Roe v. Wade was a Supreme Court case decided in 1973 that legalized abortion. In this case, Jane Roe sued Henry Wade, who was the current district attorney for Dallas County at the time, for a Texas statute which banned all abortions except by doctor’s orders to save a woman’s life. Roe sued on the grounds that the law was unconstitutional, as it infringed on her right to privacy given in the First, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments. The Supreme Court decided in a 7-2 majority that under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment the right to privacy is inherent, so a women’s choice to have an abortion falls into the category of privacy protection.
What you will learn from this:
- Details and context of the new Supreme Court Case, and what Mississippi’s new law entails
- What are the consequences if Mississippi wins the case?
- When should we expect to hear the verdict?
1. Details and context of the new Supreme Court Case, and what Mississippi’s new law entails
On Monday, May 17, the Supreme Court decided to hear an abortion case from Mississippi (Jackson Women’s Health Organization v. Mississippi) that directly correlates, and competes, with Roe v. Wade. Mississippi is trying to enact a law that will prohibit all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The state is not trying to overturn Roe v. Wade, but if they win, it would provide a pathway for increasingly more restrictive abortion laws. For context, in 2016, the Supreme Court ruled on two other major abortion cases, one from North Dakota, and another from Alabama. In both of these cases, the Supreme Court struck down the bills that put six and twelve-week time stamps on abortions, as they used Roe v. Wade as their precedent. But now, the Court has agreed to deliberate on this Mississippi case, signaling a shift in ideology of the court.
The new makeup of the Supreme Court certainly plays a factor in this new uptake. During Donald Trump’s presidency, three new justices were appointed to the highest court in America: Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett. Each of them have a strong opposition to abortion. Each of them has a strong opposition to abortion, solidifying the Court’s 6-3 conservative tilt. Due to this rightward lean, Mississippi is seen to have the upper hand in this case, but there is no way of knowing which way the Supreme Court will decide in the end.
2. What are the consequences if Mississippi wins the case?
If Mississippi does win the case, then abortion laws will drastically be changed in many states. Several conservative states, including Mississippi, “ have trigger bans on the books which would instantaneously ban abortion if Roe is overturned,” said the Center for Reproductive Right’s litigation director, Julia Rikelman. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Mississippi, then the 15-week ban on abortion can be introduced into all states that want to copy the law. Even if states do not adopt the 15-week abortion ban, the rate of closing abortion clincics is expected to increase. The New York Times estimates that forty one percent of women would see their nearest clinic close. Many women who are in poverty, or simply cannot afford the travel will be unable to receive safe, legal abortions, which will result in a further socioeconomic divide in terms of healthcare accessibility. “A post-Roe United States isn’t one in which abortion isn’t legal at all,” Caitlin Knowles Myers, an economist at Middlebury College said. “It’s one in which there’s tremendous inequality in abortion access.”
In just the past week, on May 19th, Governor Greg Abbott of Texas signed a bill that would restriction abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy: a time where many woman do not even know they are pregenant. This bill also allows for citizens to file a lawsuit against abortion providers that do not follow this law. If the Supreme Court rules in Mississippi’s favor, more bills restricting abortion, like this one in Texas, can be passed with fewer obstacles. Passing these restrictions on abortion access will certainly lead to more and more limitations, slowly chipping away at the progress Roe v. Wade pioneered.
3. When should we expect to hear the verdict?
The Court will likely hear the case later this year, around October, and release a verdict in the Spring of 2022.
- The Supreme Court has decided to hear a case that could decrease women’s reproductive rights.
- Mississippi is trying to place a ban on abortions after the fifteenth week.
- The Supreme Court’s 6-3 Conservative majority gives Mississippi the advantage in the case, as all six conservative judges have expressed negative opinions regarding abortion.
- The immediate results of a Mississippi win would be the implementation of 15-week abortion bans in key conservative states, but in the long term, a win could lead to an increasing amount of abortion laws.
- A decision will be announced sometime in the Spring of 2022.