By NFRW President Eileen Sobjack
The recent leak of the draft opinion for the upcoming Supreme Court decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization has further raised the contentious nature of abortion.
The Dobbs case has the potential to overturn the 1973 landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade and the subsequent case Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
Chief Justice John Roberts recently issued a statement saying that the leak, which was authenticated, is currently being investigated and shows a draft and is not the final ruling on the case. There are more deliberations to undergo before a final opinion is issued.
The Facts about Roe v. Wade
- The case involved Norma McCorvey, known by the pseudonym Jane Roe - a Texas woman who became pregnant with her third child. She wanted to have an abortion, which was illegal in Texas except when the mother’s life was in danger.
- Her lawyers filed a lawsuit in U.S. federal court against Henry Wade, the local district attorney, alleging that Texas abortion laws were unconstitutional. The three-judge panel for the Northern District of Texas ruled in the woman’s favor. The State of Texas appealed the decision, and the case was sent to the Supreme Court.
- In January 1973, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of Jane Roe - citing the Due Process Clause of the 14th amendment, which was ruled to grant a right to privacy for a woman on whether or not she decides to have an abortion.
- The decision immediately legalized abortion and overturned laws in 30 states outlawing the procedure.
The Facts about Planned Parenthood v. Casey
- The case challenged provisions of the Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act of 1992 - including informed consent, a waiting period, spousal notice, medical emergency and parental consent for minors seeking an abortion.
- The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the framework in the Roe decision in which the pregnancy trimester measure was replaced with the question of whether or not undue burden is placed on a woman seeking an abortion.
- The Court upheld all the provisions of the Pennsylvania law except for spousal notification.
- The case is significant as it was the first opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade. The Court upheld the constitutionality of abortion by a vote of 5-4.
If the Supreme Court Overturns Roe
- The decision about the legality of an abortion will return to the states and will be decided by its elected representatives.
- Some states have already enacted “trigger laws,” meaning if Roe is overturned, access to abortion will be either expanded or protected.
18 States Which Offer Protections to Unborn Children if Roe is Reversed
(either through pre-existing laws, "trigger laws" that would take effect following the reversal of Roe, or both)
23 States That Would Permit Abortion
(legislatively-enacted statute or court ruling or through state constitution)
States With Laws That Provide Some Pro-Life Protections, But Do Not Specifically Ban Abortion
Fetal Heartbeat Legislation
Georgia has a fetal heartbeat law which forbids abortion once a heartbeat is detected. This injunction could be removed if Roe is overturned. Idaho also has a fetal heartbeat law with a trigger mechanism.
States with Ballot Initiatives
Kansas and Kentucky have ballot initiatives with language that would prohibit putting abortion into their state constitutions. Michigan has a ballot initiative that would include the right to an abortion in their state constitution.
What This Means for the Country
It is unlikely that Justices will issue its ruling on Dobbs until the Court finishes its term in June.
Democrats and pro-abortion activists will continue to apply political pressure to get the justices to rule in favor of Dobbs and thus uphold the Roe and Casey rulings.
There will continue to be calls for Congress to codify abortion rights into federal law.
It could stimulate a renewed call for court packing.
It will definitely fire up certain wings of the Democratic Party as the mid-term elections approach.
Democrats are eager to distract voters away from the floundering economy and the war in Ukraine to the abortion debate.
But if the Supreme Court does vote to overturn Roe and Casey, the debate will shift from the judiciary to the legislative branch.
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