Despite years of increasing legal restrictions in state legislatures, the constitutional threat to abortion has never been greater. Earlier this week, the Supreme Court announced its decision to hear a case over a Mississippi abortion law that bans abortions after 15 weeks, at odds with constitutional law that protects abortions before the 24 week mark. fetal viability. This will be the first abortion case the Supreme Court hears that directly challenges Roe vs. Wade.
The Mississippi case follows years of state legislatures moving at a rapid pace to restrict abortions and repeal access to reproductive health. In this year’s session alone, more than 500 anti-abortion bills have been proposed in state legislatures, of which 70 have been passed to date. The stream of laws was intentionally provocative, prompting legal challenges that would eventually move the issue onto the Supreme Court’s calendar. Legal experts say Trump’s appointments of federal judges to lower courts have created an ecosystem conducive to the repeal of reproductive rights, as have the three Supreme Court justices he has appointed.
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With a Republican-leaning 6-3 majority, the chance that the Supreme Court will rule in favor of Mississippi is likely. Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett are at the forefront of this legal battle, with the two hijacking questioning during the nomination process over their stance on abortion. (Barrett was at once affiliated with the Indiana chapter of Right to Life.)
“The repression is real,” says Lizz Winstead, founder of Abortion Access Front. “People really need to understand that what’s going to happen is pretty darn scary.”
Reproductive rights experts say there’s no way Supreme Court can enforce Mississippi law and not overturn Roe deer entirely. Limiting abortions to 15 weeks directly calls into question the basis of the precedent established by Roe deer in 1973, and this is the first pre-fetal viability case the Court has heard since. Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said if the majority-conservative court sided with the Mississippi, 50 years of constitutional precedent would be thrown out the window.
In this year’s session alone, more than 500 anti-abortion bills have been proposed in state legislatures, of which 70 have been passed to date.
In recent years, nonprofits like Abortion Access Front have struggled to get their message across to the public. They say Big Tech is to blame. Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter imposed limits on political advertising, which hampered the ability of these groups to inform Americans of attacks on reproductive rights. “The public hears the rumbles of what’s going on in a state here and in a state there,” says Winstead. “But they don’t understand all of it.” She says the media is only paying attention now that the issue has reached Barrett and Kavanaugh.
Public support for access to abortion is 59 percent, near an all-time high, according to a Pew Research Center poll. But make it a big problem, especially for young people who have never known time without Roe deer, is a challenge that can only be achieved in times of crisis.
The Red States are already preparing for the Court to side with the Mississippi. Ten states have “trigger laws” in place, which means that if Roe vs. Wade is canceled, abortion will automatically become illegal. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, 24 states are “hostile” to abortion, and will probably try to repeal the right to abortion if Roe deer falls.
The criminalization of abortion can take many forms. Penalties, fines and jail time are on the table. “The criminalization of pregnancy and pregnancy-related outcomes is not a new phenomenon in the United States,” says Preston Mitchum, policy director of the nonprofit Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity (URGE) . He says the trend will only get worse.
One state that would invariably become a hotspot for the criminalization of abortion is Texas. Gov. Greg Abbott enacted a fetal “heartbeat bill” on Wednesday, which bans abortions after just six weeks. (Most women don’t even know they’re pregnant for four to seven weeks, which is close to a total ban.) By law, private citizens can sue anyone who “helps or encourages” an abortion. after six weeks. week, such as the doctor, front desk staff, or a friend or family member who drives the patient to the clinic.
If abortion becomes illegal – or severely restricted – in nearly half of the country, states with widespread access to abortion, such as New York and California, will undoubtedly be under additional pressure on resources. because pregnant women seek abortions across state lines.
Ten states have “trigger laws” in place, which means that if Roe vs. Wade is canceled, abortion will automatically become illegal.
According to Jackie Blank, federal legislative strategist at the Center for Reproductive Rights, this is already happening. One example is the relationship between Missouri and Illinois. Pregnant women in Missouri routinely seek abortions in Illinois, which does not require a 72-hour wait period. Blank says these abortion state border crossings, which put undue pressure on remaining clinics, will become the norm if Roe deer is not respected. As pregnant women flock to the last remaining “safe havens” for abortion, increased wait times could affect everyone.
Since the court ruled on abortion protections in 1973, attacks on the ruling have been relentless. That’s why groups like URGE and the Center for Reproductive Rights have been pushing for legislative action in recent years, to thwart the threat of judicial repeal. “The courts have never been a bastion of justice for the communities that need it most,” says Mitchum.
The Women’s Health Protection Act could be the solution. The bill was first introduced to Congress in 2013, and although it was raised again in last year’s session, it never came to a vote. Senate and House co-sponsors including Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) announced on Wednesday that they would reintroduce the bill in a few weeks, members claiming that the bill would ensure that abortion remains a “fundamental right”.
I asked some of the main architects of the bill if they thought the Republicans would overturn it; they dodged the question. With the filibuster in place, such a bill that relies on Republican support would go nowhere. But anti-abortion ranks among Democrats are almost non-existent, meaning the bill would stand a chance in a Senate without a qualified majority threshold.
“This is a fairly critical bill,” says Elizabeth Nash, senior policy associate on state matters for the Guttmacher Institute. “The Supreme Court’s announcement that it is handling the Mississippi case could be a signal to Congress that it needs to be careful.”
As high-profile issues are usually resolved by the end of Supreme Court sessions, a decision in the Mississippi case is likely to be rendered in June 2022, just months before the midterm elections. This provides an opportunity for abortion rights advocates to mobilize voters, in a way they have not traditionally been against the pro-life right.