Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, ending 50 years of constitutional right to abortion
The United States Supreme Court issued a ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization on Friday, overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case that established a constitutional right to access legal abortion.
Dobbs v. Jackson is a court case over Mississippi's state law that banned abortion after 15 weeks. A lower court in the state struck the law down as unconstitutional because Roe v. Wade had protected a pregnant person's right to an abortion prior to fetal viability, generally considered to be around 24 weeks. Mississippi appealed the lower court's ruling, and the case went to the U.S. Supreme Court. Dobbs v. Jackson is the first time since 1973 that the court has ruled on the constitutionality of banning abortion before viability.
The court voted 6-3 to uphold the Mississippi law and 5-4 to overturn Roe.
Is abortion illegal in the U.S. now?
With Roe v. Wade overturned, abortion is still legal in much of the U.S., but individual states are now free to make abortion illegal.
"Overruling Roe (removes) the shield that had prevented states from making (abortion) illegal," Barbara McQuade, an NBC News and MSNBC legal analyst and professor from practice at Michigan Law who specializes in civil rights, told TODAY.
Without Roe v. Wade, an individual's ability to access abortion depends on the state where they live.
"There will be immediately chaos in every state as to whether abortion is legal and under what circumstances," McQuade added. "Roe has served as a backstop that prevents states from banning abortion before viability, and so without that backstop, it frees states to do whatever they want to do to control abortion laws."
Roe v. Wade being overturned will likely end up banning abortion in about half of U.S. states, Jean Bae, visiting professor at New York University's School of Global Public Health, told TODAY.
“Most abortion laws, when they make abortion illegal, they’re talking about penalizing providers,” and not the people who receive them, Bae clarified.
Over 200 abortion clinics around the country are expected to close, Ushma Upadhyay, Ph.D., associate professor at the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health at University of California, San Francisco, who researches abortion facilities, told TODAY.
Many people think that people seeking abortions who live in a state where it’s banned can access care in a different state, but Bae stressed that it’s not that simple. Some states, including Kentucky and South Dakota, have banned accessing medication abortion via mail, and lawmakers in Missouri proposed banning people crossing state lines to avoid the state’s abortion restrictions. It’s since been shelved, but Bae said overturning Roe v. Wade may invigorate states to try to pass such laws.
Abortion laws by state
Thirteen states have trigger laws that ban abortion with limited exceptions, which go into effect automatically or with quick state action now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned. These states include: Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.
Other states, including Alabama, Arizona, Michigan, West Virginia and Wisconsin, have laws banning abortion that were enacted before Roe v. Wade and go into effect again, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that advocates for access to reproductive care. Georgia, Iowa, Ohio and South Carolina are all likely to ban abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, and Florida, Indiana, Montana and Nebraska are also likely to ban abortion, according to Guttmacher.
Washington, D.C., and 16 states have laws that protect the right to abortion, even with Roe v. Wade being overturned, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
What do medical experts say about overturning Roe v. Wade?
After a draft opinion on Dobbs v. Jackson, which indicated Roe would be overturned, was leaked in May, several leading medical organizations, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and American Medical Association (AMA), asserted their support of legal abortion throughout the United States.
In a statement from May 2, ACOG shared a statement that said in part: “We will continue to affirm the ability of patients to access safe, legal abortions is critical for their health and well-being.”
On June 14, the American Medical Association adopted a policy at its annual meeting about the “over-policing and surveillance of reproductive health services.”
The statement reads in part: “In accordance with the new policy, the AMA will seek expanded legal protections for patients and physicians against government systems of control and punishment that criminalize reproductive health services.”
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