The draft is not final and could undergo significant changes before the court’s formal opinion is released. In the meantime, however, CNN readers have asked hundreds of questions about what a reversal of the Supreme Court’s abortion rights precedents would mean and how it will affect access to the procedure.
We’re reading as many as we can and answering some of the most popular questions here.
Is the Supreme Court actually overturning the law or merely saying the decision belongs with each state’s law?
The Supreme Court, if it adopts the draft opinion, will be overturning previous court precedent that preempted state laws banning abortion before the fetus is viable, a point around 23 weeks into the pregnancy. In overturning the Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood decisions, the Supreme Court would be allowing states to pursue bans and other restrictions on pre-viability abortion.
Will women get arrested for having an abortion if the Supreme Court deems it illegal?
An abortion-seeker’s criminal liability will depend on the abortion policies that her state put into place if the Supreme Court overturns Roe. Leaders of the anti-abortion movement have said in the past that women shouldn’t be prosecuted for obtaining abortion, and that criminal laws prohibiting it should be aimed at abortion providers or others who facilitate the procedure. Several states with abortion prohibitions that could go into effect with a Roe reversal have language exempting from prosecution the woman who obtained the abortion, but an abortion ban in Wyoming appears to muddle this question with its reference to the “pregnant woman” in the relevant code.
What methods do lawmakers propose to enforce these laws? What can they legally do to find out if someone is pregnant?
The state abortion prohibitions that will go into effect with a Roe reversal don’t spell out specific enforcement tactics. The lengths local prosecutors will go to enforce abortion restrictions is very much an unanswered question. Before Roe, the aggressiveness of the enforcement of abortion bans often depended on the political environment, including the local environment that prosecutors were navigating. Now, some prosecutors in Democratic-leaning jurisdictions are vowing to not bring criminal charges under abortion restrictions that go into effect with the new Supreme Court opinion.
The Mississippi law at issue bans abortion starting from 15 weeks after the last menstrual period. If the Supreme Court allows this law to stand, will it then be legal to ban abortion at earlier points in pregnancy? Will it be possible for states to ban medication-induced first-trimester abortions, which are the most common type? Many states seem poised to do so.
But until the court issues its final opinion, we won’t know for sure how aggressively states will be allowed to restrict abortion under the court’s new precedent.
In the event of rape or incest or even underage pregnancy of say 14 years old, where does the law lie for these individuals if Roe vs Wade is overturned?
It’s a question lawmakers will likely revisit once the Supreme Court’s ruling, assuming it overturns Roe, is handed down. While previewing plans to call a special legislative session once the opinion is issued, Republican South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said he opposed rape or incest exemptions. The six-week ban he signed into law last year — which is currently blocked by court order — included those exemptions.
How are in vitro fertilizations defined? If a state defines the fertilized egg as a human with rights, then if a doctor fertilizes four eggs, but does [not] implant all four in a woman, is that homicide?
If the current heavily conservative Supreme Court can overturn Roe v. Wade, that’s been on the books for decades, what’s to stop a future heavily liberal court from overturning this current anti-Roe v. Wade decision in say, 20 years from now?
Can the right to an abortion be codified by a national vote?
Not directly. If the Supreme Court says the Constitution does not guarantee the right to an abortion, a constitutional amendment could be enacted to extend that right. But the process of amending US Constitution begins with a proposal that has the support of either two-thirds of both Houses of Congress, or with a convention called for by two-thirds of the states. Ratification of an amendment requires the support of three-fourths of state legislatures or three-fourths of conventions in each state.
Why does the currently democrat controlled legislature not pass a federal law making abortion legal? This would make the SCOTUS decision a non issue.
Can anti-abortion states prevent women from crossing state lines to get an abortion in another state? It worries me that states could enact further laws restricting women the choice to leave the state to have an abortion.
The legal authority that state lawmakers have to reach beyond state lines is very much an open question and the topic of a coming law review article that provides more information about the relevant precedents.
Is it possible that women and men who are pro-choice could send abortion pills to women in other states with draconian anti-abortion laws?
But how to enforce these restrictions on mailing abortion pills is another question anti-abortion lawmakers are still working through. Texas last year updated its previously existing ban on mailing abortion pills to make it the type of crime that would warrant extradition. Blue states have countered with measures that would prohibit their state authorities from cooperating with such extradition requests.
There are also international sources from which women in anti-abortion states may seek delivery of medication abortion.