While Donald Trump may have been voted out of office nearly a year-and-a-half ago, the intentional and impactful decisions made during his time as President have continued to affect the current political climate. Most notably, President Trump’s appointment of conservative-leaning justices to the Supreme Court has dramatically altered the balance of power in the judiciary. Thus, the Supreme Court draft opinion overruling Roe v. Wade is representative of a long-standing Republican effort to roll back abortion rights, but is nonetheless a decision which had previously been a fictional idea.
The initial Roe v. Wade decision enshrined a “constitutional protection of abortion rights,” though the decision would prove extremely controversial, sparking a cultural conflict that persists to this day. Prior to the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, politicians were stuck at a standstill on alterations to abortion rights. However, on May 5, 2022, a leaked initial draft majority opinion, obtained by POLITICO, disclosed a decision that put in jeopardy the right of pregnant individuals to have partial autonomy over their decision to give birth. The draft decision was for the case Dobbs v. Jackson, in which the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the only abortion provider in Mississippi, sought to put a hold on the “Gestational Age Act,” a Mississippi law which would effectively ban abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The case made it to the Supreme Court after several years of legal back-and-forth. POLITICO reported that “the immediate impact of the ruling as drafted in February would be to end a half-century guarantee of federal constitutional protection of abortion rights and allow each state to decide whether to restrict or ban abortion.” The presence of trigger laws — laws that, if certain prerequisites are met, will be immediately passed in state legislation — in 13 states across the country would mean a swift curtailing of abortion access, should the Supreme Court officially overturn the decision.
Immediately following the leak of this decision, many liberal-leaning Americans began to worry that a reconsideration of other progressive legal victories in recent decades could be just around the corner. POLITICO also signaled “an emboldened majority that is prepared to take assertive steps to revise settled understandings in other areas of the law, notably the Second Amendment, affirmative action and religious objections to gay rights,” possibly setting a precedent for a future of drastic political revisions. While the Supreme Court’s foundations lie in entrusting intellectual and well-informed individuals to make decisions based upon the country’s needs, it is also clear that the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has been met with fierce opposition by a large swath of the country.
The Justices, through the decision acquired by POLITICO, argued that “The Constitution makes no reference to abortion and no such right to implicitly protected constitutional provision.” This was a common theme in all of the recent argument, presenting the United States as a seemingly historic and model state since its founding. Thus, the Justices claim that rights must be “deeply rooted in this nation’s history and tradition” and “implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.” While it could be argued that the legal backing for Roe v. Wade was “exceptionally weak,” the possibility that it had caused irreparable consequences, as Justice Alito alluded to, is a conclusion lacking in concrete evidence, and one that flies in the face of public opinion.
The possibility of the dissolution of Roe v. Wade is, more so, representative of a democratic system that has failed to give individuals autonomy over their own choices and decisions. 61 percent of Americans were reported to support abortion rights — 88 percent of Democrats, 59 percent of Independents, and a third of Republicans — with 34 percent of Americans overall in opposition. Such a situation calls into question the very nature of the highest court in the land, as its essential principles as an institution of the few leading the many leaves much to be desired.As of the writing of this article, abortion is still legal in nearly every state, though with varying restrictions in different parts of the United States. Should Roe v. Wade be struck down, however, nearly half of the states in the country will likely look to ban abortions, erasing decades of progress and work to secure rights for pregnant women.
By Andrew Chinn