Courtesy AgnosticPreachersKid on Wiki Commons
A leaked draft opinion suggests the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade may be overturned this summer. That decision, issued in 1973, grants all pregnant individuals the legal right to an abortion. News website Politco uncovered an initial draft of a majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito that points to transferring the control of the legality of abortion back to the states.
To fully understand the severity of the impact of overruling Roe v. Wade, one must look at the immediate and long-term impacts that this decision will have on the U.S. as a whole, as well as on a state-by-state basis.
If the Supreme Court’s final decision is similar to the draft that was written in February, the reproductive rights of all women would begin to mirror those of half a century ago. Before Roe v. Wade, it was up to each state to decide whether or not they would allow abortion within their borders. The fight for legalized abortions nationwide resulted in the high court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade, and for the past 49 years, all women in the U.S. have had legal access to abortions, regardless of the state they lived in. That has begun to change, however, with states becoming more and more determined to regulate women’s bodies as much as they can.
The possibility that many states may return to the restrictions they once imposed casts its shadow over women all over the country. “If tonight’s news is true, Michigan’s 1931 state law banning abortion would snap back into effect, making any abortion illegal in our state—even if the mom will die, or if she was raped by a family member,” said Michigan Rep. Elissa Slotkin via Twitter. “My poor mother is turning over in her grave.”
The reality that Roe v. Wade would be thrown out has been foreshadowed over the last year. It is not hard to track the development of these restrictions, which especially became apparent under the presidency of Donald Trump with the appointment of three new Supreme Court justices, all with conservative beliefs. In Sept. of 2021, Texas passed a law banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, specifically when the fetus begins to show evidence of cardiac activity. This past April, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed an anti-abortion law that will make the procedure illegal after 15 weeks of pregnancy. It is to go into effect in July. Neither of these laws hold exceptions for rape, incest or human trafficking. With these laws building up for the past year, is it really a surprise that other states would begin to regulate reproductive rights on their own, knowing that the high court would make it possible that these laws will withstand legal challenge?
Overturning Roe v. Wade is indicative of the scary reality that these legislative moves in Texas and Florida did not occur in a vacuum; they are something that the representatives in the states are actively backing. And ever since the packing of the Supreme Court with conservative justices under Trump occurred, Roe has been a possible target. To have a Supreme Court that doesn’t believe in Roe and won’t protect it means that conservative states now have the power to regulate as much as they wish, with no rebuttal from legal authorities. The idea that overturning Roe is the first step the country has taken is naive, as there have been steps prior to this leak that have, or at least should have, foreshadowed a scary future for women in America.
Doing away with Roe v. Wade will mark the farthest action the Supreme Court could take in order to restrict reproductive rights. From there, there’s no telling how far the states will go. The infiltration of religion into politics–a clear violation of the supposed secular nature of modern America–could lead to restrictions on birth control and other contraceptives. This possible ban will not even fulfill its intended purpose; it will not decrease the number of abortions, but the number of safe abortions. Women, primarily single women with low incomes, will be forced into horrific situations as they go alone to get unsafe, illegal abortions now that the federal government is no longer protecting them.
What do we do? We aren’t federal government officials; we don’t make laws or vote for or against them. We don’t write Supreme Court opinions or have the ultimate say on whether or not women can keep their rights to their own bodies. It seems as though so much of this decision is out of our hands and only up to the nine human beings who were appointed to the highest court in our nation.
I was so angry when I found out what could happen to women all over the country last week, and as I am still angry, I have found a way to channel it. I researched, and I had honest conversations with other girls in my classes about how they felt. I then thought about how I really felt, and how I wanted to express myself. With so much of this decision in the hands of authorities, making my voice heard seems to be what I must do.