The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear legal arguments on December 1 in a highly anticipated case. Depending on how the Court rules, the situation regarding access to abortion could change drastically, even to the point of eliminating its legality.
Among the most anticipated possibilities, especially by conservative and religious groups, the Court could reverse its landmark decision on Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion since 1973.
But there is also a strong possibility that the justices will take other, more complex paths to allow states the power to impose greater restrictions on abortion.
The Court is due to hear Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, based on Mississippi’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks.
When the Court rules on the issue, it could strike down the 15-week ban because it is contrary to the old Roe legislation, which would mean that the situation would remain as it is today, but would set a new precedent that takes away the authority of individual states to establish their own regulations on the issue.
However, the more conservative composition of the Court, 6-3 since the addition of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, maintains the hope among conservatives and pro-life sectors that this time the Court could validate the Mississippi legislation, which would imply going against the Roe v. Wade ruling.
The hope of conservatives is also supported by the fact that the Court has agreed to hear this case so close and opposed to Roe could indicate its willingness to reshape precedent.
The same could be said of their decision not to immediately block the Texas heartbeat law, which effectively acts as a six-week ban.
Beyond hopes, nothing is assured yet, nor is it clear how willing the members of the Court are to alter the current situation, since the court needs only four justices to agree to hear a case and five to issue a majority decision.
The ideal situation for pro-life sectors would be the total repeal of Roe, which would allow the matter to be returned to state legislatures, which, following the national Constitution, is the most appropriate democratic way to regulate access to abortion.
The situation is complex because it involves a public health issue and an ideological fact that has marked a real rift in society for several years. Changing the current situation will undoubtedly generate a major political conflict with international impact.
While the nominations of conservatives Barrett and Kavanaugh, in particular, have drawn the ire of Democrats and other progressives, some have expressed skepticism that the new justices will oppose the landmark Roe ruling, given the tense political atmosphere and divisive nature of the issue.
Now, the elimination of Roe is no guarantee that the decades-long legal battle over the issue will come to an end. But what is undeniable is that it would save the lives of thousands of babies every year, which is admitted even by those who defend and promote the legalization of abortion.
A group of 154 prominent economists and researchers estimated that the number of abortions would be reduced by about 120,000 in the first year and potentially even more in subsequent years if the supreme court overturned Roe and allowed states to ban abortions again.
If Roe goes away, it is unlikely that abortions would automatically become illegal nationwide. But the power to protect unborn babies from abortion or keep abortions legal would return to the states. Estimates vary on how many states would ban abortions if allowed to do so. One recent estimate put the number to at least 21.