What will be the consequences of going back “fifty years ago” to abortion?

From our US correspondent,

The final battle continues. An unusual leak of a draft Supreme Court decision plunged the United States into a scenario that seemed out of the question ten years ago: the United States’ Supreme Court is about to overturn Roe v. Wade, which guaranteed abortion rights nationwide in 1973.

The President of the Supreme Court confirmed, on Tuesday, that the leak is real, but reminded that it is not the final decision, which is expected in early July. Even six in 10 Americans prefer the status quo, and about half of US states can ban or significantly restrict abortion. Does this mean a decline of several decades? With what consequences? Can Congress act? 20 minutes make a point.

Could this be going back fifty years?

If the Supreme Court retracts the Roe v. Wade, abortion will no longer be illegal nationwide: Every state will be free to decide. Michelle Bratcher Goodwin, professor of law at the University of California, Irvine, author of The womb police: the hidden woman and the criminalization of motherhood. “In countries that oppose abortion, abortion becomes illegal, and pregnant women will be forced to travel to another country to terminate the pregnancy.”

Mary Ziegler, a historian of reproductive rights law at Florida State University, is the author of Abortion and the Law in America: De Roe v. wade to this day, Anger: This return to square one would be above all “constitutional.” In terms of access, abortion prevention is more difficult today with the abortion pill, and bans are more complex to implement. »

What will be the direct consequences?

The final decision of the Supreme Court, as we have said, is expected by the beginning of July. If nothing changes, 26 conservative states, particularly in the South and Midwest, should ban abortion immediately or drastically reduce the legal period to six or eight weeks, according to a tally by the Guttmacher Progressive Institute.

Thirteen states have passed “straight laws,” which are laws ready to be withdrawn once the decision is published. The rest contains older texts from before 1973 that can be applied, including in more temperate states such as Michigan or Wisconsin. Most states allow emergency abortions that threaten the mother’s life, but many have removed rape or incest exceptions.

Would abortions performed in another country, or via a mail-in pill, be criminalized?

A Louisiana resident may have to travel more than 1,000 kilometers to get to a clinic in Kansas or North Carolina, at a high cost (travel, accommodation, loss of salary). Michelle Bratcher Goodwin points out that “the first punishment will be the poorest, where there is a disproportionate proportion of women of color.” A dozen states, like California, however, want to become “sanctuaries” and create assistance programs, including for non-residents.

For some countries, banning abortion is only the first step. In Missouri, a bill aims to combat abortions being performed in a neighboring state, particularly by allowing legal action against anyone who provides assistance, from the doctor performing the procedure to a relative who is driving.

With the Covid-19 pandemic, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allowed telemedicine prescriptions and mail-in of abortion pills, which can be used during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. But it is forbidden by the state of Texas, which has passed a law prohibiting abortion after the first heartbeat (about 6 weeks). “It is unclear how the Supreme Court will decide these issues related to travel or trade with another country. This will create great uncertainty,” said Marie Ziegler.

Can the US Congress enact legislation to support or prohibit abortion?

Yes, but it is difficult. Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others have called on Congress to “legalize” abortion rights through legislation. The House has already adopted a text, but it would take a “supermajority” of 60 votes out of 100 in the Senate to overcome the obstruction. Democrats could have done so at the start of Barack Obama’s term, but it was abandoned in negotiations to pass health reform.

With the November 2022 (legislative) midterm elections approaching, each camp is mobilizing its forces. Thousands demonstrated in New York on Tuesday, and Joe Biden called on voters to fight “through the ballot boxes.” Galvanized by the possible flip of the Roe v. ‘Pro-life’ activists fought against in the Supreme Court dream of moving forward: According to Washington Posta group of conservative senators are working on a bill that would ban abortion nationwide after six weeks of pregnancy, and are coordinating with the 2024 Republican presidential candidates.

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