Will Roe V. Wade Sink or Swim?

Advocates on both sides of the abortion debate have spent years preparing for the day the Supreme Court would consider overturning Roe v. Wade. Tomorrow is that day.

Many legal experts expect the outcome of Wednesday’s case could be a patchwork of abortion access across the country. And given calls for boycotts after Texas implemented a ban on abortions after about six to eight weeks earlier this year, the ruling could have an impact on not just reproductive rights but the political pressure organizations could face around their operations nationwide.

The case gives the new super-majority of six conservative justices the chance to fully overturn the 1973 landmark ruling that enshrined a constitutional right to abortion, as Justice Clarence Thomas has publicly said he would do. The Court could also rule more narrowly, declining to formally overturn Roe but effectively sidelining the case’s core guarantee of a universal right to abortion. 

Roe legalized abortions nationwide up to the point of fetal viability, a shifting cutoff that current medical technology places at about 23-25 weeks of pregnancy. Tomorrow’s arguments focus on a 2018 Mississippi law, blocked by lower courts, that would ban the procedure after 15 weeks.

If the Court upholds the law, the outcome many legal experts expect is likely, as many as half the states are expected to pass similar time-based restrictions. 

That means access to abortion will vary by state, further dividing mostly Northern and Coastal states from more conservative Southern and Midwestern ones.