Abortion in Federal and State Law: How New Decisions Will Impact Women Across the Country

by Molly Dye
December 16th, 2021

On Friday, December 10th, the Supreme Court issued a decision that abortion providers had the autonomy to challenge the Texas law banning most abortions after six weeks into conception. Despite this recent ruling, those who provide any assistance toward an illegal abortion in Texas remain eligible to be sued.

Essentially, despite the Supreme Court’s ruling and influence over the state, Texas has manipulated the law in such a way that Roe v. Wade hardly holds any power. Many now fear that what has happened in Texas, will impact legislation in multiple states across the country.

Specifically, on Wednesday, December 1st, a Mississippi law attempting to ban abortion after 15 weeks was considered by the Supreme Court. The decision will have its final ruling this upcoming June, and if the law is passed, it will refuse abortion access to tens of millions of women in the United States.

The trend in states challenging the Roe v.Wade decision is not exclusive to just Texas and Mississippi; BBC reports that almost two dozen states are expected to introduce abortion bans this year, some being even harsher than Mississippi’s.

On December 10th, Justice Sonia Sotomayor described that in the context of women’s rights and body autonomy, “This is a brazen challenge to our federal structure.”

Sotomayor compared the current atmosphere surrounding abortion to the ideology of former Vice President and Senator John C. Calhoun. Calhoun believed that states had the right to veto or “nullify” federal law with which the state disagreed with. Calhoun used this reasoning to justify the continuation of slaveholding in the 1830s and 1840s.

With this type of philosophy taking hold across states in regards to abortion access, and considering that the Supreme Court is curretly considered one of the most convervative in recent history, many consider it likely that either Roe v. Wade is overturned this summer or the Supreme Court will uphold the Mississippi law keeping Roe v. Wade in place.

If Roe v. Wade were to be overturnd, BBC reports that abortion will become illegal in 22 states. Within these 22 states, 12 currently have “trigger laws,” which ensure that most abortions will immediately become illegal if Roe is overturned.

Additionally, five of these states already have “bans” on the abortion procedure but cannot enforce these bans until Roe is overturned. In another potential outcome, the Supreme Court may rule in favor of the Mississippi law, which would undermine Roe v Wade.

Though all women across the country may be affected by the likely rulings to come out of the Supreme Court this summer, the narrowing of abortion access will most heavily impact poor women. In addition, 61% of abortion patients are Black and Latina women; this group will likely suffer the impacts of abortion bans more than any other.

In summary, the growing ideology surrounding state’s rights and sentiment toward abortion bans, including overturning Roe v. Wade, is something that will heavily impact women across the country. The Supreme Court’s decisions will strongly affect the direction that the United States goes in concerning women’s autonomy and the right to choose.