On June 24, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that there was no longer a federal constitutional right to an abortion in the United States, leading to two executive orders to protect the procedure and access to contraception and an abundance of legal battles in lower courts.
Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that allowed abortions during the first two trimesters of pregnancy, proclaimed that women had a fundamental right to choose abortion without government restrictions in a 7-2 decision in 1973. SCOTUS held that a woman’s right to an abortion was synonymous with privacy protected by the 14th Amendment.
However, when a drafted opinion written by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. suggesting the possible overturning of Roe v. Wade was leaked in early May, concerns about the future of access to abortion in the United States came to question. Though the draft opinion was slightly different than the final opinion, both ultimately listed reasons why SCOTUS tossed out Roe v. Wade and a 1992 Supreme Court case known as Planned Parenthood v. Casey that upheld abortion rights.
“Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences. And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division,” Justice Alito wrote. “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”
The Supreme Court was in a 5-4 decision with Alito and Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas agreeing to overturn Roe v. Wade and Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor voting to uphold the landmark case. The high court’s ruling set off trigger bans in 13 states–some of whom have brought legal challenges attempting to lift the abortion ban–while 20 states and the District of Columbia permit the procedure. The overturning of Roe v. Wade has brought growing concern for Black women who, according to 2019 data published by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, have the highest abortion rate.
“Allowing states to criminalize abortions is ultimately going to disproportionately affect minority women because if history has taught us anything, it is that America fails to protect Brown and Black women,” Shaniyah Frazier, a senior international relations major at Howard University, said, expressing how disappointed she was in the Supreme Court and how betrayed she felt about the decision.
President Biden, on July 8, signed an executive order that allows those in need to seek medication abortion, contraception and emergency abortions the ability to access them. In spite of the executive order, on July 26, SCOTUS transmitted its judgment to the lower courts, sparking abortion restrictions or prohibitions in more than half the states across the country. Lisa Crooms, a professor at the Howard University School of Law and a supporter of reproductive healthcare and justice, explained the legal and moral precedents.
“Roe established a federal baseline below which states could not legislate. It did not, however, guarantee a meaningful right to access abortion services,” Professor Lisa Crooms said. “It (Roe v. Wade overturning) will put a strain on reproductive health services in states that choose not to ban or restrict access to abortion and other services because of increased demand from those with the resources to travel out of state.”
President Biden signed another executive order on August 3, vowing to provide support for patients traveling out of state, ensure nondiscrimination in the healthcare field and issue counsel to retail pharmacies on providing contraceptives. The executive orders are meant to secure access to reproductive and healthcare services.
“It was a good effort on the President’s behalf, but the order does not provide any comfort to what is going to happen in some states that have very strict abortion bans,” BethAnn Miller, a sophomore nursing major at Howard University, said.
In the 2022 case, Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the court voted 6-3 to allow the state of Mississippi to restrict or ban abortions in its state.Mississippi enforced the trigger ban, making abortions illegal. Anyone attempting to perform an abortion will be charged with a felony– indictable of up to 10 years.
In Lousiana, a New Orleans judge decided to temporarily block the trigger law ban on abortions. Since the SCOTUS ruling, the state has two statewide bans in effect and has been blocked twice. The state’s three abortion clinics have, as of now, remained open.
The Department of Justice recently filed a lawsuit against Idaho, saying that the state’s near-total abortion ban violates federal law, making this the Biden administration’s first legal action to protect abortion access since the overruling.
In Kansas, residents voted against the state’s abortion ban. Residents in Kentucky, California, Vermont and Michigan will get the opportunity to vote in the coming months.
“The people of Kansas won a victory of freedom and liberty by standing with the majority of Americans who support a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body,” Vice President Kamala Harris tweeted.
As of now, birth control remains legal everywhere in the U.S., although several states allow pharmacists and doctors to refuse to prescribe contraceptives. To stay on top of the aftermath of Roe v. Wade, visit the Guttmacher Institute website.
Copy Edited by Jadyn Barnett