Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade originated in 1970 as a challenge to a Texas statute that only permitted abortion when a mother’s life was threatened. After making its way to the Supreme Court in 1973, the Burger court ruled on a 7-2 margin that it’s unconstitutional to restrict access to abortion.
Now recognized as the decision that legalized abortion in the United States, questions have risen about the potential for it be overturned in the era of vocally pro-life Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch. Here’s what’s at stake for the historic precedent.
First, it’s important to note the difference between party politics and the judicial system. Unlike candidates or elected officials, Supreme Court justices, although controversial, aren’t able to wield ideology as they please. For example, Kavanaugh, though a vocal conservative, has been bound by legal precedent to uphold the standard of Roe v. Wade since his 2006 judicial appointment to the D.C. Court of Appeals, whether he liked it or not.
But that’s not to say the judicial system is absent of bias. Depending on the court, many judges are appointed by high ranking elected officials, who’ll always carry with them a party brand or platform. It’s important to understand how the courts, though not absent of bias, are different from politicians, and overturning a Supreme Court decision such as Roe v. Wade is different than enacting or repealing a law proposed by a member of Congress.
Nevertheless, the potential for a Roe v. Wade repeal in a new, more overtly pro-life Supreme Court era is real — and here’s what could happen.
First, the case wouldn’t reach the Supreme Court, and Roe v. Wade would be upheld. Second, various cases could weaken the case by attacking its different aspects. Or third, the case would be overturned and abortion protections would be eliminated.
Now more than ever, the right to choose is still on the line. Just because access abortion could be restricted doesn’t mean abortions will stop. Without access to safe and legal abortions administered in a regulated, researched environment, abortions will still be performed but in much less regulated, safe conditions — often by mothers themselves.
Moral compasses look different in each individual, and it’s vital that a predominantly male Supreme Court doesn’t restrict access to abortion for women just because they might think it’s bad. Keeping abortion legal isn’t an issue of good or bad, it’s an issue of maximum safety and minimal harm for an action that’s going to happen regardless of what precedents we set.