What’s Going On With Abortion Laws and the Supreme Court Right Now, Explained

Photo from The New York Times; Photographs by CSA Images and Pixologic Studio via Getty Images

Mia Fitzloff

If you have been paying attention to the news lately, particularly this week, you might have heard whispers of terms such as “The Supreme Court”, “Mississippi”, or “Roe v. Wade”. The reason for all this talk is the impending supreme court decision of whether to or not to overturn Roe V. Wade decision of 1973 which provided the “right to privacy” and protected women’s rights to have an abortion.

This particular Supreme Court Case is the second major Roe V. Wade challenging case in 2021. Earlier this year, Texas enacted a new abortion law which restricted abortions after the first sign of fetal heartbeat, which, in most pregnancies, is around 6 weeks. This ruling was fought by many people around the country, but in particular abortion providers in Texas. The law also wanted to make it illegal for providers to go through with an abortion after the first sign of heartbeat, therefore making providers liable as well. The law was enacted in early September, and has since been brought back by Texas clinics to the Federal Government in Texas, and is now back in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled to keep the Texas abortion law in place (without judging its constitutionality), but has allowed abortion providers to sue and keep fighting the law, case by case. The Texas abortion law in particular is especially complicated and disheartening for Roe V. Wade. Most women do not even know they are pregnant by the time six weeks comes and goes. The Court also chose not to elaborate on how the law plays into certain abortion cases involving SA. The ripple effect of the Texas abortion law has caused an overflow of patients scrambling to get appointments in neighboring states. I listened to The Daily News Podcast episode titled “They Don’t Understand That We’re Real People”, in which a reporter traveled to an abortion clinic in one of the four neighboring states and interviewed patients and providers. One woman had had an appointment in Texas and they couldn’t find a fetal heartbeat. She then returned the next day for the operation and they found the slightest movement and made her go home. As of right now, the law in Texas still stands. 

Image via NY Times

The new Mississippi abortion law in comparison to Texas is tame. However, it does directly interfere with the rules of Roe V. Wade, and people fear anti-abortion laws will continue. The Mississippi law declares all abortions after 15 weeks illegal, which is a luxury compared to six, but still two months earlier than Roe V. Wade. The law was enacted by the Mississippi state legislature back in 2018, but wasn’t able to actually be enforced. The rules of the Mississippi law are quite strict, confining even some life-threatening pregnancies from being aborted. The law’s reasoning is directed as ‘looking out for the mother’ and says abortions are too risky for the parent after 15 weeks. In the actual Supreme Court Case titled Dobbs v. Jackson’s Womens Health Organization, Mississippi proposed to the Supreme Court justices to overturn Roe v. Wade and specifically, the case Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which restricted states from issuing an ‘undue burden’, to their right to abortion before fetal viability. 

The real Supreme Court kicker will probably not appear until June 2022. If the Supreme Court continues to uphold abortion laws that interfere with Roe V. Wade in the coming year, Roe will not have the power it had always held since 1973. Abortion will be a state by state issue, and for many states, that’ll mean outlawing abortion all together. The fall of Roe v. Wade would set women’s reproductive rights back almost 50 years. Not only would states likely outlaw abortions altogether, but many states with split opinions on abortion would draft complex, difficult to maneuver laws such as the current one in Texas. It may still be possible for a pregnant person to receive an abortion, but their time may be extremely limited. It may be too late before they even know. We won’t be able to be sure what the future of reproductive rights will look like until 2022, but the conservative majority in the Supreme Court currently has a strong hold on the issue. 

Sources Used: 

The New York Times

NBC

USA Today