The Supreme Court decided to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, an action that leads at least 20 states in the country to ban or severely restrict access to abortion. A Supreme Court draft was released by Politico in May, and with it, the indication that the court was likely to overturn previous rulings. Now that it is a reality, the ruling gives lawmakers the green light to limit or ban abortion.
The possibility of striking down Roe v. Wade comes after the Court heard arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson, which debates the constitutionality of Mississippi’s law, making most abortions illegal after 15 weeks. The state of Mississippi asked the court, dominated by the so-called “conservative wing,” to strike down the previous Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood rulings so that each state has the power to decide whether abortion should be legal or not.
The recent court decision does not mean that abortion would be illegal nationwide, but rather that the decision on the legality of abortion would again be in the hands of each state. While Democratic states like California would keep their pro-abortion laws on the books, other states, like Mississippi or Florida, would have new laws regulating it.
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What does the ruling mean?
The criminal liability of a woman seeking an abortion or a healthcare professional providing it will depend on the abortion policies her state implements following the Supreme Court decision. There is nothing yet to prevent legislators from passing laws requiring the prosecution of women who sought abortions or doctors who procure them.
The legal decision Roe v. Wade, which was reversed by the Supreme Court, allowed the right to abortion at the federal level in 1973. States could regulate it, but not prohibit it before the 24th week of gestation.
The 1973 decision was a watershed in the discussion of abortion in the United States and, from its origins, was a highly controversial ruling. Since the 1970s, pro-life activists and conservative politicians have campaigned to overturn Roe v. Wade, arguing that such a controversial and important decision should be discussed within democratic institutions and not decided by a group of unelected officials. Pro-abortion activists, on the other hand, argue that Roe v Wade secures a fundamental right for women and that striking it down would be a setback for gender equality.
In the wake of the Supreme Court decision, it recently became known that President Biden would be evaluating a series of executive actions to help women in Republican-controlled states get abortions.
“Some of the ideas under consideration include declaring a national public health emergency, readying the Justice Department to fight any attempt by states to criminalize travel for the purpose of obtaining an abortion, and asserting that Food and Drug Administration regulations granting approval to abortion medications pre-empt any state bans,” officials told the New York Times.
No executive order can restore a “constitutional right” and it would take an act of Congress to restore a national legal standard prohibiting states from banning abortion; however, proponents currently lack sufficient votes in the Senate, where Republicans can obstruct such a bill.
The eventual elimination of Roe v Wade would not lead to a nationwide ban on abortion. Such a decision would actually pass the power to regulate or ban abortion to each state. States such as New York or California would continue to have exactly the same regulation as they currently have.
Threats and persecution against judges and pro-life activists
A couple of weeks ago, the Biden administration increased security for Supreme Court justices after a man, apparently angry over anticipated conservative rulings on abortion and gun rights, traveled from California to Washington with the intent to kill Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
In addition, since the Supreme Court draft was leaked, at least 17 pregnancy help centers, maternity homes and other pro-life organizations around the country have been attacked by pro-abortion groups.
The most recent of the vandalism attacks occurred on Monday, June 13, when unknown assailants set fire to the office of Andrew Barkis, a Republican who represents Olympia in the Washington state legislature.
On top of this, Jen Psaki, then-White House spokeswoman, went so far as to encourage continued protests outside judges’ homes by pro-abortion groups who were demonstrating against the leaked draft.
“I know that there’s an outrage right now, I guess, about protests that have been peaceful to date, and we certainly do continue to encourage that, outside judges’ homes, and that’s the president’s position,” Psaki assured during her regular press conference.