The US Supreme Court is set to rule in a Mississippi case challenging a state law prohibiting most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, posing a significant challenge to the 1973 Roe v Wade decision, which established constitutional rights for the operation.
The case of Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization is the first major abortion rights dispute before the Supreme Court’s new conservative majority, which includes three conservative justices nominated by former President Donald Trump. On December 1, 2021, the court heard oral arguments in the case, and on May 2, 2022, a leaked opinion hinted that the justices were willing to overturn Roe.
The Roe v. Wade decision dramatically overturned legislation that had explicitly prohibited the operation, igniting decades of religious and moral debate over women’s bodies.
If the Supreme Court upholds the precedent set by Roe v Wade and reaffirmed by Planned Parenthood v Casey, abortion will be unavailable in more than half of the United States, forcing many pregnant women to carry their pregnancies to term unless they can travel to one of the few states that have abortion protections.
In 2022, a surge of anti-abortion legislation in Republican-led states has proposed abolishing abortion access in most situations and criminalizing abortion services, bolstered by the Supreme Court’s upcoming judgment.
What is the Case of Roe v Wade?
The case concerned Norma McCorvey, dubbed “Jane Roe” throughout the hearings, who fell pregnant with her third child in Texas in 1969 but was unable to obtain abortion care since it was illegal in her state except to “save a woman’s life.”
Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee, who represented her in federal court, filed a case on her behalf against her local district attorney, Henry Wade, contending that the state’s abortion restrictions were illegal.
The United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas found in her favor, and Texas appealed to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court’s 7-2 decision in favor of Ms McCorvey was based in part on the 14th Amendment’s “right to privacy,” which protects a woman’s right to abortion.
Because she was unable to obtain a legal abortion, Ms McCorvey gave birth before the case was heard, and the infant was placed for adoption.
She stated she did it “on behalf of herself and all other women” in similar situations at the time.
The decision also established a legal precedent that influenced over 30 later Supreme Court cases addressing abortion restrictions.
For decades, the American civil rights movement has been dedicated to reversing Roe v. Wade. Amy Coney Barrett, the most recent addition to the Supreme Court, shifted the court’s conservative balance to six against three. Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, two more conservative judges, were appointed by Mr. Trump.
Is Roe v Wade A Legal Precedent?
The verdict establishes that a woman’s right to an abortion is protected under the US Constitution without undue government interference. Planned Parenthood v Casey, a 1992 Supreme Court decision, upheld the Roe decision’s “essential holding” and prohibited legal restrictions that impose a “undue burden” on abortion access.
On January 20, the Supreme Court declined to interfere in an ongoing legal challenge to a Texas law prohibiting most abortions beyond six weeks of pregnancy, when most women are unaware they are pregnant.
Advocates for abortion rights hoped that the Supreme Court would send the issue to a federal district court, where the statute had previously been halted by a previous verdict.
Proponents of abortion rights believe that the Supreme Court’s unwillingness to intervene signals a willingness to accept a full repeal of the legislation if the law is challenged again in the future.
What Was Established By Roe v Wade?
The Roe v Wade decision created federal safeguards for women seeking abortions.
Although a series of state-imposed restrictions – many of which have been challenged in court – have sought to undermine abortion care, the decision ultimately gave women total autonomy to terminate a pregnancy during the first trimester and allowed some state influence over abortions in the second and third trimesters.
In Roe v Wade, the Supreme Court recognized that having an abortion is ultimately a matter of Americans’ right to privacy, which they concluded was an element of the liberty provided by the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution.
The court created the distinctions in abortion rights based on trimesters to ensure that governments could maintain medical standards and safeguard public health.
Opponents of abortion attempted to claim that life begins at conception back then, as it does now. The court disagrees, concluding that the usage of the word “person” in the US Constitution to establish inalienable rights does not include fetuses.
Was The Supreme Court’s Decision In Roe v Wade Overturned?
According to Politico, a leaked draft opinion from conservative Justice Samuel Alito indicates that the court’s conservative majority will vote to overturn Roe and Casey.
In a draft judgment dated February 10, he stated, “We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled.” “It is past time to pay attention to the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives,” says the author.
Roe v Wade remains the rule of the land until the Supreme Court makes that decision.
At least 12 states have so-called “trigger laws” that would prohibit abortion if Roe were overturned, and at least 26 states are expected to do so swiftly if state power is restored.
Oklahoma legislators have passed a Texas-style ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, which will go into effect immediately if Republican Governor Kevin Stitt signs it into law. Stitt has promised to “outlaw abortion” in the state.
Following a legal challenge by Planned Parenthood in Idaho, which was the first state to enact an abortion ban similar to Texas’, the state’s Supreme Court temporarily suspended the statute. The governor and attorney general of Idaho have both stated that the restriction is illegal.
A federal judge in Kentucky has also temporarily banned a broad anti-abortion bill that imposed a slew of restrictions and effectively pushed the state’s remaining abortion clinics to close.