fly to New York or Chicago to get a surgical abortion. I was like, I can’t do this. I have work. I’ve just got to get these pills faster.
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I contacted one of my best friends who lives in New York City. It is so easy to get an abortion pill mailed to you in New York City — it is unreal. I used her address. I sent them my real ID. They never required any other verification at all of my address or where I live. I spoke to a doctor via an app, and they gave me a prescription and mailed my friend the pills really quickly, within like a week. And then she mailed them to me.
Around the same time, Emily Southard — who lived in South Dayton, Ohio, and worked at the nearby Air Force base — also found out she was pregnant.
Emily Southard: I wasn’t getting my period, which prompted me to think there must be something going on. I sent my fiancé to go pick up some tests, he brought them back, and every single one came back positive.
I remember just being terrified. I didn’t know what to expect, what to do, if it was even the right time, because we were in the middle of planning our wedding for October 2022. So there were a whole bunch of things just kind of swimming in my head.
I had a feeling — I knew what the test was going to say. And trying to reconcile that with the whole reproductive rights issue being discussed and leaked — it was a very grounded feeling. There’s gonna be some big decisions to make, and things are not going to be the way you knew they were.
Emily Southard describes figuring out if she could still get an abortion after Roe’s overturn outlawed the procedure after six weeks in Ohio. Listen here.
A week later, in mid-June, she went to a clinic to confirm her pregnancy. They estimated she was at 12 weeks.
I remember thinking, going back and forth, while they were telling me everything. My husband and I had decided that he would support whatever decision I made.
I was going to go ahead and make an appointment to terminate. And that wouldn’t have been until toward the end of June.
Diana: I had no emotional attachment. I even went and got an ultrasound just to make sure it wasn’t in my fallopian tubes so I could safely do this. I went through a pregnancy center in Kentucky that tried to convince me to keep it. I knew they would, but it was free. And I still had no emotional attachment, because I didn’t want this. I think that’s part of why this was so frustrating — I wasn’t grieving anything.
While Diana and Southard were scheduling their abortions, lawmakers like Bush were doing all they could to communicate just what it would mean if Roe fell.
Rep. Cori Bush: My sister in service Rep. Ayanna Pressley always talks about how you shouldn’t have to go digging into your trauma in order to help people. And it’s very, very true. We should not have to do that, but I understand my role.
I’ll say, during that six-week period, there were so many tears. I would go home back to my district, and because people saw me on television, people would — and this happened so much, I couldn’t even give you a number — walk up to me on the street, and say, “Are you Cori Bush?” “Yes.” And then tears. They would break down on the street, on the sidewalk, in the grocery store.
That’s what those six weeks were like, for me, even after the decision. But through that time in between? It was very hard for me. I cried a lot.
I would go from television show after television show, radio show after radio, to event after event, talking about it, speaking, trying to dispel the myths, making sure that education was out there, going talking about my story — just being triggered. And then having to do it all over the next day.
June 24, 2022
The U.S. Supreme Court issued 24 rulings between June 1 and June 23. By Friday, June 24, it had been almost eight weeks since the leaked draft of the Dobbs decision had first been made public. The court’s term was slated to end in just one more week.
Just after 10 a.m. ET, the court’s website published an opinion overturning Roe v. Wade. The ruling was almost identical to what had been leaked almost two months earlier. In three states — Kentucky, Louisiana and South Dakota — abortion was outlawed immediately. Texas’ attorney general said he would enforce an abortion ban passed in the 1800s while waiting for the state’s near-total prohibition to take effect. Over the course of the day, abortion bans began to take effect in other states across the country, including Arizona, Missouri, Ohio, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Oklahoma had already banned all abortions.
Andrea Gallegos: I was sitting down in my dad’s office [in Texas], and we actually had reporters in there with us. To be very honest, we were not expecting it that day. We had a room full of patients in the waiting room.
While we were in the office, I got a call from our attorneys, I stepped out to take it, and they just let me know that the decision had come out: complete overturn. I went back inside the office to tell my dad, and we had a quick moment. Then we had to get out there and tell patients.
That was awful. The cries and shrieks and screams and people pleading. It was a lot like some of the phone calls I had made, but now this was all these patients in front of me.
Diana: I was in my bathroom with the pills. I had my finger in my vagina, not to be too TMI. And I had my phone in front of me, because I was listening to NPR, I think, at the time. And I saw a headline pop up: It’s official, Roe’s overturned.
