A Supreme Court majority has voted privately to bring down Roe v. Wade, according to a leaked February draft opinion published by Politico. Here’s a look at the history of the landmark decision and the Mississippi case now pending in court
What is Roe v. Wade?
Roe v. Wade is a landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that established a constitutional right to abortion.
Roe has scrapped laws banning abortion in several states, stating that they could not ban the procedure before the point at which a fetus can survive outside the womb.
That point, known as fetal viability, was about 28 weeks when Roe was decided. Due to improvements in medicine, most experts now estimate fetal viability at around 23 or 24 weeks.
The case is sometimes colloquially referred to simply as “Roe”, the name of the plaintiff. It was actually a pseudonym for Norma McCorvey, who was 22 and pregnant when she became an abortion rights advocate. She later joined the anti-abortion movement, revealing in a documentary months before her death that she had been paid for it.
The name “Wade” refers to the defendant Henry Wade, who was the Dallas County District Attorney at the time.
Roe is a popular decision — polls have consistently shown that a majority of Americans don’t want the Supreme Court overthrown.
What is the Mississippi case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization?
The Mississippi case revolves around a state law that banned most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy and was intended as a direct challenge to Roe. It was enacted in 2018 by a Republican-dominated state legislature.
Mississippi’s last remaining abortion clinic, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, sued the law, which banned abortions about two months earlier than Roe and allowed later decisions.
Due to an immediate legal challenge, the law has not come into effect. If it had, health care providers who had violated it could have had their medical license suspended or revoked.
The Supreme Court seemed poised to uphold the Mississippi law after hearing arguments in December, though at the time the six-member conservative majority seemed divided on whether or not to proceed with ignoring Roe completely.
What is Planned Parenthood v. Casey?
Planned Parenthood v. Casey is another landmark Supreme Court ruling from 1992. It confirmed Roe’s pivotal claim — that women have a constitutional right to terminate their pregnancy until the fetus is viable.
What would it mean for access to abortion if Roe is destroyed?
More than half of US states would likely or almost certainly ban abortion if the Supreme Court overturned Roe, according to a Guttmacher Institute analysis updated in April. That number includes several states that have passed so-called trigger laws, which would automatically ban all abortions without Roe.
Depending on how exactly the court would frame such a decision, according to a 2021 New York Times analysis, legal access to abortion could effectively end for those living in much of the American South and Midwest, especially those who live in the US. to be poor. abortion legislation has already been proposed in Republican-led states.
Another way to understand who will be most affected by Roe’s overthrow is to consider who is getting abortions in the United States. The typical patient is already a mother, poor, unmarried, in her late twenties and very early in her pregnancy.
Overthrowing Roe would further cement the United States’ status as a global outlier on abortion. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, only three countries — Poland, El Salvador and Nicaragua — have tightened abortion laws since 1994.