What is Roe v. Wade?
Roe v. Wade is a 1973 U.S. Supreme Court case that challenged Texas law that banned abortions except when needed to save the pregnant person’s life. Previously, the court’s decision in Roe guaranteed the constitutional right to have an abortion during the first trimester of pregnancy.
The case was overturned by the court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson — a suit against a Mississippi law that banned nearly all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
The ruling in Dobbs doesn’t mean that abortions are now unconstitutional, but it leaves to individual states to decide whether to protect the right to an abortion.
Why was Roe v. Wade overturned?
The court held that abortion is a “question of profound moral and social importance.”
In the majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito argued that the holding in Roe wasn’t well founded in history or precedent, and that abortion is a political matter that should be left up to citizens and their elected officials to decide.
“The Constitution is neither pro-life nor pro-choice. The Constitution is neutral, and this Court likewise must be scrupulously neutral,” he wrote.
In their dissent, the three liberal justices of the court argue that the justices who decided Roe acknowledged the moral issue at hand by allowing states to regulate abortions after viability.
“Whatever the exact scope of the coming laws, one result of today’s decision is certain: the curtailment of women’s rights, and of their status as free and equal citizens,” the dissenters wrote.
Is abortion still legal in Texas?
Texas’ trigger abortion ban is set to go into effect 30 days after the Supreme Court issues its final judgment, which typically happens a month after the initial opinion. The law will be a near-complete ban on abortion in the state of Texas.
People who get abortions would not be prosecuted under the law, but doctors who perform illegal abortions could be sentenced to life in prison or fined up to $100,000.
It’s not clear if the state’s trigger laws are even necessary to ban the procedure. Abortion clinics said Friday they were no longer able to provide abortion services after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said that state laws that banned abortion before Roe v. Wade — and were never repealed — could now be in effect in Texas. Practically, the procedure is already banned here.
Does the law apply to military bases and Native American reservations?
The U.S. military doesn’t prohibit abortions, but the military also doesn’t cover the costs of abortions or offer abortions at military facilities, according to The Wall Street Journal. Members of the military serving in states that ban abortions would have to travel out of state to obtain an abortion legally.
Meanwhile, abortions have historically been hard to access on Native American reservations because of the Hyde Amendment, which bans the use of federal funds for abortions. Because the Indian Health Service is federally funded, the agency already restricts abortions to cases in which the pregnant person’s life would be endangered by carrying to term.
Could this law apply to me if I got an abortion in the past?
No. Based on the ex post facto clause in Article I, Section 10, of the Constitution, states cannot pass laws and retroactively apply them to actions taken before they were passed.
Justice Brett Kavanagh wrote in his concurring opinion that states could not impose punishments on people who performed or received abortions prior to the Friday ruling.
Can I get abortion in Texas if I have a life-threatening pregnancy?
Yes. Texas’ ban on abortion makes exceptions for cases in which an abortion would save the pregnant patient’s life or prevent “substantial impairment of major bodily function.”