A Case Challenging Roe v. Wade Is Going to the Supreme Court

It’s happening. On December 1, 2021, the Supreme Court will hear a case that legal experts say will directly challenge Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that found that access to abortion is a constitutional right. 

For years, state governments have been chipping away at that precedent, passing legislation that makes access to abortion tricky in many states and nearly impossible in others. On September 1, the most restrictive abortion law in the country went into effect in Texas, banning abortions six weeks after conception, with no exceptions in the case of rape or incest. At six weeks most people have no idea that they are pregnant. 

Abortion law experts said at the time the move essentially made Roe v. Wade a fiction in Texas and could lead to it being challenged in the Supreme Court. Only weeks later that prediction is already coming true—on September 20, the Supreme Court announced that it would hear arguments over a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks. 

One in four women will have an abortion in her lifetime, according to Planned Parenthood. Before Roe v. Wade, when abortion was illegal, one in six pregnancy-related deaths were caused by unsafe, unregulated abortions. Meanwhile, legal abortions in the U.S. have an over 99% safety record. 

The case the court will hear is Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Jackson Women’s Health, SCOTUSblog reported in May, is the only licensed abortion provider in Mississippi. The organization will be represented in the Supreme Court case by the Center for Reproductive Rights, which just last year successfully argued a Supreme Court case protecting abortion rights in Louisiana. 

That case was 5-4 in favor of reversing an anti-abortion access law. Since then, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died and was replaced by the anti-choice justice Amy Coney Barrett. Barrett was the third justice confirmed to the Supreme Court during Donald Trump’s presidency. (For comparison, in Obama’s eight years in office, he confirmed only two justices to the court.) The majority of conservative-leaning justices on the court strongly suggests that the court will vote to overturn Roe v. Wade

We know that women of color, poor women, and women with children suffer the most from abortion restrictions. “Think about someone who’s 12 or 13 years old trying to navigate accessing abortion and having to travel hundreds of miles and access that care,” Texas Planned Parenthood doctor Bhavik Kumar told Glamour in early September. 

The best way to keep abortion accessible despite challenges in the Supreme Court is to pass laws protecting abortion rights, Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, told Glamour in May. “One of the most important things is to make sure we have protection at the federal level,” she said. “We’re going to need to have nationwide protections should the Supreme Court weaken those protections at all. We want to make sure that the EACH Act and the Women’s Health Protection Act are there as strong federal safeguards.”

“We will not stand by and allow our nation to go back to the days of back-alley abortions,” the vice president said in a statement about the Texas abortion ban. “We will use every lever of our administration to defend the right to safe and legal abortion—and to strengthen that right.” Women—and all Americans—need the Biden administration to follow through on that promise now more than ever. 

Jenny Singer is a staff writer for Glamour. You can follow her on Twitter. 

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