Diana describes inserting misoprostol for a medication abortion at the very moment her home state of Kentucky outlawed the procedure. Listen here.
Kristan Hawkins: I was out at the Supreme Court by 8:30 a.m. We had the staging set up, our students had spent the night. We were all ready to go.
We were leading prayers and chants and songs. When the blog came — we just all kept refreshing SCOTUSBlog — my vice president, Tina, is standing next to Rev. Mahoney [director of the anti-abortion group the Christian Defense Coalition], and Tina hands me her phone and says, “read it.” It was a pretty awesome moment.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren: At that moment, give yourself 24 hours to be sad about it. But then it’s time to swing into action to be determined to make change.
That was the thing about the leaked opinion. More people had gotten past just being shocked that the Supreme Court would do this and had started to absorb the “what if they do?” What does that mean for the people who are denied care? What does it mean for people of color, who consistently have difficulty accessing health care? What does it mean for 12-year-old girls who’ve been molested by someone in their own family? What does it mean for the mama already working three jobs, who can’t take off time to travel two states away, to be able to deal with another pregnancy that she cannot manage? It’s all those pieces together that I think had begun to coalesce in people’s minds.
That’s why it was so important not just to cover up our heads collectively and say, “This is awful, and there’s nothing we can do,” but instead to come roaring back to seize the power ourselves to say, “enough of this, we are not putting up with this. And we know what the tools are.”
Southard was on a family vacation — her abortion scheduled for the day after she came home — when she received a call from the local clinic telling her she’d no longer be able to be seen because of Roe’s overturn. A six-week abortion ban had taken effect in Ohio.
Emily Southard: It was the middle of the day, and I was standing in line for the VelociCoaster at Universal with my fiancé, his kids and a few others of his family. And so I had to kind of step away in order to answer this call.
- When Roe was overturned:
I’ve been following the news pretty closely. I told them I had a feeling that that’s what they were going to tell me. And then I started to ask, “Is there any place you can refer me to instead, that’ll do it?”
They said they had a sister clinic in Indianapolis that could. So they went ahead and scheduled me there. And then maybe half an hour later, I get a call back from them again, saying that their sister clinic cannot take me either.
Goodrick was back in Arizona, prepared to see patients at her Phoenix clinic.
Dr. Gabrielle Goodrick: I had a full day of work. We had a full patient schedule.
At around 8 a.m., I got a text with a link to what our governor said, which was that abortion is still legal — we had a 15-week ban that would take effect in the fall, that’s our law now, don’t worry. So I said, “OK, we’re good.”
I went into the office. Sheer panic. We had two patients where we had to see them — they had a two-day procedure, so they have to be seen. I’m not going to abandon them. They’re in the middle of their abortions. So we continued working, and then things got more gnarly.
Jordan, a young woman who lived at the time in Scottsdale, Arizona, was terrified about what the decision would mean, even though she wasn’t pregnant. (Jordan is a pseudonym she requested because of the stigma that surrounds abortion.)
Jordan: I started finding resources, like websites where you could get pills and websites where you could get abortion help. I started drafting a text with these links to send to my friends who had uteruses, whether they live in Arizona, or I had a friend who lived in Tennessee. I was like, “I don’t know if you’ve heard. Here’s what’s happening. I just wanted you to know that you have these options. This is what I decided to go with. This is what I’m ordering, and here’s the process.” I spent the whole day kind of on a campaign to get this out to everybody that I knew that might need it.
Rep. Cori Bush: It just so happened to be the day that Secretary Xavier Becerra of Health and Human Services was in St. Louis meeting with abortion providers, storytellers, activists and elected officials for a very public meeting and discussion about what Missouri had already been facing as far as abortion care, and what could possibly happen if the decision was written. There was a lot of press in the room. I was at the abortion clinic where I had both of my abortions, and sitting there with an advocate that I’ve worked with for years.
And then as we’re sitting there, my chief of staff, Abbas Alawieh, walks up to me. All of these cameras are on us, and he walks up to me and hands me his phone.
Immediately, everything changed. Folks jumped up out of their seats, people started grabbing each other crying, the secretary was ushered out of the room.
Ashley All: My kids go to camp every summer. Typically around the 8 to 9 time frame is where I’m getting everybody out of the house and to camp. And every morning there was a sign that they were going to release decisions — I was keeping my fingers crossed until the court had finished for the day. I was driving the kids to camp. And again, my phone starts blowing up. But everybody was prepared. It was like, “OK, it’s go time.”
