For more than half a century, American women have had the option of terminating a pregnancy before the fetus is viable out of the womb. If freedom was lost in 2021, it might be taken away more broadly in 2022.
“I believe now is the time,” said a Hattiesburg, Mississippi, anti-abortion rights protester who declined to give her name outside the state’s only remaining abortion clinic in Jackson this fall.
Mississippi, which has petitioned the Supreme Court to eliminate constitutional protections for abortion, appears to have a fair chance of having its 15-week ban upheld, more than two months earlier than the current limit.
Texas became the initial state since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973 to outlaw most abortions statewide effectively. SB8 has been effective for nearly four months has defied many court challenges thanks to its novel enforcement mechanism, which puts citizens against one another.
Other states with Republican governors are attempting to catch up. In the previous year alone, a record number of states have enacted new restrictions on abortion access, as per the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization for abortion rights.
The nation’s top court could give states the green light to go even further in the coming months, potentially removing the viability line for abortion restrictions and upending decades of precedent.
“What brought us to this moment is the Supreme Court’s involvement with social movements, political institutions, and health-care professionals,” said Mary Ziegler, a leading abortion law historian at Florida State University.
Despite strong popular support for Roe v. Wade, social conservatives have spent decades building the legal and political infrastructure to limit access to abortion.
“Could the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence on “abortion distortion” be coming to an end? I have faith in myself.” According to Carrie Severino, president of the Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative legal advocacy group has fought to overturn the Roe v. Wade ruling.
A dozen states have so-called trigger laws that will make abortion illegal in all or virtually all cases if the Supreme Court finds it in their favor. There are ten additional states with similar legislation that could follow suit shortly.
The anti-abortion campaign is “well-organized, well-funded, and they stick together,” says Derenda Hancock, one of the founders of the Pink House Defenders, a volunteer patient escort group in Mississippi at Jackson Women’s Health. “In the meantime, the pro-choice movement is riven with internal struggle and instability.”
Abortion doctors and women’s health organizations have attempted to halt the trend.
Whole Woman’s Health, a renowned abortion care provider in Texas, is now giving the procedure for free before six weeks of pregnancy, following state law.
This month, the Biden administration announced that the abortion medicine mifepristone can now be delivered via mail or commercial pharmacies, rather than in person at a hospital, clinic, or medical office if a physician has approved it.
“It could not have come at a more suitable time,” said Julia Kaye of the ACLU.
Efforts to improve abortion access, on the other hand, have had a limited impact thus far.
According to Guttmacher, 13 states in the South and six in the Midwest have legislation barring the mailing of mifepristone.
Abortion-related legislation is only present in 15 states and the District of Columbia.
The House of Representatives passed a bill to protect abortion rights for the first time, but it faces fierce resistance in the Senate, which is deeply split.
If the Supreme Court overturns Roe, legal experts expect that the argument over abortion rights will pass to state legislatures in 2022.
“This means it would be a state-by-state problem, even more than it is now, at least in the short term,” Ziegler added. “You might be able to get an abortion depending on where you live.”
There would almost probably be renewed efforts to enshrine abortion protections in state law or state constitutions, as well as a resurgence of fetal rights legislation by abortion opponents.
The Supreme Court is expected to publish its decision in June, two months before the midterm elections.
The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) president and CEO Nancy Northup stated, “Abortion is growing more liberal worldwide.” “We’ll have no choice but to move forward if the US takes this step back.”