FAQ: What does Supreme Court's abortion ruling mean?
(NewsNation) — The U.S. Supreme Court announced its decision to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade case Friday, effectively ending the federal constitution protections for abortion in a ruling powered by the court’s conservative majority.
This decision has been anticipated for the last month since a draft opinion overruling Roe was leaked to Politico in May. It is still unknown how the draft opinion leaked.
Roe v. Wade, which was decided in 1973, ruled that the Constitution protects the right to an abortion. Now that it was overruled, abortion rights are in flux throughout the country.
Here’s what you need to know:
What was Thursday’s decision?
Supreme Court justices ruled to overturn Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood, the 1992 decision that reaffirmed the right to abortion. Judges ruled that the Constitution does not give people the right to an abortion.
Justice Samuel Alito, in the final opinion, wrote that Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey were wrong the day they were decided and must be overturned.
The court, in a 6-3 ruling powered by its conservative majority, upheld a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks. The vote was 5-4 to overturn Roe, with Chief Justice John Roberts writing separately to say he would have upheld the Mississippi law but not taken the additional step of erasing the precedent altogether. The justices who agreed with Alito were Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. The latter three are Trump appointees. Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan were in dissent.
What does it mean?
Now that Roe v. Wade is overturned, it will be up to the states to regulate abortions. Some states have what are called “trigger laws,“or legislation to restrict abortion immediately should Roe be overturned. In about a half-dozen other states, the fight will be over dormant abortion bans enacted before Roe was decided, or new proposals to sharply limit when abortions can be performed, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.
The ruling is expected to disproportionately affect minority women who already face limited access to health care, according to statistics analyzed by The Associated Press.
Which states have trigger laws?
Of the 26 states that will likely restrict or ban abortions, 13 have trigger laws in place. States that will immediately ban abortion are Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.
Which states will protect abortion?
At least 16 states and the District of Columbia have laws that protect the right to abortion. Four states and the District of Columbia have codified the right to abortion throughout pregnancy without state interference. Twelve states allow abortion prior to viability or when necessary to protect the life or health of the mother. States protecting abortion include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
When do most women get abortions?
About 93% of abortions in the U.S. in 2019 occurred before 13 weeks, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is well before what is considered fetal viability when a fetus can survive outside the womb. However, some states, like Texas, outlaw abortion at six to seven weeks, before many women know they’re pregnant.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, more than 90% of abortions take place in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy. More than half are done with pills, not surgery.
Are there exceptions in states that ban abortion?
There can be exceptions for rape or incest, and the health and safety of the mother. Although most state laws banning abortion allow exceptions for “life-threatening pregnancies” or medical emergencies, several states with more restrictive abortion laws require that two physicians must diagnose the pregnancy as life-threatening. Of the states with abortion bans set to take effect post-Roe, 10 have passed laws that make no exceptions for rape or incest.
Will this affect other rulings, such as the one that legalized gay marriage?
Defenders of abortion rights, including members of the Biden administration, have warned that an overturn of Roe would threaten other high court decisions in favor of other rights.
Alito wrote in his draft opinion that his analysis only addresses abortion, though. Abortion is different than other rights, Alito wrote, because of the unique moral questions it poses.
In a concurring opinion, Thomas acknowledged that Friday’s decision does not directly affect any other rights besides abortion, according to The Hill. But Thomas argued that the Constitution’s Due Process Clause does not secure a right to abortion or other substantive rights, and urged the court to consider this in other landmark cases.
“In future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell,” Thomas wrote.
Griswold v. Connecticut ruled that married couples have a right to contraception, Lawrence v. Texas stated that states cannot outlaw consensual gay sex, and Obergefell v. Hodges established the right to same-sex marriage.
What has the reaction been?
People for abortion rights, as well as those against, gathered outside of the Supreme Court Friday morning before the decision was officially announced. After the ruling was made public, abortion opponents cheered, embraced and played music, while abortion-rights activists protested, some chanting “abortion is healthcare,” video from The Washington Post showed.
Planned Parenthood said in a tweet following the ruling that people may be feeling “hurt, anger” and confusion.
“Whatever you feel is OK,” the organization wrote. “We’re here with you — and we’ll never stop fighting for you. If you need an abortion, help is available to make sure you get the care you need.”
Several Republican politicians issued statements in support of the overrule of Roe v. Wade. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) called it a “historic victory for the Constitution” that corrected a “terrible and legal moral error.” Former Vice President Mike Pence tweeted immediately after the decision was announced that “life won.”
Former President Barack Obama criticized the ruling on Twitter, saying the high court reversed nearly “50 years of precedent,” attacking “the essential freedoms of millions of Americans.”