Why You Should Care about Roe v. Wade or Trump’s Unimpeachable Legacy.
Written by Mareva Chatzitheodorou.
With abortion rights in the USA being under attack, attention should be drawn to the landmark case of Roe v. Wade and its importance.
January 22, 1973. The Supreme Court legalized abortion in the United States. In Roe, which was a pseudonym for Norma McCorvey, a single mother seeking a legal abortion, the Supreme Court found that a person’s right to make their own decisions about their pregnancy deserves the highest level of constitutional protection and protected it under the 14th Amendment. By making abortion legal nationwide, Roe v. Wade has had a dramatic impact on the health and well-being of Americans. Deaths from abortion have since plummeted and are now considered a rarity.
Even after Roe v. Wade was issued, states have attempted to restrict abortion, by blocking federal funding through Medicaid and through enacting restrictive laws. Among the restrictions there are bans on abortions at early stages of pregnancy, with six states banning abortions after six weeks. That’s before many women even realize they are pregnant. There are bans on the most common method of surgical abortions. There are laws making it more difficult to obtain medical abortions using pills, making it illegal to terminate a pregnancy because of fetal abnormalities, including Down syndrome, or making it difficult to impossible for clinics that perform abortions to remain open. These limitations make abortion even less accessible for low – income women across the US, predominantly women of color.
If a case challenging Roe v. Wade ends up in the Supreme Court, it could mean the overturn of Roe v. Wade, as the Court currently has a supermajority of conservative justices. If Roe v. Wade is overturned or further eroded, ⅓ of all people of reproductive age in America could lose the ability to access abortion in their state. Anti-abortion rights forces are in fact prevailing in many state legislatures, enacting lots of different laws that will restrict abortion rights immediately after the erosion of Roe v. Wade. As of now, there are four such cases pending before the Supreme Court and more than a dozen cases pending in the federal appeals courts.
Public opinion polls have shown large majorities supporting abortion rights in most cases. Those approval ratings have remained remarkably stable over the years. On the Supreme Court, however, the centrist conservatives are gone, replaced by justices more passionately opposed to the notion of a constitutional right to abortion. The last judge to be appointed to the Supreme Court, after Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, is Amy Coney Barrett, solidifying a conservative supermajority. She has actively promoted anti-abortion and has previously written about the possibility of reexamining Roe v. Wade, on the basis that ‘life begins at conception’. She is the same person who was unable to name all five freedoms protected by the First Amendment. The one appointed to the Supreme Court before her was Brett Kavanaugh, who had been accused of sexual assault in 2018 and 2019. He, too, has expressed a will to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Among constitutional scholars, there are two schools of thought. Many, like Professor Josh Blackman, of South Texas College of Law Houston, expect the court to systematically hollow out Roe v. Wade, not explicitly overturning it but leaving it a right on paper only. But the other school of thought argues that the time is ripe for anti-abortion rights forces to strike more definitively. ‘I think the galvanizing view within the pro-life movement is that the time has come to call the question,’ NYU law professor Melissa Murray maintains. ‘Why wouldn’t you do it now when you have a 6-to-3 supermajority?’.
Overturning Roe v. Wade would not make abortion illegal altogether, it would just allow each state to determine its own rules. It would also set a dangerous precedent. It would add the USA to the camp of countries that make it difficult for women to get safe abortions, encouraging other countries to do the same. The fight still goes on in Poland and elsewhere and tipping the scale in favor of pro – life stances would only make it more difficult for women to regain their fundamental right; the right to choose.