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The U.S. Supreme Court struck down constitutional abortion protections in a much-anticipated ruling on Friday that will dramatically affect access to reproductive health care in Texas and beyond. Here are some answers to questions frequently asked by our readers.
What is Roe v. Wade?
Roe v. Wade is a 1973 U.S. Supreme Court case that challenged Texas law banning abortions except when necessary to save the life of the pregnant person. Previously, the court’s decision in the Roe case guaranteed the constitutional right to have an abortion during the first trimester of pregnancy.
The case was overturned on Friday by the court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson – a lawsuit against a Mississippi law that banned nearly all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
The Dobbs decision does not mean that abortions are now unconstitutional, but it leaves it up to each state to decide whether or not to protect the right to abortion.
Why Roe c. Was Wade canceled?
The court held that abortion is a “matter of profound moral and social importance”.
In the majority opinion, Judge Samuel Alito argued that Roe’s decision was not well founded in history or precedent, and that abortion is a political issue that should be left to citizens and to their elected officials to decide.
“The Constitution is neither pro-life nor pro-choice. The Constitution is neutral, and this Court must also be scrupulously neutral,” he wrote.
In their dissent, the court’s three liberal justices argue that the justices deciding Roe recognized the moral issue at stake in allowing states to regulate post-viability abortions.
“Regardless of the exact scope of future laws, one result of today’s decision is certain: the restriction of women’s rights and their status as free and equal citizens,” the dissidents wrote.
Is abortion still legal in Texas?
The Texas-triggered abortion ban is set to go into effect 30 days after the Supreme Court issues its final judgment, which typically happens a month after the initial notice. The law will be a near complete ban on abortion in the state of Texas.
People who have abortions would not be prosecuted under the law, but doctors who perform illegal abortions could be sentenced to life in prison or fined up to $100,000.
It’s unclear whether state trigger laws are even necessary to prohibit the procedure. Abortion clinics said Friday they were no longer able to provide abortion services after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said state laws that banned abortion before Roe v. Wade – and were never repealed – could now be in effect in Texas. Practically, the procedure is already prohibited here.
Does the law apply to military bases and Native American reservations?
The US military does not ban abortions, but the military also does not cover the costs of abortions or offer abortions at military facilities, according to the Wall Street Journal. Members of the military serving in states that ban abortion should travel out of state to obtain an abortion legally.
Meanwhile, abortions have historically been difficult to access on Native American reservations due to the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of federal funds for abortions. Because India’s health service is federally funded, the agency already limits abortions to cases in which the pregnant person’s life would be endangered by carrying it to term.
Could this law apply to me if I had an abortion in the past?
No. Based on the ex post facto clause of Article I, Section 10, of the Constitution, states cannot pass laws and apply them retroactively to actions taken before they were passed.
Judge Brett Kavanagh wrote in his concurring opinion that states could not impose penalties on people who performed or had abortions before Friday’s ruling.
Can I get an abortion in Texas if I have a life-threatening pregnancy?
Yes. The Texas abortion ban provides exceptions for cases in which an abortion would save the life of the pregnant patient or prevent “substantial impairment of a major bodily function.”
Are there exceptions to the Texas abortion ban for rape or incest?
No, there is no exception for rape or incest in the Texas abortion ban. Advocates say it could trap victims of domestic violence in their abusive relationships. Women who are pregnant or have just given birth are twice as likely to die from homicide as any other cause of maternal death, most often at the hands of an intimate partner.
Is it still legal for Texans to have abortions in other states?
Yes. There are 27 states where the right to abortion remains protected by state law, according to Politico. Under the Constitution, interstate commerce is left to Congress to regulate. Kavanagh wrote in his concurring opinion that the right to travel between states likely prohibits states from preventing their residents from traveling to another state to have an abortion. The court has not formally ruled on the constitutionality of such laws.
In the dissent, Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan worried that leaving the door open could lead some states to pass such laws, and that the cost of travel would lead to inequities in who can and cannot access a abortion.
“Above all, it is women who lack financial resources who will suffer from today’s decision,” they wrote.
Are birth control and emergency contraceptives still legal?
Yes. The decision in Dobbs v. Jackson only revokes the right to abortion. Contraceptives such as birth control and Plan B continue to be constitutionally protected in separate Supreme Court cases, and the majority opinion emphasized that it does not apply to separate rights, such than contraceptives.
However, Judge Clarence Thomas issued a concurring opinion calling for challenges to rights such as contraceptives, same-sex marriage and same-sex relationships.
Who will be affected by today’s decision?
Advocates say the ruling will disproportionately impact pregnant women who lack the funds to travel out of state and black mothers.
Three-quarters of people with access to abortion are low-income and poor, said Dr. Bhavik Kumar, abortion provider at Planned Parenthood Center for Choice in Houston. While wealthy Texans can travel to New Mexico or Colorado for an abortion, the trips add an extra burden for those already struggling to afford the procedure itself, which typically costs between $1,000 and $4,000. dollars. However, some people may be able to get help through charitable funds that reimburse abortion-related expenses.
Black women are also disproportionately affected by death or serious illness due to pregnancy. According to a study by the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at Tyler, the rate of severe maternal morbidity among black women in Texas is nearly double that of white women.
Is there any precedent for the court to overrule rights like this?
Overturned decisions are rare for the Supreme Court.
According to an analysis by Quartz, less than 2% of judgments overturn previous holdings. Famous cases overturned include Plessy v. Ferguson, which established the “separate but equal” doctrine for school segregation and was later overturned by Brown v. Board of Education, and Lawrence v. Texas, which overturned Bowers v. Hardwick and established a constitutional right for two people of the same sex to engage in intimate sexual relations.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, you can receive confidential help by calling the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network’s toll-free 24/7 hotline at 800-656-4673 or by visiting their hotline on line.
Disclosure: Planned Parenthood and Politico financially supported The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the journalism of the Tribune. Find a full list here.
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