What does Roe v Wade being overturned actually mean?
And what is the Federal Government doing about it?
On Friday 24th June, the Supreme Court voted to overturn Roe v Wade, the legal case granting American women the right to an abortion. The historic decision has been met with outrage and protest across the United States over the weekend. The United States President Joe Biden called the ruling a “tragic error” and said he is looking into how states will police the procedure.
But what does this actually mean? And when does it come into effect? This is Roe v Wade explained:
What is Roe v Wade?
Roe v Wade is a historic court ruling from 1973 in which the U.S. Supreme Court voted and declared that unduly restrictive state regulation of abortion is unconstitutional.
They found that a set of Texas statutes criminalising most instances of abortion violated women’s right to privacy.
The case began in 1969 when “Jane Roe” sought an abortion in her native Texas, where it was only legal to have an abortion in order to save the woman’s life.
After unsuccessfully trying to get an illegal abortion, Roe was referred to attorneys Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington who filed a lawsuit on behalf of her and all other women “who were or might become pregnant and want to consider all options.”
The lawsuit was filed against Henry Wade, the district attorney of Dallas County. In June 1970 a Texas court ruled that the state’s abortion ban was illegal because it violated the right to privacy. However, after the case Wade said he would continue to prosecute doctors who performed abortions. Roe gave birth to her child and put it up for adoption.
The case was then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and in 1973 the court voted (7-2) to take down the original Texas abortion law, which in effect made the abortion procedure legal throughout the United States.
Why was Roe v Wade overturned?
Roe v Wade was effectively overturned on Friday 24th June after the Supreme Court voted on the Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization case.
The case in question was brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights and its partners on behalf of Jackson Women’s Health Organization, to challenge the Mississippi abortion ban which makes abortion illegal after 15 weeks. This ban is two months earlier than the majority of Roe and other rulings in different states.
The state argues the foetus has made important developments by 15 weeks. However, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the sole abortion clinic in Mississippi, gave evidence to the federal court showing fetal viability is impossible at 15 weeks.
The case was taken to the Supreme Court and on Friday five justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett voted in favour of the state, effectively ending the constitutional right to abortion.
What happens next?
Given the Supreme Court reversed their own ruling, many states are now likely to take immediate action to restrict abortions.
13 states have already passed trigger laws which will automatically outlaw abortion following the ruling, and at least half of the country’s states are expected to ban or restrict abortions.
Louisiana has a law which is expected to come into effect immediately and Idaho has a trigger ban which is expected to come into effect within 30 days.
Clinics in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and West Virginia have already stopped performing abortions.
This ruling means abortion will become illegal across the majority of the south and mid-west of the United States.
What are Joe Biden and the federal government doing about it?
On Saturday Joe Biden spoke on the ruling and declared it a “sad day” for the United States.
He said: “I believe Roe v. Wade was the correct decision as a matter of constitutional law and application of the fundamental right to privacy and liberty and matters of family and personal autonomy.
“It’s a sad day for our country but it doesn’t mean the fight is over. We need to restore the protections of Roe as law of the land. We need to elect officials who will do that. This is not over.”
The best way to make abortion legal across all 50 states would be to create a federal law. In order for the law to pass it would need the majority of support from the House of Representatives, at least 60 votes in the senate and Joe Biden’s signature.
Though the White House and the majority of the House of Representatives support the right to abortion, the senate currently has 49 Democrats who support the right to abortion, with some Democrats voting against abortion rights. Therefore leaving them short of votes.
In order to overcome this the Democrats would have to win by a landslide in the upcoming midterm elections in November.
Featured image credit via Jim Ruymen/UPI/Shutterstock