Roe v. Wade: Abortion bans are an 'unabashed effort' to force Supreme Court to revisit 1973 ruling, says expert

Roe v. Wade: Abortion bans are an 'unabashed effort' to force Supreme Court to revisit 1973 ruling, says expert

Many of the highly restrictive abortion laws that have been passed recently, such as the one which will be going into effect in Alabama, are "unabashedly an effort to force the courts to confront Roe [v. Wade]," according to a law professor.

The US Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade [1973] that a state law which banned abortions, except in cases where the mother's life is in danger, was unconstitutional.

The ruling made abortions legal in multiple circumstances and stated that a woman's right to privacy extended to the fetus/unborn child she was carrying.

When it came to the views of the court, it was clear that an abortion in the first trimester was as dangerous as carrying a child to full term. The 1973 decision was 7-2 with Chief Justice Warren E. Burger and six other Justices voting in favor of "Jane Roe". Justices William Rehnquist and Byron White voted against it.

In a Tuesday, May 14, 2019 photo, Margeaux Hartline, dressed as a handmaid, joins a rally against HB314, the near-total ban on abortion bill, outside of the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala. (Source: Mickey Welsh/The Montgomery Advertiser via AP)

The controversial decision divided the country into pro-life and pro-choice groups. The people on the pro-life side have maintained that abortions should not be allowed because it essentially kills unborn babies and pro-choice people say that a woman has the right to decide if she wants to have an abortion or not.

The Roe v. Wade ruling became limited by a decision that was made in Webster v. Reproductive Health (1989) which allowed the regulation of abortions in certain cases.

In recent times, governors in Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio and Georgia have approved bans on abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected in the sixth week of pregnancy. This is even before many women know that they are pregnant.

Alabama's Governor Kay Ivey signed a law that has now made getting abortions a felony in almost all cases. Lawmakers in Missouri passed a ban on abortions at eight-weeks on Friday, May 17, and Louisiana is poised to sign similar restrictive laws. None of these laws have actually come into effect but they will most likely be blocked while legal challenges start playing out against them.


Supporters of these new laws have already acknowledged that they will be blocked in the beginning but have confidently said that they welcome all the challenges. They have also made it quite clear that their ultimate goal is to get the Supreme Court to rethink its 1973 landmark ruling now that everyone seems to be leaning in favor of an abortion ban.

In this March 20, 2018, file photo, anti-abortion sidewalk counselor Laura Duran, offers reading material to a driver entering the Jackson Women's Health Organization's clinic, the only facility in the state that performs abortions, in Jackson (Source: AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

According to Florida State University law professor Mary Ziegler, highly restrictive laws, such as the one which will be going into effect in Alabama, are "unabashedly an effort to force the courts to confront Roe". She said in her interview with PBS that these efforts have gained a lot more traction in recent years. Ziegler believes that even though many of these abortion laws have been enacted to force the courts to confront Roe, this strategy is still a "long shot".


Instead of making any changes to the issue of abortion, the Supreme Court may just allow the decision made by the lower courts on the legislation stay and not intervene in any way.

As the conservative states in the country are working to challenge Roe, the liberal legislatures have taken action in order to protect abortion rights. 

Elizabeth Nash, who noted that the Vermont House of Representatives last week, approved a measure that would limit the ability of lawmakers to place any sort of restriction on access to abortion, said: "Legislators from all stripes are looking at the Supreme Court." New York just recently passed a similar law and California has one in place already. Nash said: "There is movement in the other direction." 

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