Home » Politics » A more conservative Supreme Court is primed to weaken or nix Roe v. Wade even with Joe Biden in the White House. Here are 16 abortion cases in the pipeline to the high court.
A more conservative Supreme Court is primed to weaken or nix Roe v. Wade even with Joe Biden in the White House. Here are 16 abortion cases in the pipeline to the high court.
The Supreme Court’s 6-3 conservative majority could weaken or nix Roe v. Wade even with Joe Biden as president.
It’s the worst-case scenario that reproductive rights groups have feared for years.
“There is no question that the risk of Roe being overturned is probably the highest it’s been in 25 years,” said Helene Krasnoff, an official at Planned Parenthood.
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Roe v. Wade could soon be history.
Much of it anyway, even with President Joe Biden in the White House and a Democratic majority in Congress. Before losing his re-election, former President Donald Trump cemented a 6-3 conservative majority Supreme Court that could rule in favor of myriad anti-abortion cases making their way through the lower courts.
Roe, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that made it illegal for states to ban abortion, is facing its biggest threat in decades ever since the Republican-led Senate’s confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who has an anti-abortion judicial record. Trump picked Barrett to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg after her death in September.
A two-thirds conservative court is the worst possible outcome for reproductive rights groups that are already panicking about the near certainty that safe abortions could become harder to access for millions, especially low-income people
“There is no question that the risk of Roe being overturned is probably the highest it’s been in 25 years,” said Helene Krasnoff, vice president of public policy litigation for the reproductive health organization Planned Parenthood.
Read more: Planned Parenthood’s president on the big changes ahead for reproductive rights and her organization’s many other asks of the Biden administration
A ‘turning point’ for the anti-abortion movement
More than a dozen cases, many filed by conservative states, could soon reach the conservative Supreme Court.
If the options go the way of Republicans they could chip away at abortion’s legality, including by blocking Planned Parenthood from getting government healthcare funds, limiting how far into pregnancy abortions can be done, the kinds of surgical methods doctors can use or placing restrictive rules on abortion providers. Others ban abortions on the basis of fetal race, sex, or disability.
These are all goals that have been sought by conservatives for years but became a real possibility once Trump became president and more so when he made his third lifetime appointment to the high court, after picking Neil Gorsuch in 2017 and Brett Kavanaugh in 2018.
It’s a “turning point” for the anti-abortion movement, Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List said when Trump had the chance to add a sixth conservative to the court.
When Trump was president he was hailed by conservatives as the “most pro-life president” in US history and several red states, including Georgia, Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri, and Mississippi, passed abortion restrictions that are now tied up in legal challenges.
The Supreme Court only takes up a small subset of requests to hear cases. But right now, many of the legal challenges to abortion laws across the country could reach the high court for a final verdict or cause the justices to look more broadly at Roe. If the Supreme Court were to overturn Roe, states would have to decide whether to keep abortion legal within their borders.
Reproductive rights groups have been sounding the alarm for years as several red states have regulated abortion clinics out of business. Even if the Supreme Court doesn’t overturn Roe, it can still place strict limits on abortions.
For instance, the Supreme Court blocked telemedicine abortions in most states on January 12 after they were happening during the pandemic. To obtain medication abortions, people have to meet with doctors or nurses in person to receive the pills. Reproductive rights groups want the Biden administration to reverse the decision as soon as possible.
“The court doesn’t have to overrule Roe to make abortion inaccessible,” said Noel Leon, an attorney at the National Women’s Law Center.
The Supreme Court is already considering a handful of abortion cases, and others aren’t that far off from reaching the high court. Insider reviewed 16 cases being closely watched by both sides of the abortion debate. Two of those cases is close to going before the Supreme Court, which requires the consent of four justices for a case to land on the docket.
Read more: Biden gets busy reversing Trump-era restrictions on gender and reproductive rights. His policies are even more progressive than past Democratic presidents.
15-week abortion ban
Case:Jackson Whole Woman’s Health Organization v. Thomas Dobbs
What it’s about: The case, brought by an abortion clinic and its patients, challenges a Mississippi law that would have imposed a ban beginning in 2018 on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Roe allows the procedure up to the point of fetal viability, which doctors place at about 24 weeks into a pregnancy.
Where it stands: The law was blocked by the lower courts early this year, and the state appealed the case to the Supreme Court.
Timeline: Supreme Court justices rescheduled their meetings on the case nine times. They eventually did meet about it three times in January 2021 but haven’t decided whether to take it up.
Read more: Leaked internal memos reveal the Democratic plan to use the battle over RGB’s replacement to Joe Biden’s advantage
Blocking federal family planning dollars
Case: Baltimore v. Azar
What it’s about: The Trump administration wrote new rules in February 2019 that prohibit medical providers who receive money from a family planning program known as Title X from directly referring patients for abortions. Planned Parenthood withdrew from the program and sued.
Status: Biden directed health agencies to review the Trump administration rules and to consider gutting them, though the process will take months and perhaps even more than a year. The Supreme Court is considering whether to hear the case. Justices met on January 22 to discuss it but haven’t announced a decision.