2023 Breaking News, Small/Medium Newsroom winner

Unpacking the impact of Dobbs

About the Project

The 19th’s breaking news coverage of the Supreme Court’s June 24 decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization served to bring clarity to our readers on the state of abortion access across the country, how clinics responded and how patients were impacted.

With Roe v. Wade overturned through the Dobbs decision, legal chaos erupted: Each state now had the right to control its level of access to abortion — or ban it completely. Though many state legislatures were not in session, courts and state executives immediately started sorting through trigger laws and abortion bans put in place before Roe. The number of states where abortion was legal changed by the day.

Our first piece after the decision, an explainer, answered questions about those so-called trigger laws, when new policies took effect, and plainly laid out where abortion was both banned and protected.

As a companion, a data visuals piece gave our audiences a different way of looking at the timeline of trigger laws. The question we heard from audiences the most: Is abortion still legal in my state? We responded by looking at the states that took near immediate action, each with a different legal mechanism needed to go into effect. This piece was tricky to pull off — even experts scrambled to make sense of the tangle of laws and procedures. We issued a correction after we were given conflicting information by state leaders, and were able to get the updated article out to our audiences quickly.

Another storyline that emerged, informed by our social media audiences, was on other standing precedents that might be impacted by the Dobbs decision. Our piece analyzed the decision through legal experts, shedding light on the potential implications for marriage equality, interracial marriages and contraception. We explained why these precedents could potentially be threatened by the decision, and were clear about the ambiguity that does and still exist.

We also wanted 19th readers to understand how the decision could be affecting patients, many of whom were immediately left to navigate a confusing landscape of abortion access. We explored this impact through two pieces. In one, we brought readers inside the waiting rooms of abortion clinics, where patients were turned away following the decision. This story captured the raw emotions of both patients and providers, giving readers the first glimpses at a new reality in the U.S. In the second piece we focused on the abortion providers in states where the procedure was still legal, capturing how access and availability may still be impacted.

For many months leading up to the Dobbs decision, we covered the erosion of abortion access. Our attention to this issue began long before the leaked decision draft on May 2, when it became all but certain that SCOTUS would overturn Roe.

Since Texas put its six-week abortion ban into place in 2021, The 19th knew that as abortion rights disappear, people will turn to journalists to make sense of it all. We know, because they turned to us.

Judges Comments

The 19th made quick work of delivering clarity on an enormously important and complex news event to its audience when it mattered most. The data visualization was a useful guide for readers as they navigated a new world, and the range of stories made space for those most affected.