It’s been seven days since the Supreme Court overturned abortion rights in the United States. Since then, numerous clinics have had to close, vasectomies are booming and a wave of protests is rolling through the country. A look into a divided America.

There are two words that strike like lightning in the United States: “Roe overturned”. Two words that have the power to turn back the clock and turn the lives of millions of people upside down. Two words that drive an already divided America even further apart.

Most Americans first hear of “Roe v. Wade” in high school. As one of the most important court decisions in American history, the 1973 Supreme Court decision secured the right to an abortion for almost 50 years. Now it is over. What has been announced for a long time will become reality on June 24th. The Supreme Court reversed its ruling at the time and dropped the abortion law – practically in the hands of the individual states. And they can’t act fast enough.

Within an hour of the verdict, Missouri announces that abortion is now banned. Louisiana, Kentucky and South Dakota follow. Before noon, Alabama also made abortions a criminal offense. It lasts until 4 p.m. in Arkansas and 9 p.m. in Utah. At the end of the day, all abortion clinics in Texas closed. In Oklahoma, the last clinic has been closed since May. In Wisconsin, an 1849 law forced them to close—against the wishes of the Democratic governor. Five other states have already passed anti-abortion laws that will take effect automatically in a few weeks. This brings the focus to nine other states – including Florida, Indiana and Montana. There is much to suggest that they will continue to extend the prohibited list.

Abortion verdict could affect half of women in the US

At the beginning of June, almost every woman in the USA lived only a few hours’ drive from an abortion clinic. Now, a quarter of American women of childbearing age would have to travel more than 200 miles (over 300 kilometers) to have a legal abortion. Depending on how many states tighten their abortion laws, the number of those affected could rise to almost half, as a recent US study shows.

For three years, Caitlin Myers, an economist at Middlebury College in Vermont, has been analyzing access to abortion in America. Her research makes it clear that in a post-Roe reality, each individual state’s decision transcends borders. Because the longer the distance to the nearest clinic, the fewer women make the trip in the first place. Thus, a woman’s chances of having a legal abortion depend not only on the law in her state, but also on what is happening in surrounding states. There is also no question that an above-average number of black and Latino women with lower incomes are affected.

But even those living in liberal states where abortion rights are protected could feel the impact of the Supreme Court ruling. Especially in Colorado, Kansas and Illinois – which will be surrounded by states with bans on abortion – clinics could be overwhelmed with patients from other states. “We’re going to see a tremendous number of women flocking to these states,” predicted Professor Myers in an interview with The New York Times. In many of these clinics, concerns are growing about how such an onslaught can be managed. “I think we’re going to end up with waiting lists and more patients than we can accommodate in the next few months,” said Dr. Erin King, executive director of the Hope Clinic for Women in Granite City, Illinois told the US newspaper.

Post-Roe boom of abortion pills and vasectomies

While one clinic after the other closed down in the hours after the verdict was announced, “Just the Pill” received almost 100 appointment requests; an NGO that distributes abortion pills in several states. Four times the usual number for the organization. Many came from patients in Texas and other states who stopped abortions shortly after court decisions.

The growing demand, which is also confirmed by other organizations, shows that medical abortion, which already accounts for half of all abortions in the United States, will become even more desirable in post-Roe times. Closing clinics is one thing. According to legal experts, it is much more difficult to police the sending or receiving of pills by post. It should therefore only be a matter of time before abortion pills become the focus of various court proceedings.

At the same time, pharmacies and drugstores are also reporting a rush for the so-called morning-after pill. This can prevent unwanted pregnancy up to 72 hours after unprotected sex. As a result of the rush, the pharmacy chain CVS limited the quantity sold to three packs per person, and the supermarket chain Walmart also restricted the sale of the morning-after pill.

But it is by no means only women and other women who give birth who want to take precautions – men are also increasingly taking the consequences. According to media reports, the demand for vasectomies, a form of sterilization for men, has increased enormously in the past few days. A Cleveland hospital told NBC News that it typically receives three to four vasectomy requests a day. But from Friday to Wednesday alone there were 90. A urologist from Miami told the broadcaster that he was now considering working on Saturdays because the phone rang so often. A Kansas City doctor reports a similar story: “Since Friday, the number of people who want to have a vasectomy has increased by 900 percent.”

The fight has begun – things will get serious in the fall

In its reasoning, the Supreme Court argued that the decision to overturn Roe was urgent because of the polarizing abortion debate for half a century. But since the verdict became public, a storm of protests has erupted across the states that eclipses everything that has gone before. While the demonstrations have remained mostly peaceful so far, CNN footage of tears of joy, angry “We won’t go back” chants and heated arguments show what is at stake for many.

The end of Roe has sparked a massive mobilization on both sides of the abortion battle that many in politics can only dream of. While anti-abortion advocates are bolstered by the Supreme Court and are now pushing for near-total bans in every state, pro-lifers are decrying the ruling on the streets and in the courts and calling on the Biden administration to act .

And the US President’s response was not long in coming. To protect a nationwide right to abortion by law, Joe Biden wants to bypass the rules of Parliament for the first time. On the sidelines of the NATO summit in Madrid on Thursday, Biden spoke out in favor of an “exemption from the filibuster”. The controversial Senate rule requires a “supermajority” of 60 of the 100 senators to even vote. But even to change the filibuster rule, the US President would need all Senate Democrats on board, which is far from the case with conservatives like Joe Manchin in his own ranks.

Many advocates of abortion rights are therefore turning their attention to the upcoming midterm elections in autumn. “Remember to vote in November” (“Don’t forget to vote in November”) – a sign like this can now be seen at almost every demonstration from Washington to Houston.

However, for many women who want an abortion, it may already be too late. Too late because of two words.

Sources: Guttmacher Institute, Middlebury Study, NY Times, Washington Post, CNN, with AFP material