In recent months and years, we’ve seen conservative states make it increasingly difficult for women to make their own healthcare decisions including those related to abortions. Additionally, the recent leaked Supreme Court draft decision indicates that the landmark case of Roe v. Wade may be overturned soon. These state decisions and the Supreme Court’s upcoming decision will impact families across the country, with the greatest negative impact likely to be felt by marginalized groups. This post is an overview of the issue as it currently stands. 

A Brief History of Roe v. Wade

Roe v. Wade was a landmark decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in 1973. The case originated with Norma McCorvey who used the legal pseudonym “Jane Roe”. In 1969 McCorvey became pregnant with her third child, but wanted an abortion. McCorvey lived in Texas, which at the time prohibited abortion except when necessary to save a mother’s life. Her case against the state was ruled in her favor by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. The state then appealed directly to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

The Supreme Court again ruled in McCorvey’s favor with a 7-2 decision that stated that the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides a “right to privacy” that protects a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion. At first the ruling included the stipulation that during the first trimester of pregnancy, governments could not prohibit abortion; during the second trimester, governments could require reasonable health regulations for abortion; and during the third trimester, abortions could be prohibited entirely unless the health of the mother was at risk. This made abortion legal, nationwide. 

In 1992 the Supreme Court modified the ruling in its decision in the Planned Parenthood v. Casey case. This ruling reaffirmed a woman’s right to have an abortion, but traded the trimester framework to a standard based on fetal viability instead. 

The Supreme Court Leak

On May 2, 2022, Politico shared a leaked draft of a majority opinion of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Written by Justice Samuel Alito, the document covers the decision on the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, which is expected to be official in June. Although this draft is not a final conclusion it does indicate that the Supreme Court is likely to overturn these cases. 

What Happens Next?

If Roe v. Wade is overturned by the Supreme Court, abortion will no longer be legal nationally, and will instead become a state-by-state issue. In years past, some states have taken steps to legally protect abortion rights, while others have been making abortions more restrictive. Some states, including Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, and Mississippi have enacted a “trigger ban” that would immediately make abortions illegal or highly restricted if Roe v. Wade is overturned. 

The following graphic from Five Thirty Eight shows what will likely happen in each state in the event that Roe v. Wade is overturned. The majority of the Southern states will ban or severely restrict abortion if this occurs. 

Restricted Access To Abortion

While the overall abortion rate has been decreasing over time for many different reasons, the rate of women of color and poor women getting abortions has risen. This is partially because the U.S. has become more diverse in the years since Roe v. Wade was decided. 

This indicates that minority groups, especially those living in more conservative states, are likely to be most affected by the overturning of Roe. Women who are lower income in these areas will find in more difficult than their wealthier counterparts to travel out of state for an abortion. This is especially true for women living in the South who would need to travel through several states to reach a state where abortion is legal. This is one way that the ban’s socioeconomic impact will be felt in a very unequal way. While those who are wealthy will continue to have options if they ever find themselves in need, those who do not have the funds, network, or means to travel will be left with few choices.

Americans Are in Favor of Roe v. Wade

Findings from a poll by KFF, indicate that nearly 70% of Americans do not want Roe v. Wade to be overturned. Even in conservative states, most people support a Woman’s right to an abortion when it is to save the life of the mother or in cases of rape or incest. However, many of these states would still make these abortions difficult or impossible to recieve if Roe is overturned. 

It is not yet clear what the ultimate outcome of the Supreme Court ruling, or individual states laws will be. Transcendent Law Group will update as more evidence comes to light, or official decisions are made.