By Ashby Jones
If there’s one Supreme Court case that your average high-school student can remember by name, it’s Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision which held that a woman’s right to privacy extends to abortion.
But is Roe v. Wade still the law of the land? Writing for Slate, Dahlia Lithwick says the answer might be no.
How’s that, you ask?
The Supreme Court has not explicitly overturned Roe. But Lithwick’s premise derives from the fact that since the start of this year, some 916 measures “seeking to regulate reproductive health” have been introduced in 49 states. Some which have successfully passed include an expansion of the waiting period in South Dakota from 24 to 72 hours and a requirement that counseling from “crisis pregnancy centers” include scientifically flawed data on risk factors.
Additionally, writes Lithwick, legislation has been introduced in 13 states requiring that women have an ultrasound procedure before having an abortion. And measures have been introduced in 17 states which mimics a Nebraska law banning abortion at 20 weeks.
It hardly bears observing here that most of these measures are against the law. That law is Roe v. Wade. Making abortion illegal after 18 or 20 weeks doesn’t meet the viability test that was laid out in Roe, and 72-hour waiting periods and doing away with health exceptions for the mother would also violate both Roe and its progeny.So what’s going on? A very gradual chipping away at Roe. Lithwick cites the Rev. Pat Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition, who recently said: “We don’t have to see a Roe v. Wade overturned in the Supreme Court to end it. … We want to. But if we chip away and chip away, we’ll find out that Roe really has no impact. And that’s what we are doing.”
Supporters of abortion rights are apparently nervous about challenging these laws, fearing that such a challenge could wind up in the lap of a Supreme Court with different ideas about abortion than it did 38 years ago. So they passivly sit, allowing these state measures to become law.
Lithwick doesn’t like this line of thinking and ends her piece thusly:
Is that what supporters of the right to abortion, not to mention the rule of law, really want? At the very least, let’s put it to the test.