Last week, a draft opinion relating to the Roe v. Wade lawsuit written by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito was leaked to the media after circulating inside the court. The identity of the individual responsible for the leak remains unknown. Still, the almost certainty that the nation’s highest court is about to strike down a decades-old precedent on abortion rights has divided the country and led many to wonder whether this decision means the end of legal abortion in the United States.
“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” Alito writes in the leaked draft. “The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision, including the one on which the defenders of Roe and Casey now chiefly rely—the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”
What Is Roe V. Wade?
Roe v. Wade is the name of a lawsuit that led to the 1973 United States Supreme Court decision that established a constitutional right to abortion in every state of the United States.
In the suit, the plaintiff alleged that Texas legislation surrounding abortion was unconstitutionally vague and violated a constitutional right to personal privacy. The Supreme Court was tasked with deciding whether the United States Constitution recognizes a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy through abortion.
The Supreme Court ruled that women do have this right.
Will Overturning Roe Make Abortions Illegal?
No. Before Roe v. Wade, abortion was legal in four states. 16 other states also allowed abortion under specific circumstances. However, the fact that a minority of states allowed legal abortion was more a result of the time, rather than any legal or constitutional roadblocks preventing the legalization of the practice.
If the Supreme Court goes ahead with its rumored plans to strike down Roe v. Wade, it will allow state legislatures to decide their own laws relating to abortion. It would not ban abortion but would mean that some more conservative states are likely to implement stricter abortion laws.
Eighteen states already have “trigger laws” in place that would come into effect soon after Roe v. Wade is overturned. These laws would restrict or ban abortion in those states. Most states, however, would either continue to allow abortion to take place or consider legislation in the future that may implement stricter requirements for those who wish to access abortion services.
A total of 21 states are reportedly “poised to immediately ban or acutely curtail access to abortions” if the ruling is overturned.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.