5 essential reads on what happens next


(The Conversation is an independent, nonprofit source of news, analysis, and commentary from academic experts.)

(THE CONVERSATION) The Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the constitutional right to abortion was indicated via a leaked draft opinion a few weeks ago, but that doesn’t diminish the impact it will have.

The Supreme Court’s ruling on June 24, 2022 upends 50 years of reproductive rights in the United States, but comes after a long period in which those rights have been eroded at the state level.


This will have profound implications for the social and political future of states as well as for millions of American women. Here are five articles to help explain the importance of this decision and what to expect next.

1. The long history of the abortion debate in the United States

Despite the magnitude of this ruling, it is unlikely to end the abortion debate. Indeed, as Treva B. Lindsey of The Ohio State University writes, the battle for abortion rights predates the Roe v. Wade from 1973 over a century.

She writes that in the early 1800s, “pre-rapid abortions”—those performed before a pregnant person felt fetal movement—were fairly common, and even advertised. But in the mid to late 19th century, states began to pass laws banning abortion. These bans were prompted, at first, by concerns about the high risk of injury or death to women who had abortions.

But there was also a racist reason.

“A spike in fears about new immigrants and newly enfranchised black people reproducing at higher rates than the white population has also sparked greater opposition to legal abortion,” Lindsey writes. At the start of the 20th century, abortion was illegal in all states. But the women’s liberation movement and sexual revolution of the 1960s sparked new discussions about reproductive rights. Some states have legalized abortion in specific circumstances. Then, in 1973, came the Roe decision.

2. 50 states, 50 different abortion laws

This long history of states deciding whether to ban or legalize abortion is about to pick up again after 50 years of women in the United States having a constitutional right to abortion guaranteed by Roe. Thirteen states, including Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma, have so-called “trigger laws” that seek to restrict abortion as soon as Roe is overturned. But in others, the future of abortion rights is less clear and may take some time to emerge.

Katherine Drabiak of the University of South Florida studied state abortion laws for The Conversation. With Roe now overthrown, it looks like 20 states will ban or restrict abortions, while 20 states and the District of Columbia will protect — or even expand — a person’s ability to get a safe abortion. This leaves 10 states in which the image is less clear. As Drabiak writes, rather than the Supreme Court’s decision being the end of the matter, the ruling could be just “the jumping-off point for states to navigate a wide range of new privacy laws.” abortion”.

3. Obstacles to abortion also in liberal states

The patchwork of laws across states will accelerate a process that has been evident in recent years: women traveling out of conservative states to seek abortions. Indeed, as Amanda Jean Stevenson and Kate Coleman-Minahan of the University of Colorado at Denver write, states such as California, Washington, Illinois and New York are “likely to experience an influx of people wishing to have an abortion if they can no longer obtain one at home. State.”

But these states cannot become an unconditional haven for people seeking abortions. A range of barriers can prevent women living in states where abortion is banned from having abortions elsewhere. Going out of state for an abortion is expensive – you need money for travel and accommodation. The increased demand for abortions in states where it is legal may lead to longer wait times for appointments. Such delays could be crucial, write Stevenson and Coleman-Minahan, when they visit 18 of the 25 states supposed to keep abortion legal. These states currently prohibit abortions later in pregnancy – usually after the first trimester.

Meanwhile, some states that aren’t supposed to ban abortion have other hurdles, like requiring those under 18 to get parental consent.

4. Warnings from Ireland about what’s to come

With a large proportion of Americans living in states that will ban abortion — and laws in more liberal states that still make abortion difficult — it’s likely that many women will have no choice but to stay. pregnant.

Gretchen Ely of the University of Tennessee suggests that this will set the country on a similar path to that of Ireland between 1983 and 2018. She writes that the religiously motivated anti-abortion law in force in Ireland at that time is analogous to those in force in several states in the United States Irish law has resulted in a long period of suffering for many Irish women, documented in a series of court cases that helped shift opinion towards legalization.

These include the tragic case of Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old woman who was forced to miscarry a non-viable fetus rather than terminate the pregnancy with medical assistance, which was technically classified as an abortion. illegal. Having the doctors terminate the pregnancy would have reduced the risk to her life. Instead, Halappanavar died after suffering organ failure and spending four days in intensive care.

“Unlike the United States, Ireland is moving away from political control over privacy,” Ely writes. With Roe reversed, she says, “pregnant people could face decades of forced pregnancy, suffering and even death – as was the case in Ireland before 2018”.

5. A decision that affects millions, made by a few people

While in Ireland, in 1983, abortion was banned by means of a referendum – even if it brought together barely half the nation – in the United States, the decision to overthrow the constitutional right to have an abortion was taken by a handful of Supreme Court justices.

Nominated by Republican presidents, the four men and one woman who joined the conservative majority opinion toppling Roe all won confirmation in court “with the support of a majority of senators, but senators who did not represent the majority voters,” writes Kevin J. McMahon of Trinity College. “They are digital minority judges.”

This practice has profound consequences. “Supreme Court justices are appointed for life and typically serve for many years, even decades. Their imprint on the law can be lasting, and their legitimacy, conferred in part by the confirmation process, helps secure their place in our democracy,” McMahon writes.

The legitimacy of the nation’s highest court is at stake, McMahon says, because judges make decisions without the weight of a democratic mandate.

“A five-justice conservative majority that rejects Roe after nearly 50 years on the books will likely reinforce the belief that the court makes its decisions based primarily on policy rather than law, especially given the central role that opponents of the decision played in the mobilization of voters. to support Republican candidates like Donald Trump,” concludes McMahon.

Editor’s note: This story is a summary of articles from The Conversation archives.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article here: https://theconversation.com/supreme-court-overturns-roe-upends-50-years-of-abortion-rights-5-essential-reads-on-what-happens-next-184697 .

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