America seems to be hanging in the balance, holding its breath as it waits to see what the outcome will be on the potential abortion ban. What used to be considered a black and white divergence – either you were pro-choice or pro-life – now totes shades of grey. There are those who want to see abortion in all its stages abolished from society. Then there are those who want women to have complete freedom up to the point of delivery to choose to keep or terminate the pregnancy.
But we also have a middle-ground group who thinks the better way to deal with the conflict is to institute gradual increments of change, thereby appealing to a public and judicial opinion while still working toward the same result – eliminating abortion across the board. So will Roe v. Wade be overturned?
The real answer is I don’t know for sure, but it is highly likely. For months we have been waiting for the predominantly conservative Supreme Court to make its final decision as each side of the debate seeks to sway its opinion. It appears that the courts will either overturn Roe v. Wade or, if not, will significantly weaken the original ruling by placing more limitations on when abortion can be performed and under what circumstances, such as in cases of rape and incest. The Supreme Court is expected to rule by the summer of 2022, and the experts seem to believe that however the court rules, it will most likely give the states more power to determine what abortion access they will allow.
What Are We Waiting For?
We are waiting for a decision in the case Dobbs v. Jackson’s Women’s Health Organization, which challenged a Mississippi law that bans abortion anytime after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
In 1973, the Supreme Court determined that a woman had the constitutional right to an abortion before fetal viability, which means before the age of which an unborn child can survive outside of its mother’s womb. For years, experts have considered that to be 24 weeks, and the courts affirmed that states could not ban abortion before fetal viability.
Then, in 2018, Mississippi passed a law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, and federal courts struck it down. So Mississippi asked the Supreme Court to step in and make a decision. If they decide to accept the new law, it will set a precedent for all other states to adopt similar measures because it will overturn Roe v. Wade and leave the legality of abortion up to the states.
Meanwhile, in Texas…
In 2021, Texas passed Senate Bill 8, making it illegal for a doctor to perform an abortion if they detected cardiac activity in an embryo. An unborn baby’s heartbeat can typically be detected at about six weeks of pregnancy. This bill is also considered unconstitutional, but in this instance, it is enforced by private citizens and not state officials, so even though abortion advocates have asked the Supreme Court to block the law, they have refused to intervene. They state that because state officials are not responsible for enforcing the law, it cannot be challenged in federal court based on the constitutional protections that were established by Roe.
As it stands, Texas citizens can sue anyone they believe may have violated the abortion law. This includes health care workers, providers, or even anyone who helps someone obtain abortion services after six weeks of pregnancy. And between the time this ban took effect, September 1, 2021, and November 2021, the number of Texas abortions has decreased by half.
As of March 2022, this ban is still enforced.
How Did Roe v. Wade Originate?
In 1969 a Texas Woman, Norma McCorvey, wanted to abort her baby. She was poor and had already given up two children for adoption. Abortion at this time was legal in Texas, but only if the mother’s health was at risk. If a woman who had the means wanted to terminate her pregnancy, she could travel to other countries to have the procedure performed or pay a very high fee to have it done in the United States.
Some women who could not afford an abortion found “back-alley” ways to terminate their pregnancy, or they did it themselves. McCorvey was unable to find a way to do this, and with no other options available to her, she was referred to Texas attorneys Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington, who were known for challenging anti-abortion laws. They, in turn, filed a lawsuit on her behalf in the United States federal court against her city district attorney, Henry Wade. They said that the abortion laws were unconstitutional. When they took on McCorvey’s case, she took on the pseudonym Jane Roe.
In June 1970, a Texas district court ruled that the state’s abortion ban was illegal because it violated a woman’s right to privacy. Though this ruling stood, Wade continued to prosecute doctors who performed abortions. Eventually, the case was appealed to the Supreme Court, and on January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court annulled the Texas law that banned abortions and made the procedure legal across the nation.
What Would Happen if The Supreme Court Overturns Roe v. Wade?
According to Axios Research, if the Supreme Court overturns Roe. v. Wade, abortion would become illegal in at least 13 states. And this would only be the beginning.
In Roe v. Wade, fetal viability starts at 24 weeks. If the Supreme Court allows the Mississippi law to stand, the Roe decision would no longer be valid because experts will have now declared that fetal viability begins at 15 weeks. If this happens, the immediate states where abortion would be banned are:
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
The fact that we have a conservative majority on the Supreme Court leaves most people thinking that Roe v. Wade will be overturned. But even if it is, will that make abortion illegal across the board?
No. What it will do is establish a new rule on the viability of the fetus, determining that the life of an unborn baby begins at 15 weeks because this is when it has the potential to live outside the womb. Prior to 15 weeks of gestation, it is not possible that the fetus could survive outside the womb. Thus, judging by experts’ ruling, a fetus from zero to fourteen weeks appears to have no value. But is this really the case?
I think if you really dig down deep into the hearts of both those who are for abortion and those who are against it, you will see that everyone agrees on these two things:
- Both sides love and care for babies and believe that babies have value, and
- Both sides also love and have compassion for women who were abused, raped, or molested and do not want to see them suffer more by having to carry the memory of their abuse inside their womb as a constant reminder of something they want to forget.
People passionate on both sides of the debate have compassion for both women and children.
To say that all pro-life people hate women and all pro-choice people hate babies is redundant. Both sides are fighting because they care – period.
In 1999, George W. Bush, then governor of Texas, felt that a strong anti-abortion stance would not win the outcome that pro-lifers wanted. In fact, their persistence probably did more to fuel the flames of the opposing side.
What he suggested was that pro-lifers should not consider banning abortion until the majority of the public had shifted their way of thinking into seeing that banning abortion was the better choice.
“Laws are changed as minds are changed,” Bush said.
Even though he was clearly against abortion – he signed several anti-abortion legislative pieces – he spent more time urging the pro-life public to concentrate their efforts on persuading more Americans to adopt their stance: to work toward changing hearts and minds one person at a time.
Whether or not this strategy works will soon be made known when the Supreme Court makes its decision.
When Will The Supreme Court Decide?
They are supposed to make their decision by the summer of 2022. With the conservative majority appearing to question the constitutional foundation of the upcoming 50-year-old precedent (if upheld, the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade will be January 22, 2023), it appears likely that the initial ruling will be overturned. This past January may have been the last anniversary pro-choicers got to celebrate.
Yet, it seems inevitable that something will happen that will change the course of history. For some, it will be a victory, giving more lives a chance to grow to become world-changers. Yet for those who feel that women should have the right, according to the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, to do to their bodies whatever they choose, including decisions that affect the life growing in their wombs, it will likely mean more back-woods abortions and impoverished girls who, feeling like they have no way out of their situation, attempt to take matters into their own hands at the risk of losing their own lives.
Either way, there most likely will be some gains and some losses.
Someone needs to come up with a third option whereby everybody has a chance to live a safe and fulfilling life.
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Alexandra Christensen is a freelance writer and editor. When she is not working on an assignment, she can be found hanging around with other writers on Medium.com/@alexandra_creates where she writes mostly about raising foster and adopted kids and those with invisible disabilities.