Diana: I finished inserting the pills, I washed my hands, went to the couch and laid down for a bit and just waited for the cramping to start. Then my fiancé woke up. I told him about Roe getting overturned. We had a brief conversation and then I kind of sat on my patio for a little bit. It was a sunny day; it felt good to have the sun on me.
I started doing legal research, frankly, on, “Can I get prosecuted for this?” I was reading the statutes, reading the trigger laws. I was using a fertility app — I deleted that right away. I’m like, OK, how do I protect myself? Can my records get subpoenaed? Who would get in trouble here?
- The immediate impact in clinics:
Dr. Gabrielle Goodrick: At noon, a New York Times reporter sent me a screenshot of a statement that the state Senate Republican majority legislatures sent. And the statement was, “Abortion is now illegal in Arizona.” And, of course, people were not sure what to do. We shut down. We canceled the rest of the day’s appointments.
People were showing up, people were hysterical. The staff was upset. We started calling people for the next week telling them what was going on. You have the senators saying something, and then the governor saying something. We just felt it was safer to stop. I wish we had seen those patients.
Emily Southard: I started looking up other clinics that I could possibly go to, and that’s when I found out that the one in Michigan was my closest and only option. It was in Detroit, so a good three to four hours’ drive.
I was trying to balance, keeping calm in front of all of my family versus panicking on the inside thinking, “This is not going according to plan. What the hell am I going to do?” I’m thinking, “This is really my last option. And if I can’t go forward with it here, then I guess I’m having a baby.” The choice being taken away — it was pretty harrowing and nerve-wracking.
Dr. Cheryl Hamlin: I had read a newspaper article — I think it was in the New York Times — about how to get pills online, and I was researching that.
And a reporter called me and he’s like, “Well, you must have heard.” And I was like, “Nope. You’re telling me.”
I was supposed to go to Jackson mid-July, and was able to kind of rearrange my schedule because nobody else wanted to be there that last week. Mississippi’s law wasn’t immediate; it took 10 days.
Dr. Christy Bourne: I was on vacation with my family in Washington, where my dad grew up. I was like, “I swear to fucking God, if this falls on the day that I’m on vacation with my family…” It was the first day.
We had a meeting with our staff and held space. But really, this is like our normal here in Kansas. For better or for worse, we’re used to getting hit with anti legislation, whether it be anti-abortion, anti-trans, anti this, anti that.
Our call volume went up pretty directly. We knew this was coming, and it is not our job to fix a geopolitical crisis. We are one single clinic in a region. So we didn’t change our patient caps. We kept on keeping on. We kept pacing ourselves.
Jordan: I am not pregnant. I was not pregnant. I was on birth control. And I knew that I was going to be living in Arizona for at least one or two more months. And I was terrified of what would happen if my birth control failed, even though I have an IUD, which is 99 percent effective.
My childhood best friend, I sent her this text, the same text I sent to all of my friends: “Here’s what’s going on, and here’s the resources I found.” She had an abortion earlier that year. And she told me, “I’m so angry about this, but I can’t talk about it because I’m on my way to my grandpa’s funeral.” On top of her personal life falling apart, now the country is really, really falling apart.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren: I went back to the steps of the Supreme Court to speak again, and by this time, people were better organized. More speakers were coming. The crowds were more huge. And the difference was how it felt more people were rallying with real anger at that point, real determination to make change. It was true at the Supreme Court, it was also true back home in Massachusetts, people were out in the Common, they were on the statehouse steps.
You watched this starting to spring up all around the country, both in states that fully protect the right to abortion like Massachusetts, but in other states — like Kansas.
In Kansas, All understood that the end of Roe put a new focus on her state — which in a matter of weeks would be the first state after the decision to put abortion rights up to a vote.
- Explore our 2022 poll:
Ashley All: After the leaked decision, we worked with, for example, [former Gov.] Kathleen Sebelius and Congresswoman Sharice Davids [from Kansas City], along with my connections and relationships with national reporters, to really make sure they understood that we would be the first state to vote on this issue.
There are two things I remember personally from that day. The first one was really the sinking feeling, the fear that my daughters would grow up in a world with fewer constitutional rights than I had at their age. That day, I really committed to working as hard as I possibly could and doing everything that was asking me to win this race.
