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Supreme Court to Hear an Abortion Case Challenging Roe V. Wade

Roe v. Wade note on top of U.S. Constitution
By Maddy Teka, Esq. | Last updated on
Roe v. Wade has been the target of conservative groups since the decision was handed down in 1973. Now, for the first time in almost 50 years, the Supreme Court's holding in that landmark case is at real risk of being at least partially overturned. The conservative majority Supreme Court agreed to take on Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, a case challenging a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks of conception. The Court said it would review whether "all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional." If the court upholds the ban, states could pass laws restricting the time period when abortions are permitted.

Dobbs vs. Jackson Health Organization

This case concerns a Mississippi abortion law passed in 2018 which bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy except in “medical emergencies and severe fetal abnormality". This law was challenged and was ultimately blocked by the 5th U.S. Circuit as unconstitutional under existing precedent.

Roe v. Wade: A summary

Abortion has been one of the most controversial legal issues in American politics for decades. In 1973, the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade made a significant ruling that would change the way states can regulate abortion in the U.S. The case started when Jane Roe, an unmarried pregnant woman, filed suit challenging Texas abortion laws. She was then joined by a doctor who argued that Texas abortion laws were too vague for doctors to follow. The Court ruled that a woman's right to terminate her pregnancy was protected by the Due Process Clause of the 14th amendment of the Constitution. A three 12 -week trimester system was created by this decision. This system would:
  • Allow women to get an abortion with no restrictions in the first three months of the pregnancy
  • In the second trimester, some government regulation would be allowed
  • In the third trimester, the unborn child's life outweighs the right to privacy of the mother. Thus, a state can restrict or ban abortions unless the abortion is necessary to save her life.
The Court revisited Roe v. Wade in 1992 in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. In this case, the Court created a different standard to regulate abortion. The standard, " fetal viability" assesses the fetus's ability to survive outside the womb. Fetal viability occurs at about 24 weeks of pregnancy.

Would Overturning Roe v. Wade Make Abortion Illegal?

No, rather states will have the option to determine their own rules when it comes to regulating abortion. In the absence of the Roe v. Wade decision, states like Alabama and Texas could reinstitute abortion bans that haven't been enforced since the Roe V. Wade decision. Abortion would continue to be legal in 13 states including California, Nevada, and Delaware. Eight states, on the other hand, would immediately ban almost all abortions. These states include Mississippi, Tennessee, and Kentucky.
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