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Roe V. Wade Overturned: The Ultimate Explainer On What It Means

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Several states have already banned abortion, and more could soon follow—here’s how the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling will affect everything from in vitro fertilization and birth control to politics and economics.
The Supreme Court on Friday overturned the nationwide right to abortion in its landmark Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling, causing major uncertainty about the future of abortion access in the United States. Here are answers to some of the biggest questions:
What did the Supreme Court’s ruling say? In a decision by Justice Samuel Alito, the court upheld a Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Five of the court’s nine justices also voted to strike down Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), effectively ruling abortion is no longer a nationwide right up to the point of fetal viability. Alito wrote that Roe v. Wade was “an abuse of judicial authority” that relied on “egregiously wrong” reasoning, and argued the right to abortion is not expressly mentioned in the Constitution and isn’t “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition.”
Four conservative justices joined Alito’s ruling, while Chief Justice John Roberts agreed to strike down Mississippi’s law but opposed fully overturning Roe v. Wade. The court’s three liberal justices penned a dissent that expressed sorrow “for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection.”
Read more: Roe V. Wade Overturned: Supreme Court Overturns Landmark Abortion Decision, Lets States Ban Abortion
Which states have already banned abortion? Over a dozen states have passed “trigger laws” that automatically ban abortion after Roe is struck down. Three of those states—Louisiana, Kentucky and South Dakota—immediately outlawed abortion after Friday’s ruling, and officials in Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Utah also allowed their states’ trigger bans to take effect. Texas’ trigger ban was set to be enacted 30 days after the court overturned Roe, but abortions stopped Friday after the state attorney general said abortion is now “illegal in Texas” and threatened to prosecute abortion providers using a nearly century-old law. Alabama also outlawed abortion Friday after a court allowed the state’s pre-Roe abortion ban to take effect. Five more states with trigger bans are guaranteed to prohibit abortion, but require waiting periods or additional action like the state attorney general certifying the ban. They are: Tennessee, Mississippi, Idaho, North Dakota and Wyoming. Read more: Roe V. Wade Overturned: Here’s When States Will Start Banning Abortion—And Which Already Have
Will more states ban abortion next? Almost certainly yes. The pro-abortion rights Guttmacher Institute projects up to 26 states will ban or strictly limit abortion. Among those states are Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Arizona, Michigan, Indiana, South Carolina, Nebraska, Iowa and West Virginia. Soon after Friday’s ruling, several GOP governors pushed state lawmakers to consider new abortion restrictions. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) has vowed to “fight like hell” to keep her state from enacting its 1931 abortion ban, though, and the state attorney general said she will not enforce the law. Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul (D) also said he doesn’t plan to enforce a state abortion ban enacted in 1851, though Wisconsin clinics stopped offering abortions Friday. Read more: GOP-Run States Push New Abortion Restrictions After Supreme Court Strikes Down Roe
Are there exceptions for rape, incest or threats to the life of the mother? All states that have banned abortion so far carry exceptions when there is a risk to the life of the mother, but few allow for abortions in cases of rape or incest. Among states with trigger bans, only Utah, Idaho and North Dakota carry exceptions for rape or incest. What penalties could there be for performing an abortion in a state where it’s illegal? Many states with trigger bans—like Texas and Utah—classify performing an abortion as a felony punishable by fines and prison time. Maximum prison sentences vary from two years in Louisiana to 20 years in Texas, and Wyoming’s trigger ban doesn’t specify a penalty. None of the trigger bans include penalties for the person who sought an abortion. Read more: Performing An Abortion Will Become A Felony In These States If Roe V.

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