The second part of it was, I absolutely felt like in “The Lord of the Rings” where the eye turns on you. I felt like the eyes of the nation, and the world, kind of shifted towards us in a way that was really overwhelming. It was nerve-wracking in the sense that you knew that if we won, that could mean a lot. And if we lost that could really impact just the narrative and just kind of the strength of the movement.
Rep. Cori Bush: I walked outside and MSNBC was right there. “Hey, can we get an interview?” We started doing interviews, and then more folks came.
I’ll never forget, there were the students that showed up with signs. I think I was doing an interview, and then I looked up, and I saw them, and they were just standing near the fence near the gate at that Planned Parenthood, and they were trembling and crying. I walked over to them and introduced myself. We ended up sitting down on the ground in the grass — I’m in a suit — in the heat. And we just talked, and I just let them say whatever they felt they needed to say in that moment. And I just listened as a community member, but also as their Congress member.
With the advocates, we decided two things need to happen: Number one, we’ve got to get the information out to the entire community that even though this came down, you still have access to abortion. These are the clinics to call in Illinois, because the trigger ban was enacted, because our attorney general at the time, Eric Schmitt — who is now our U.S. senator — he wanted to be the first one to enact the trigger ban law. He did it within the hour.
We were letting people know, like, “Hey, you can still get services, call these places in Illinois, see if you can get on the waiting list.”
The other thing was, people need support right now. So show up, we’re having a big rally here on site, at Planned Parenthood, this evening. I spent the day just on television, getting the message and highlighting also those organizations — we’ve got to make sure that Black and Brown organizations that do the deep work, that they were also lifted.
Kristan Hawkins: We went back to the hotel. The students, they had an impromptu dance party. I remember we went to the bar at the hotel. I think I had one drink — we were all exhausted. The next day, we were actually out door-knocking in Bethesda, training our students how to door-knock about pregnancy resources. Then I had the students out in D.C. trying to gather up newspapers, because I wanted to send them to our leaders or supporters.
We had the plan. It’s weird to say that I was there, this thing that I had been fighting for and working toward and thinking about — seeing it finally come to fruition. It was like, “OK. Now what’s next?”
Jordan: I immigrated from Iran. So it’s just really sad to think about the possibility of how my parents moved here so I could have a better life as a woman, and now, I might move so that my children can have a better life. And it makes you feel kind of hopeless.
In the days that followed, pregnant patients and abortion providers scrambled to figure out what their options were. It wasn’t always clear. Christie, a 42-year-old woman in Austin, Texas, learned quickly just how limited her options were. She already had two children: a 2 1/2-year-old son and a 7-year-old daughter. (Christie asked that her last name be withheld because abortion is outlawed in Texas.)
Christie: Roe v. Wade was overturned on a Friday. I missed my period on Sunday. Then Monday, I took a test and was positive.
I was frantically calling everywhere, and nobody was able to help. I was calling other cities besides just Austin thinking I could drive somewhere else if there was a clinic that was willing. I was looking for the abortion pill.
Because it was in Texas, it said there was a 30-day period before the law was enacted. So I was so confused when I was calling these places, why isn’t it that there’s this 30-day waiting period? Finally, somebody was able to tell me that actually, the law went back to what it was decades ago. So that was very confusing, and I found that extremely frustrating because as I was searching around, I kept feeling like there was this little nugget of hope. I just felt like I couldn’t get a straight answer from anybody.
I definitely was in a fight or flight mode. And once I had an initial freakout moment, I kind of snapped into action.
I was considering hopping on a flight to New Mexico, but with a young kid, you can’t just leave. Flights were not super cheap. Also trying to coordinate — I left at 6 a.m., how long would it take me at a clinic? Could I get back on a flight at 5 and make it home for dinner? Could it actually work with my life?
I found a company called I think “Hey Jane” that does an abortion pill, but it only ships to a handful of states. My sister lives in New York, so I did that. And I had it shipped to her overnight, and then had her overnight it to me.
That was Monday, and I was taking the pills by Friday [July 1].
- Abortion Access Quickly Diminished:
Dr. Cheryl Hamlin: I was able to go to Jackson that first week of July. It was Wednesday when the law went into place. So on Thursday, I was seeing post-op patients and it was a little bit unnerving. Because what do you do if they had a medication abortion and failed? Then what are my options? I mean, I think at that point, it was still legal in Georgia, up to some reasonable gestational age — not six weeks — so we were sending people to Georgia for their post-op care.
