The possible overturn of Roe v. Wade

Dec. 1 US Supreme Court hears Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization and causes concern for possible changes in women’s reproductive health rights and abortion laws


Addison Delgado

Supreme court square-off: Protestors gather as the US Supreme Court hears arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Pro-choice activists and pro-life activists gathered throughout the day on Dec.1, as tensions increasingly rose. “You should have a right to your own body,” sophomore Alexei Roberts said.

Roe v. Wade is a fundamental monument in womens’ reproductive rights in America, passed on Jan. 22, 1973, in a 7-2 vote by an all-male US Supreme Court.

This decision protects a pregnant woman’s right to an abortion before the viability of the fetus, around 24 weeks, as well as makes abortion safer and more accessible to women throughout the country.

On Dec. 1, 2021, the Supreme Court heard arguments over the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case. The case dealt with the constitutionality of a 2018 Mississippi abortion law banning abortions for women after 15 weeks.

Jackson Women’s Health Organization is currently the only abortion clinic in Jackson, Mississippi, since 2006 where the other remaining abortion clinic closed down. This new Mississippi law violates up to 50 years of abortion rights since Roe’s implementation, core principles implemented since 1973.

During a Dec. 1 hearing, Mississippi argued that Roe v. Wade should be overturned entirely, and allow states to restrict abortions and implement their laws legally. This change could impact the reproductive rights of millions of women and raises the question of how this could affect birth control rights in America.

Restrictions over abortion are not new topics. Various bills have been created since Roe’s founding, such as the Heartbeat Bill or Hyde Amendment.

The Hyde Amendment, passed Sept. 30, 1976, specifically targets people who may not be able to afford the procedure. Hyde blocks federal Medicaid funding for abortions; although, states can choose to use state funds to cover abortions.

On Dec. 10, 2021, the Supreme Court allowed the Texas Heartbeat Bill ban to remain in place, which restricts abortions after six weeks before most women will know they are pregnant.

Restrictions also do not account for cases where an abortion is medically necessary for the patient or cases where a pregnancy is the result of sexual assault.

Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett, appointed by Donald Trump during his term, voted in favor of the Texas abortion ban after six weeks. All three could be expected to also vote for overturning Roe v. Wade.

LSHS students also shared their opinions on Roe v. Wade, on whether the Supreme Court should decide to overturn it.

“I think Roe v. Wade is a good law at the moment. It’s good and it keeps other states from banning it, which is really, I think it’s a good thing. And the fact that 24 weeks isn’t really that long, and it doesn’t account for complications, and other things,” sophomore Alexei Roberts said.

Guttmacher Institute, an organization dedicated to reproductive health worldwide, reports that if Roe were to be overturned, 21 states already have “trigger bans” or other laws and restrictions in place to take effect immediately. A trigger ban is a “law designed to be ‘triggered’ and take effect automatically or by quick state action if Roe no longer applies.”

The 21 states that have plans to restrict abortion consist of a majority of conservative states, and an additional five states that are also likely to ban abortion are highly or moderately conservative

All gold states are not banning abortion or are not likely to move forward with restrictions if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned.

This list of 21 includes:

  • Alabama

    All orange states have trigger bans in place or are likely to add bans if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned.
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin

Pro-choice activists and pro-life activists both gathered in front of the Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, with heated protests taking place during the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization hearing.

“I do find that both of the arguments that are being presented in the Supreme Court are very interested in tackling both sides…listening to the arguments, it was really interesting to see both points of view,” senior Logan Chriscaden said.

Abortion rights have always been a topic of debate in the US. Planned Parenthood estimates around 79% of Americans are against Roe being overturned and believes that overturning Roe would put more than 25 million people at risk of losing access to abortion, over a third of women of reproductive age in the US.

These bans also could be put in place if states were given more flexibility with abortion laws or if Roe’s protections were weakened. Washington falls on the list of states unlikely to ban abortions and keep with the original Roe v. Wade ruling, which bans abortions after the viability of the fetus.

WHO, the World Health Organization, estimates that 4.7-13.2% of maternal deaths worldwide are due to unsafe abortions. Criminalizing abortion does not significantly decrease the number of abortions performed, but instead would cause the rise of this number. Before Roe was put into place, by 1965, illegal and unsafe abortions made up 1/6 of all maternal deaths in the US. Overturning Roe would also put thousands of teenagers at risk of growing numbers of unsafe abortions in the US as well. Annually, 350,000 teens become pregnant each year, and 31% have abortions.

To prevent this and protect abortion rights, US pro-choice activists are petitioning to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act. This would guard against state restrictions and bans from politicians.

The original Roe v. Wade case “affirmed that access to safe and legal abortion is a constitutional right,” and overturning it could also encourage debate over the future of other constitutional rights in the US. Various LGBTQ+ protections could go under question, like Obergefell v. Hodges, which protects same-sex marriage.

The Supreme Court’s decision, expected in June 2022, will boil down to one question: Will the court recognize a pregnant person’s decision to an abortion as a Constitutional right?