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In case you missed it, it appears that the U.S. Supreme Court is gearing up to overturn Roe v. Wade, the revolutionary case instituting the constitutional right to an abortion. The leaked draft opinion, obtained and published by Politico on May 2, revealed the court’s inclination to overturn half-century-old precedent. Here’s what you need to know.
Why is the Court examining the validity of Roe v. Wade?
The state of Mississippi asked the Supreme Court to uphold the constitutionality of a law that usually prohibits an abortion after the 15th week of pregnancy — several weeks before the point at which a fetus is now regarded as “viable” outside the womb. Along with Mississippi, 26 states have expressly asked the court to overturn Roe, as well as Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, in which the court affirmed Roe in a number of ways.
What is the court’s reasoning for wanting to overturn Roe?
The draft opinion focuses on several key points, but mainly emphasizes that obtaining an abortion is not a fundamental constitutional right, as the “Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision.”
Although the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment has guaranteed some rights that are not specified in the Constitution, the court reasons that any such rights must be “deeply rooted in this nation’s history and tradition.” According to the court, abortion does not fit into this category and is fundamentally different than rights recognized in past decisions involving matters such as intimate sexual relations, contraception and marriage.
What does this mean for Americans?
Because the court is of the opinion that the right to abortion is not a Constitutional one, it demands that the authority to regulate abortion must be returned to the people and their elected representatives. If Roe and Casey are overturned, each state will have the power to decide whether its people have the right to an abortion or not, making voting crucial in upcoming elections.
What does this mean for Virginians?
Currently, abortion is legal in Virginia during the first and second trimesters of a pregnancy. An abortion during the third trimester is allowed only if the mother’s life or health is at serious risk — and that must be certified by three doctors. Only time will tell whether new laws are passed in wake of the overturning of Roe with Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin in office, a Republican-controlled House, and a Democratic-commanded Senate.
Youngkin has made it clear in the past that he is pro-life, but he has yet to reveal what actions his administration would take. While the state has bounced around over the past decade from red, to purple, to deep blue, it is currently a purple state, and because of that, the issue of abortion regulation could go either way. While other states have already passed “trigger laws” that are not currently enforced but would be upon the overruling of Roe, making abortion immediately illegal, Virginia is not one of them.
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