Emily Southard: I had to schedule the Michigan appointment for after the Fourth of July — I was scheduled for July 5. I left at 4 a.m. I was tired, mentally exhausted and just ready for the whole mess of a situation to be over with. My stepkids had school, my husband had to go to work. So it was just going to be me.
I actually waited in my car a bit since my appointment was at 9. I didn’t want to go in there until 8:30ish, so I sat in my car for a while, just kind of decompressing, mentally collecting myself and then headed into the clinic.
He told me that I was 16 weeks pregnant. They still could do it, but it was going to have to be the surgical one. So I was going to have to have somebody drive me there and drive me home — and it was going to cost $3,000.
I told them I needed just a moment to step back and think about it, I wanted to talk to my husband about it. How were we going to explain him taking off work? I had a lot of decisions to make. Eventually, we decided, let’s go ahead and make the appointments.
I was realizing it wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought. Things were getting a lot harder. It was getting to be noonish when I got home. I just kind of collapsed in bed and put on TV just to kind of distract myself from everything that was going on. I just kind of took the rest of the day to decompress and compose myself for when everybody else came home.
On Tuesday, July 19, Bush joined other House Democrats to protest in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. Bush and 16 other Democrats were arrested and subsequently fined for blocking a street.
Rep. Cori Bush: We’re gonna go in front of the Supreme Court as members of Congress — people need to see us putting ourselves on the line, because that’s what I did before I ever came to Congress.
That’s what this was. Because I think about my daughter, I think about my nieces, I think about all the people across the country that this would affect, and I have to do it. I feel like if everybody does their part in their lane, and whatever it is that you have, whatever reach you have, use it. And if we all put that together, something will happen.
Kentucky’s abortion ban was in effect for six days before being blocked by a state court — meaning that abortion was illegal when Diana took her pills, but soon after, it was permitted. (The state’s law does not criminalize individual patients like Diana, but instead targets providers.)
After the state court ruled, abortion was allowed in Kentucky up to 22 weeks. That lasted two weeks. Then, over the course of the summer, the state’s courts would volley between 22 weeks, 15 weeks and the state’s almost-total abortion prohibition — before settling on the near-total ban on August 1. It remains in effect.
Diana: I realized that I should have been using WhatsApp, or some kind of encrypted texting, when I was talking to my friends about this. I texted probably eight women, like, “I’m pregnant” using my iPhone. I started reading all these examples of people from other states who were pulling these records and prosecuting women for having miscarriages or having an abortion.
It was insane. I was just thinking, “Oh, my God, I’m an attorney. I do legal research and read statutes and case law all the time, and this is confusing for me.”
Jordan: I was really terrified when the mail said that they delivered the abortion pills but did not. And it was delivered after I had moved from Arizona. My boyfriend drove out with me, and it was being sent to his address. So his roommate was on the lookout for it.
I ordered it the day Roe was overturned. I moved on July 24, and it arrived in August.
It was around this time that my best friend, they’re getting their PhD and looking at where to move. And there was around this time that I was like, “I think you need to kind of give up on Arizona and move on. Move to a different place where they will protect you.”
Emily Southard: We made the appointment for a couple of weeks later. But I ended up not making it. I ended up having a work thing crop up — I couldn’t take that time off. Then I had to work on rescheduling that. But any of the clinics that could have done the procedure didn’t have any availability. And by that time, my clock was ticking,
Once I had to reschedule the second Michigan appointment, I think that’s when I realized — I can’t make this happen. It’s not going to happen. And I think by that point, I had to swallow my pride and accept it.
I remember just kind of babbling to myself and ranting to my husband about it and crying a lot.
This wasn’t what I planned. It wasn’t how it was supposed to go. I felt like I was wanting to do the right thing, but also felt like I was making so many different mistakes.
The results of the Dobbs decision radiate to this day. For people like Southard, they were life-altering. On December 24, she had a son.
August 2, 2022
With Roe overturned, states had the power to ban abortion if they chose — and if their existing state constitutions did not protect the right to an abortion. In Kansas, that question now took center stage. The state’s Supreme Court had ruled in 2019 that the state’s founding documents protected abortion rights. On August 2, the people of Kansas would vote on whether to amend their constitution to eliminate that right. Voting “yes” would allow the state to ban abortion; “no” would leave abortion protected.
