I keep thinking about what Rebecca Traister wrote after the release of the Supreme Court's draft abortion ruling:
Today, unlike in the early 1970s, we have mifepristone and misoprostol, pills that are available by mail and are safe and effective in inducing abortions, which are then indistinguishable from miscarriages. Lots of people in lots of places can end their pregnancies in medically safe ways that do not entail dirty coat hangers. However, now that there are widespread means of delivering abortifacients, anti-abortion crusaders are intent on criminalizing their use. Which means the frightening new questions are not simply about access but about whether people who take these pills, or the people who provide them, will be prosecuted, fined, and put in jail for doing so. In any criminal-justice context, it is true that people of color and poor people will still suffer more, but do not underestimate anger at abortion seekers of all races — including white women of privilege — who attempt to assert independence and reproductive autonomy.
For the really rich, it is true: Traveling to get an abortion and evading prosecution will more or less be a cinch. But the chasm between really rich and everyone else gets deeper every day, and it is simply not true that a suburban white mom of three in Missouri or the teenage daughter of well-off Christian conservatives in Alabama will be in a position to get the abortion she needs when she needs it with ease and without risk to herself, her family, or the people willing to help her. Even crossing to another state to obtain an abortion may entail legal jeopardy as states consider various means to prohibit and criminalize abortion travel.
I'm thinking about it in connection with something else I'm reading that wouldn't seem to be related at all -- the 2010 memoir by Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones. He was a junkie for years, and he makes the point that he began using heroin at a time when the Stones were hugely successful and hobnobbing with swells. He writes:
And the reason I'm here is probably that we only ever took, as much as possible, the real stuff, the top-quality stuff. Cocaine I only got into because it was pure pharmaceutical -- boom. When I was introduced to dope, it was all pure, pure, pure. You didn't have to worry about what's it cut with and go through all that street shit.
This was also a time when Britain registered heroin addicts and provided them the drugs. Richards says junkies claimed they needed twice as much as they were actually using, then sold the rest. Users like Richards bought it -- but it was unadulterated.
For abortion, I'm imagining a future when the medical procedure will be very difficult to obtain -- pursuing doctors who perform abortions will be a moral crusade, conducted with more righteous zeal than it was in the immediate pre-Roe era. And the same will be true for anyone who provides abortion drugs. And I think eventually abortion will be banned nationwide, by a Republican Party with full control in D.C.
Most recreational drugs are illegal in America, yet we get them. How? Thanks to organized crime. Organized crime is also how gay bars managed to stay in business before the gay liberation movement -- the Stonewall Inn was a Mob bar.
I'm imagining a future in which obtaining abortion drugs will be like buying cocaine or meth -- you'll be able to make the purchase because shady characters make it possible. If you have the money and the right connection, you'll get the pure abortion pills imported from Europe or Canada; if not, well, good luck. Probably you'll get something that's not (or not very) adulterated, but it'll come with no guarantees. It'll be "street shit."
Doctors who perform abortions might need organized crime protections, too. When a group of pre-Roe feminists known as the Janes began providing abortions in Chicago in the late 1960s, "it was rumored that many Chicago abortion services paid for Mob protection," according to Chicago magazine. One history of the group says that "Mike, the man who taught the first Jane volunteers how to perform abortions, had learned from a Mafia doctor." All this could be our future.