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30th Jun 2022

What is next for abortion laws in the US and could other rights be stripped away?

What’s next?

It’s been almost a week since the news broke that Roe v Wade was overturned in the US, and since then, there has been outrage not only across the country but even further afield.

Roe v Wade was the basis that abortion rights and access was available and legal across each state in the US, with the 1973 case of a Texas woman named Jane Roe (Norma McCorvey) who was a single mother pregnant for a third time and wanted to seek an abortion.

Taking federal action against Henry Wade, the district attorney of Dallas County, she fought to make a law that allowed for the termination of pregnancies. The trial found that criminalising abortion in most instances violated a woman’s right to privacy.

Now that it has been overturned, it can have disastrous effects on women’s healthcare, with many states immediately feeling its impact.

So what does this mean for the future of abortion rights, and can other rights be taken away in a similar way?

Without the federal right to access abortion services, it is now expected that around half of all US states will ban it in some capacity. In some states, this took effect immediately and in others, additional action will be needed to allow these new laws to pass.

The overturning of Roe v Wade has been in the works for decades, those who have rallied to remove it from law have spent years doing so. Politicians who are anti-choice have laid this out for dozens of years, and their goal is to ban abortion nationwide.

The fight doesn’t end here, abortion access is set to appear on the US ballots in the coming November, and in August in one state. Americans will be given the chance to vote on abortion access and have a say in reproductive rights.

As well as this, of course there will be mass protests, voices need to be heard. The people of TikTok have already begun offering beds for those who need to travel to other states where abortion is still legal to seek access, no questions asked.

California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington have all opted to protect abortion rights despite the overruling, but of course travelling is not accessible for everyone.

Abortion bans don’t stop abortions, they just make them unsafe and dangerous. Abortion will still happen in states that have banned it, but now with the risk of prosecution.

But what other laws in the US are now at risk of being overturned?

As Roe has been overturned, it now sets the precedence for other rights to be overturned.

LGBTQ+ advocates across the US are now fearing that equal marriage rights could be overturned in the same way, or gay rights in general. There is also the fear that the right to access contraceptives will also be overturned.

“In future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell,” Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote after Friday’s ruling, referring to decisions on contraception, same-sex marriage, and more.

While Justice Samuel Alito said in the court’s opinion that the ruling should only be applied to abortion, other rulings like Obergefell v. Hodges, which gave the right to same-sex marriage, Griswold v. Connecticut, which allowed for the constitutional right to privacy and the right for married couples to use contraceptives and Lawrence v. Texas which gave the right to sexual intimacy between same-sex couples could be in jeopardy.

Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, the only three to vote to save abortion rights, said that they were doubtful of Alito’s words, writing “it is impossible to understand” how the “opinion today does not threaten … any number of other constitutional rights.”

“In future cases, we should ‘follow the text of the Constitution, which sets forth certain substantive rights that cannot be taken away, and adds, beyond that, a right to due process when life, liberty, or property is to be taken away,’” Thomas wrote in his concurrence, contradicting other comments.

“Substantive due process conflicts with that textual command and has harmed our country in many ways. Accordingly, we should eliminate it from our jurisprudence at the earliest opportunity.”

As of now, these rights are all still protected, but due to the new precedence set, the future of these rights is unknown.