The vote, long anticipated, would have a significant impact. Kansas was already becoming one of the nation’s abortion destinations, with clinics in the state seeing patients who had traveled from all over the South. But it also would represent something greater. It was the first time voters had a chance to respond directly to Roe’s overturn. The symbolism wasn’t lost on people like All.
Ashley All: So many people reached out to me, who were just like, “What do I do? Tell me what to do, and how to get involved.”
And I said, “You know what? You can talk to reporters.” Because one of the things that reporters kept asking me was, “Tell us, do you have people that we can talk to that were motivated by this decision?” And the answer was, yes. A lot of them.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren: I heard that Kansas was going to have a referendum on abortion. And I thought, “I don’t care if there’s only one person in Kansas who is going to be in this fight and push to make sure that in Kansas, access to abortion is available. If they’re in the fight, I’ll be in the fight right alongside them.”
I tried to do what I could to help. I called, I offered help. I talked about it nationally. I tweeted about it and sent things out to my lists, asking people to pitch in. The movement in Kansas was led not by outsiders, but by people who have been part of the Kansas world for a long time and who never expected to have to fight this fight. And suddenly, it was on top of them.
Kristan Hawkins: We actually had a pitstop in Kansas City where we launched our door-knocking. We were working with the groups there and sharing information, making sure we were passing out the right messaging.
I was a little concerned about the messaging, because I felt like it was confusing. Just the one day I went knocking on doors, people were asking me things like, “Well, which one is it? Which one is the pro-life? Which one is the pro-choice?” And I was like, “Oh, boy.”
Ashley All: The entire month of July was pretty crazy. I did — I don’t know how many — over 100 interviews were what I counted up on my calendar, which means there were probably more. Our volunteers knocked on 40,000 doors, volunteers made 600,000 phone calls. We had something like 50 different organizations talking to voters on the ground.
Obviously, there were some of the really progressive organizations. But then there were some other organizations that were specifically engaging with moderate Republicans, like Mainstream Coalition, or Women for Kansas, which is a group that started a decade ago, focusing on the education issue under [former Republican Gov.] Sam Brownback.
By Election Day, it was like I was running on fumes. By Election Day, it was exhausting. But there’s always not much you can do on Election Day.
Dr. Christy Bourne: I had clinic on August 2. It felt very unclear if we were still going to be able to be in Kansas. There was uncertainty. I think we were hopeful but also realistic about the high likelihood that this would not go in our favor.
It was a really pretty shitty day. We were in a string of over 100-degree days, and the power grid that supplied our clinic went out, so we had of course assumed that something sketchy was going on. We moved all of our patients into a safe room. We moved everybody — just assumed that like something fucking terrible was about to happen. We ended up running the clinic off of generators that day. Everything went well, but it was terrifying to be a part of that. I couldn’t even tell you — I probably dissociated the whole day away.
- What happened in Kansas:
We purposely didn’t schedule clinic the next day in case something happened, in case people were going to really strike back, or something like that.
Ashley All: My husband always votes on Election Day — he always goes in the morning on the way to work. He texted me a selfie voting, and he said it was pretty busy.
We had done some polling, and it showed it should be pretty close. I felt pretty good. It was like a running joke that I was “cautiously optimistic.”
Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, the organization Ashley All worked for, threw a watch party at a hotel ballroom in Overland Park, near Kansas City.
Ashley All: Around 6, I went back up to my room to change and get ready for the whole evening. And about 6:30, I came back down to start getting ready for the polls to close at 7. And my daughters came, my husband. We were a little nervous about it, because it’s a tough issue. Kansas has a really complicated history on abortion, violence and murder. We knew that and that’s why I had been pretty careful throughout the month of July — when I traveled I tried to travel with somebody. The girls were going to come, and if it didn’t look good, then they would just eat snacks or something in the room and not come down. But if it looked good, I was like, they have to be there. This is a historic thing, and I want them to be there and be part of it. And so they got there, the polls closed, and they just ran around the ballroom
From the time the polls closed, and we started getting results, it looks good. But again, I’m incredibly cautious. I was trying to not even look really.
Dr. Christy Bourne: We got to the bar at like, I don’t know, 7:30 or something. They were going through all the counties and things like that, and it was God — who’s that guy? Wolf Blitzer? It was Wolf Blitzer going through Kansas counties like Douglas County, Osage County, Sedgwick — that whole map. It was funny to see Kansas blown up, like how they usually do for the presidential elections, and zooming in on neighborhoods and things like that.
