Jan. 22 marks the 47th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that legalized abortion nationwide. Those on both sides of the furious debate say this could be the year when everything changes.
In March, the Supreme Court will hear its first abortion case since Justice Brett Kavanaugh replaced Anthony Kennedy, who had been the swing vote on abortion cases. A decision is expected by summer.
The case, , challenges a Louisiana law that requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. It’s a reprise of a case decided in 2016, when a five-vote majority (including Kennedy’s) struck down a substantially similar Texas law in .
On Jan. 2, more than 200 Republican members of the House and Senate in the Gee case urging the justices to use it to overturn Roe once and for all. “Forty-six years after Roe was decided, it remains a radically unsettled precedent,” the brief said. And the 1992 case that reiterated a curtailed right to abortion, , did not help, the members argued. “Casey868彩票地址 clearly did not settle the abortion issue, and it is time for the Court to take it up again.”
The court is far more likely to in the case than to use it to overturn Roe and/or Casey868彩票地址 because that’s what the Supreme Court tends to do., titled “What If Roe Fell,” and again in and , the center assessed the likely legal status of abortion in the states, because in the absence of Roe868彩票地址, abortion’s legality would be determined by state lawmakers or state constitutions.
But in its 2019 version of “,” the group took a slightly different tack. This latest iteration looks at likely legality, but also at the relative availability of the procedure. The report concludes that if the Supreme Court eliminates federal protections for abortion, the procedure is likely to be immediately prohibited in 24 states, and remain legal and generally available in 21. The five other states and the District of Columbia have not established a right to abortion.
Smith said that, even with Roe still standing, some states, such as Mississippi and Missouri, are already abortion “deserts,” where the procedure is all but unavailable. But “the situation would be much worse if the federal right is limited or overturned,” she said. In fact, some states are “havens” that have made abortions easier to obtain. For now, “abortion is still legal. Every state has at least one abortion clinic,” Smith added.
This is far from the first time it appeared Roe was teetering on the brink. In 1992, after Justice Clarence Thomas replaced Thurgood Marshall, one of the original seven justices in the majority in Roe868彩票地址, the country braced for an overturn. It did not happen. In 2005, when abortion swing vote Justice Sandra Day O’Connor retired and was replaced by Justice Samuel Alito, the alarms were raised again. And again, it did not happen. Then in 2018, when O’Connor’s successor as the abortion swing vote, Kennedy, retired and was replaced by Kavanaugh, the bells rang once more.
The Louisiana case is the first chance for what would appear to be a clear five-vote anti-abortion majority to rule.
Ziegler, the Florida State law professor, warns that overturning Roe would not end the fight. “If this goes back to the states, it’s going to continue indefinitely,” she said. “The endpoint for people who oppose abortion is not just allowing states to decide.”
In other words, if you think the abortion issue is inflammatory now, just wait until Roe is gone.
HealthBent, a regular feature of Kaiser Health News, offers insight and analysis of policies and politics from KHN’s chief Washington correspondent, Julie Rovner, who has covered health care for more than 30 years.
Correction: This story was updated on Jan. 17 at 11:10 a.m. ET to correct the description of the Center for Reproductive Rights. It is an abortion-rights legal advocacy group, not a law firm.