What Happens if SCOTUS Overturns Roe v. Wade?
The United States is collectively holding its breath as the Supreme Court debates a case that could end up overturning its 1973 decision to legalize abortion. A draft opinion, leaked last week and verified by the Court, would overturn Roe v. Wade (if backed by a majority of justices) and return the issue of abortion and its legality back to the states.
Chief Justice John Roberts described the leak as “an egregious breach of trust” and confirmed it “does not represent a decision by the Court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case.” However, it is necessary to consider the effects such a decision may have on the United States.
In 1973, the Supreme Court affirmed in a 7-2 decision that a woman’s right to receive an abortion fell within the right to privacy under the 14th Amendment. The decision allowed abortions prior to “viability,” which typically occurs around 23-24 weeks of pregnancy, and gave states the leeway to regulate abortion procedures prior to viability so long as they didn’t pose an “undue burden” on the mother. This decision was reaffirmed in 1992 with Planned Parenthood v. Casey, in which the Court determined that a Pennsylvania law requiring spousal awareness prior to abortion was creating “undue burden” on the mother.
The opinion leaked last week comes at the tail end of a case that began late last year regarding a Mississippi law that prohibits most abortions after 15 weeks – far earlier than the 23-24 weeks established through Roe v. Wade. The law was signed in 2018 but has been blocked by federal courts.
A recent poll conducted by Fox News suggests 54% of voters support the Mississippi law. A separate poll conducted by USA Today shows that 73% of Democrats support legal abortion compared with one third of Republicans.
With a conservative majority including three justices appointed by former President Donald Trump, there is a real chance Roe v. Wade could be overturned. According to the Fox News poll referenced above, the number of voters who believe abortion should be legal all (27%) or most of the time (17%) is at a record low.
“Americans’ opinions on abortion are more nuanced than is often assumed,” notes GOP pollster Daron Shaw. “Sixty percent think abortion should be legal, but with restrictions. The question is where to draw the line.”
While a handful of Democrat-led states like California and Colorado have passed legislation expanding access to abortion, as many as 26 states have laws in place suggesting they intend to ban the procedure completely if Roe v. Wade is overturned.
The following 13 states have “trigger laws” in place that would go into effect almost immediately after the court’s decision, banning nearly all abortions and threatening doctors with exorbitant fines and up to 10 years in prison: Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming.
“If Roe v. Wade is overturned, it will be a hand grenade in the middle of an already chaotic political environment,” warns Democratic pollster Chris Anderson. “There are so many potential repercussions that predictions about how this will play out in the midterms are premature.”
On Tuesday, President Joe Biden urged the Supreme Court not to overturn Roe v. Wade and warned that “who you marry, whether or not you decide to conceive a child or not, whether or not you can have an abortion” are all at stake. Also at stake is a return to the Del-Em, dangerous pharmaceuticals, and other DIY abortion tools women will turn to if they lack access to abortion.
President Biden has stated in the past that he “[does] not view abortion as a choice and a right;” however, as the head of an increasingly-progressive political party, he has been forced to change his mind. “I was 29 years old when I came to the United States Senate, and I have learned a lot,” said Biden. “I’m a practicing Catholic, and it [abortion] is the biggest dilemma for me in terms of comporting my religious and cultural views with my political responsibility.”
Biden has reversed a handful of abortion policies that were put into place during the Trump Administration but has largely avoided drawing attention to the issue. But now, with the Supreme Court poised to make a decision, Biden is being forced to acknowledge abortion as a key issue for his constituents and one that will forever be linked to his presidency. Already, pro-choice advocates are demanding he consider federal solutions to the possible abolishment of Roe v. Wade.
Whatever happens, the Court’s decision is sure to impact the midterm elections.
“This will have an extraordinary galvanizing force with some of the very Americans who don’t always turn out or weren’t really looking to the midterms yet,” said a Biden adviser. “This is a seismic thing coming out of the Supreme Court, and it’s going to take a seismic movement in response.”