The landmark ruling in Roe v. Wade, which made access to abortion a constitutional right, is on the verge of being overturned by the current members of the U.S. Supreme Court, according to a draft opinion leaked to the press last week.
If justices don’t change their minds, the ruling, which is expected to be announced next month, could leave women in Alabama and several neighboring states with few options when it comes to unwanted pregnancies, even in the case of rape or incest.
Alabama, specifically, has passed a law that will likely take effect once Roe v. Wade is overturned that would make it a felony for a doctor to perform an abortion with few exceptions. Under the Human Life Protection Act, the only exceptions are for pregnancies that threaten a woman’s life, ectopic pregnancies and cases where a psychiatrist diagnoses a mother-to-be with “serious mental illness.”
Lauren Frazier, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Southeast Advocates, called the law a “near-total abortion ban” and said it would most dramatically impact Black and brown women in the state.
“It will most greatly impact rural communities that are already economically disadvantaged,” she said.
Like Alabama, neighboring states including Mississippi, Georgia and Louisiana also have laws on the books ready to take effect if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Florida does not have a so-called “trigger law,” but in an email, Frazier said her group believes legislators in the Sunshine State would work quickly to pass more intense restrictions on abortion. Louisiana has also further restricted abortion during this year’s legislative term.
“This legislative session alone in both states you mentioned have further restricted abortion,” she wrote. “Florida enacted a 15-week ban, and Louisiana, which already has a trigger law, is in the process right now of advancing a total criminal abortion ban that would allow patients to be charged with homicide and could also criminalize IVF and some forms of emergency contraception.”
Frazier wrote that neither Louisiana nor Florida could be considered “safe” options for patients looking to access abortion procedures if Roe is overturned.
“Florida would certainly be more workable than Louisiana, but only up to 15 weeks, which, as we know, is less than halfway through a typical pregnancy and a full two months before the viability line established by Roe,” she wrote.
Planned Parenthood doesn’t just provide abortion services, Frazier said; the organization also offers other “vital” services like family planning, birth control, cancer screenings, HIV testing and other health care-related activities.
With primary election season in full swing, several candidates for state office released statements on the leaked opinion. In an opinion column circulated to state media, Gov. Kay Ivey wrote she disagreed with Roe v. Wade when it was first decided in 1973.
“We have made incredible advancements — in areas from medicine to the workplace — much of which has to do with women,” she wrote. “Since Roe, the viability marker has moved from 28 weeks to 22 weeks and we can only expect science will further advance that.”
In terms of the workplace changes since 1973, Ivey highlighted that it’s now “commonplace” to find mothers in the Supreme Court, as well as acting as CEOs.
“During the pandemic, nurses and teachers, fields dominated by women, were on the frontlines for us,” she wrote. “In 2019, for the first time, women made up a majority of law students entering class at the University of Alabama School of Law. The list goes on.”
Tim James, one of the Republicans challenging Ivey in a May 24 primary, called the original Roe decision “abortion on demand.” While he agrees with Ivey that overturning Roe would be a positive for the state, he said he would do more as governor to protect the unborn.
“When abortion ends, it will be the brightest light in America that we have seen in our modern era,” he wrote. “State powers will rightfully be restored, and Alabama will have the opportunity to abolish abortion permanently. Sadly, Americans United for Life ranks Alabama only No. 11 in passing state legislation to protect the life of the unborn. As your governor, I will ensure that Alabama is No. 1 in protecting life.”
U.S. Senate candidate and current GOP U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks said in a statement he and his wife, Martha, have looked forward to Roe being overturned for years.
“I hope and pray that states all over America will protect life,” he wrote. “In Congress, I will fight and vote against the radical left’s expected pro-abortion legislation that cruelly takes the life of unborn children. As Alabama’s next United States senator, I will similarly lead pro-life fights.”
In a statement, Alabama Republican Party Chairman John Wahl said the organization is “overjoyed” that the Supreme Court seems prepared to overturn Roe, but is “troubled” by the leak of the decision.
“Not only is it unprecedented, but it also compromises our judicial process and its protocols,” Wahl wrote of the leak. “This leak needs to be recognized for what it is, a type of judicial insurrection that undermines the rule of law and the founding principles of our nation. The justices of the Supreme Court must be allowed to deliberate all cases before them, without intimidation and coercion, in order to reach a conclusion based on the Constitution, not politics.”
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