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The Supreme Court may deliver a dramatic change to abortion jurisprudence in Mississippi abortion case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization — potentially allowing states to radically change access to the procedure.
While it’s difficult to predict outcomes, observers have suggested the court’s conservative majority will strike down decades of precedent following Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that limited government restrictions on abortion. In doing so, it could allow state legislatures to pass laws banning abortions prior to fetal viability.
People gather at an anti-abortion rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
It’s also possible that the court will set a new, vague standard for abortion restrictions — opening the floodgates for additional litigation and slowing Republicans’ efforts to prohibit the procedure.
How quickly state laws could change varies from state to state. Many red states already have trigger laws designed to restrict abortion in the event that Roe is overturned. For example, Texas is currently defending an effective six-week ban, but would revert to a more restrictive law if Roe is overturned. The state, which is where Roe originated, has a trigger law designed to automatically reinstate its previous ban.
A slew of other states have trigger laws that would result in banning all or nearly all abortions. These could receive guidance from anti-abortion groups like Americans United for Life (AUL). AUL government affairs counsel Katie Glenn told Fox News that her organization is ready to advise attorneys general on how they can respond to the Supreme Court’s decision next summer.
Abortion rights advocates and anti-abortion protesters demonstrate in front of the Supreme Court of the United States Supreme Court of the United States on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Besides AUL, other anti-abortion groups like Family Policy Alliance have already started preparing for political battles after Roe is overturned. In blue and purple states, Republicans will likely encounter fierce resistance to newly proposed bans, creating the possibility that the state’s laws won’t change or at least not for a long while. And if Democrats win more seats in the House, they’ll be poised to continue pushing a codification of Roe at the federal level.
Liberalized abortion access is expected to continue in states like New York, which passed a bill in 2018 designed to codify Roe.
Anti-abortion groups have warned that Roe is more extreme than most realize. While Roe legalized abortion early in a pregnancy, it left open exceptions for life and health of the mother at later gestational ages.
The decision in Doe v. Bolton, released on the same day in 1973 as Roe v. Wade, argued that life and health of the mother encompassed a wide range of reasons. In his majority opinion, former Justice Harry Blackmun wrote that “medical judgment may be exercised in the light of all factors — physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age — relevant to the well-being of the patient. All these factors may relate to health.”
‘The beginning of a new stage’ in the abortion wars
As many anti-abortion advocates have noted, the end of Roe is only the beginning for another stage in their movement.
“If Roe is finally overturned, that isn’t the end of the pro-life movement, but the beginning of a new stage,” Ethics and Public Policy Center president Ryan T. Anderson tweeted on Wednesday. “Time to pass laws to protect babies, craft pro-family policies, build support systems for women. So much of this already exists, and now is the time to take to next level.”
As Fox News previously noted, the battle isn’t just political. Texas pregnancy centers and charities have already started experiencing what a post-Roe world might look like.
Overturning Roe would return abortion law back to the sometimes messy democratic processes that influence state law. In blue states, that will likely mean a heavy emphasis on public education and changing public opinion on the issue.
The conservative Family Policy Alliance recently launched an “After Roe” campaign on its website that helps visitors identify laws in their state. It’s also geared to help them connect with their state family policy council and take action on the issue. The organization says the site will feature ways to partner with other anti-abortion groups like the Susan B. Anthony List and American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Maria Peña holds a rosary and sign out outside a building housing an abortion provider in Dallas, Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
“Family Policy Alliance, together with family policy councils across the nation, stands ready to compete with the abortion industry — and win! — for every precious life,” said Craig DeRoche, President & CEO of Family Policy Alliance.
Much of anti-abortion groups’ efforts will represent a continuation their ongoing efforts: proposing legislation, informing Americans and lobbying for changes. The other side has indicated they’re unwilling to give up, with Democrats already pushing a federal codification of Roe and the idea that President Biden should pack the courts.
Abortion advocates like Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., have indicated they’ll continue fighting on the issue regardless of what the Supreme Court does.
“We won’t stop. Nobody’s free until everybody’s free. Liberate abortion,” she said at a rally at the Supreme Court.
On Thursday, Axios reported on the aggressive focus that groups like Planned Parenthood have for the 2022 midterms.
“The opportunity is that people are enraged,” Planned Parenthood President Alexis McGill Johnson reportedly said. “What we saw in Texas, and what people will walk away from [the Mississippi oral arguments with], is a level of rage that we could be living in a world six months from now — where our children have fewer rights than we have right now.”
She added that the rage will be seen “in statehouses across the country all the way through 2022.”
Students for Life Action (SFLA), a grassroots organization active in all 50 states, has already been pushing state legislatures and intends to bring measures reigning in chemical abortions. The abortion pill is expected to grow in popularity as it can be mailed to women and administered remotely.
That option has already been the target of an executive order in South Dakota. It allows women to sidestep the typical clinic setting and is expected to face hurdles with new restrictions. It’s also cheaper, but has been criticized by anti-abortion groups as raising significant risks for complications.
“We look to introduce and seek roll call votes in support of Life at Conception Act or Heartbeat Bill in 15 states, Chemical Abortion Bans in 8 states and support pro-life ballot initiatives in Kentucky, Kansas, and, pending certification, Massachusetts,” SFLA president Kristan Hawkins told Fox News.
She added that they are “targeting 26 key states in the primary and general elections with our Pro-Life Accountability Project.”
“And we have more than 100 days of action planned for 2022 that includes lobbying days, door-to-door canvassing, rallies, and direct voter contact.”