Roe v. Wade Has Been Overturned. What Happens Now?
On June 24, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, overturning Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The decision upheld Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act, which limits abortions after 15 weeks (except in cases of medical emergencies and severe fetal abnormality).
This is a tremendous victory. Roe v. Wade was egregiously wrong. States have an important and legitimate interest in protecting vulnerable and innocent life from conception. Roe’s standards on abortion were never workable and failed to account for new scientific developments that help reinforce that life begins at conception. That’s why so many pro-life laws like Mississippi’s have repeatedly ended up in court.
Mississippi asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe not only because the practice of abortion is wrong but because the so-called right to an abortion has no basis in the Constitution’s text, structure, or history.
Thankfully, the Supreme Court has reversed this five-decades-old decision. But what happens now?
What did the Supreme Court decide in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization?
In a majority opinion authored by Justice Samuel Alito, the Supreme Court upheld Mississippi’s law protecting unborn life after 15 weeks. In doing so, the Court reversed Roe v. Wade's holding that there is a constitutional right to abortion. This decision also overturns Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which added an “undue burden” standard for evaluating abortion legislation. Roe created a national rule on abortion, removing policy decisions on abortion from state legislatures and the citizens they serve. Now, policies regulating abortion are returned to the states.
What will happen now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned?
Since abortion was not viewed as a federal issue before Roe, regulations on abortions were left to the states. Most states had pro-life laws, either outlawing abortion entirely or only permitting it in rare cases like rape, incest, or if the mother’s life was in danger. Roe overturned the pro-life laws of nearly every state.
Now that Roe itself is overturned, states will once again be able to protect life.
What will happen in my state?
It depends on the laws in your state. Broadly speaking, these laws fall into a few categories:
1. Pre-Roe laws: These are laws that existed prior to 1973 but remained unenforced because of Roe. Now that Roe has been reversed, these laws, most of which are strongly pro-life, could be enforced once again.
2. Trigger laws: These are laws that can go into effect (be “triggered”) now that Roe has been overturned. Numerous states have pro-life trigger laws.
3. Enjoined laws: Many states had pro-life laws that have been ruled unconstitutional by a court (including, for example, heartbeat laws, gestational limits, and discrimination-abortion protections) that may be brought back into effect with Roe’s reversal.
4. Pro-abortion laws and court decisions: Several states have pro-abortion laws that codify a “right to abortion” in state law. In other states, courts have ruled that a “right to abortion” is protected by the state’s constitution. These laws and court decisions remain in effect even after Roe was reversed.
Check out our post-Roe abortion map to learn more about abortion laws around the country.
How will overturning Roe v. Wade affect medical professionals?
With Roe being reversed, states will now be better able to protect the conscience rights of medical professionals who see abortion as a violation of their oath to “do no harm.” Pro-life legislation like Mississippi’s will help guard the integrity of the medical profession and ensure that doctors and other medical professionals can protect life instead of destroying it.
Now that Roe v. Wade is overturned, is this the end of abortion?
The pro-life cause received a major victory in the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs. But there is still much work to be done to end abortion. We rejoice at the additional protections that will be afforded to unborn children and their mothers after the reversal of Roe v. Wade. But, while many states will protect life, other states have passed (or will attempt to pass) laws that do the opposite. Overturning Roe is a crucial first step, but it is only the beginning. The pro-life movement must continue to work to protect life as a human right for everyone, born or unborn.
Myths vs. facts
Since the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision came out on June 24, 2022, many myths, half-truths, and outright falsehoods have been circulating. At best, these myths are a misunderstanding of the Supreme Court’s decision. At worst, they are an attempt to spread fear among women about their health care. Here are the facts:
Myth: The Supreme Court took away a woman’s constitutional right to abortion.
Fact: There was never a constitutional right to abortion.
Roe v. Wade created a “right” to abortion by appealing to a “right to privacy,” another right that isn’t found in the Constitution. Even abortion advocates and scholars, including the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, have recognized that Roe was poorly reasoned. Justice Ginsburg called it an “unnecessary” decision and “heavy-handed judicial intervention.”
In the Dobbs decision, Justice Alito noted that, in Roe, “even though the Constitution makes no mention of abortion, the Court held that it confers a broad right to obtain one.” This took the question of regulating abortion and protecting life away from the people and their elected representatives. What the Dobbs decision does is return this question back to the states.
Myth: The Dobbs decision will prevent women from getting care for miscarriages or ectopic pregnancies.
Fact: The Dobbs decision simply sends the question of regulating abortion back to the states. And when states pass laws protecting life by limiting abortion, it will not affect care for women experiencing miscarriages or ectopic pregnancies. Medical attention for these tragic pregnancy outcomes is health care, and—no matter how many times pro-abortion activists say otherwise—abortion is not health care.
An abortion is the deliberate, unnatural ending of the life of an unborn child. It’s dishonest and insensitive to lump abortion in with miscarriage, when a mother loses her unborn child due to natural causes. It’s also dishonest to lump abortion in with caring for an ectopic pregnancy. Even Planned Parenthood's own website states that treating an ectopic pregnancy is not the same as an abortion. There is no state law that considers a natural miscarriage or treatment for an ectopic pregnancy as an abortion.
As Dr. Christina Francis, a board-certified OBGYN and member of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, has said, “I have never been prevented from being able to provide excellent health care to my patients and take care of these kind of conditions in pregnancy and that’s because the only intent of an abortion is to produce a dead baby. That’s not the intent when we intervene to save a woman’s life if she has a ruptured ectopic pregnancy or if she’s going through a miscarriage.”
Myth: Pro-life laws threaten to penalize women who seek abortion with jail time.
Fact: There are no laws, including trigger laws that were set to go into effect after the overturning of Roe v. Wade, that require jail time for women over abortion.
Alliance Defending Freedom and other pro-life organizations advocate for laws that expressly protect women, unborn children, and the medical profession. Many women resort to abortion because they feel afraid or because they feel it is their only choice. As a culture, we need to empower women to choose life, while holding abortionists responsible for knowingly taking a life.
Myth: The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision makes abortion illegal.
Fact: The Supreme Court has sent policymaking decisions about abortion back to the states. The Mississippi law at issue in the Dobbs case was a limit on abortions after 15 weeks gestation. By contrast, most European countries limit abortions after 12 weeks.
Read more about Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization here.