Ashley All: About 9 o’clock, I left the ballroom, and I ran into a New York Times reporter and he was like, “Aren’t you excited? You should be really excited.” And I was like, “I’m gonna go talk to my friend real quick. And then I’ll tell you if I can be excited.”
A little bit after 9, I went back to the ballroom, and I think at 9:30 Central time it was called. It was pretty overwhelming.
The Kansas results were decisive: 59 percent of voters rejected the amendment that would have eliminated abortion rights from their state constitution. It was a massive win for abortion rights advocates.
Rep. Cori Bush: Kansas was proof that this is not the people’s decision. When it comes down to it, people support abortion.
Diana: I remember being like, “OK, so there might be some hope that Kentucky will vote to keep abortion rights in their constitution, too” — which they did.
Dr. Cheryl Hamlin: I was in disbelief.
I know somebody who was working on getting her Kansas license, had a plan for getting certified in Kansas. And I remember saying to her, like, “I don’t know, I don’t know.”
I texted her — she didn’t respond, actually — like, whoa, you still have a job.
Dr. Christy Bourne: Then we were doing shots. I was like, ”God, I’m 36. I don’t drink like this.”
Everyone got sloppy drunk. It was actually very fun, and ended up being like a COVID super spreader event. We all got fucking COVID after. I was hungover for days.
Andrea Gallegos: That was a huge moment. I reached out to the folks I know in Wichita to let them know I was watching in there with them, and so grateful to hear that things went their way.
It was a great victory. But again it was hard to remain feeling victorious in our states because it was still not going our way [in states like Texas and Oklahoma].
Ashley All: Probably about 11:30 or before midnight, I went down to the conference room and had some champagne with people from the campaign staff.
At like 1:30 I went upstairs to my hotel room. And my kids and my husband were up there, kids were asleep, thank God. I sat there for I don’t know — it was a long time. My husband and I drank some wine and I tried to unwind. I tried to calm down. I went to bed at like 2, and I was up at 4:30.
- The Road Ahead:
There were a lot of hot takes about why we won. And I wanted to make sure that the real story of why won was told. To me, it was having conversations with a lot of different voters — whether they were Republican, independent, Democrat — was really important. We have to persuade people. We won big, but we won big because we talked about things in a different way, and in a way that resonated with a much broader set of voters. We really brought more people to the table and found shared values that people agreed with — which was the right to make your own personal decisions about health care and about pregnancy and abortion.
Kristan Hawkins: I was concerned by the GOP people backing away from the issue, which — it’s so funny because I don’t feel like the abortion lobby has to convince Democrats to go all in.
Andrea Gallegos: It’s the victories like in Kansas that help remind you that we can get there and that this issue. There are more people on our side of things than what the other side wants you to believe. I think we are the majority in this. And we’ve just got to fight a bit harder.
Christie: I think that if there was a vote about this [in Texas], it would be overturned immediately. It’s just that we can’t even get [Republican Gov. Greg] Abbott out of the office right now.
I’m in Austin. It’s a bubble, I get it. But I really wholeheartedly believe that if there was a vote just about that, we could overturn it for sure.
Public opinion data shows that only 14 percent of Texans believe abortion should be completely outlawed, the current policy in the state.
Dr. Gabrielle Goodrick: It was reaffirming to my thought that if this goes to the vote of the public, and not the fucking – sorry — the politicians and legislators that only care about who’s going to donate to them and lobbyists who don’t vote. Our legislature here in Arizona does not represent the people. It does not represent the population.
We’re looking at 2024. And that’s all that matters right now. Is getting that on the ballot, a good appropriate referendum that’s accurate. That’s, you know, that gives complete bodily autonomy to people in our state and not the government.
Emily Southard: It was mixed emotions. I was angry and upset that other states couldn’t follow that same decision-making process and think of what they were doing to their citizens. But I was also happy and excited that Kansas at least was still keeping that in mind and trying to do right by their own citizens.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren: I kept talking to my family back in Oklahoma about the importance of Kansas standing for the principle of equal rights for all Americans, including people who want access to abortion care, and how important that is — both from the perspective of access to care if you can’t get it in Oklahoma, then you get to go to Kansas, but also for what it means to have a close neighbor say, “We fought this fight and we won.”
I think the Kansas campaign and victory will echo through the states over the next few years.
How we told this story
This project, while technically reported over the past five months, benefited from years of our work covering abortion at The 19th. Health reporter Shefali Luthra explains how The 19th was able to tell this story here.