The Potential Overturning of Roe v. Wade


Henrina Zhang, Staff Writer

In May, a leaked draft opinion spread about the potential overturning of Roe v. Wade, outraging many U.S. citizens. With abortion having long been a controversial topic of debate, this leaked draft has caused immense protest throughout the country. In my opinion, I believe that Roe v. Wade should not be overturned, and even the consideration of it is extremely disappointing and a step back for our society.

“The overturning of Roe would almost immediately lead to stricter limits on abortion access in large swaths of the South and Midwest, with about half of the states set to immediately impose broad abortion bans. Any state could still legally allow the procedure,” stated Politico, who obtained the initial leaked draft.

 If Roe v. Wade is overturned, essentially, all states would have the right to determine when and how to ban abortions.

The U.S. Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade  protects a woman’s liberty to choose to undergo a regulated abortion. This decision involved the federal case of Norma McCorvey, who was known only by her pseudonym Jane Roe at the time, against Henry Wade, the district attorney of Dallas, Texas, where abortion was illegal unless it was necessary to save the mother’s life. The Supreme Court ruled that a pregnant woman’s constitutional “right to privacy” meant a right to choose an abortion, but it also ruled that a pregnancy cannot be terminated without restrictions, and that the government’s interest to protect the health of the mother and fetus must be considered. The decision attempted to “balance a woman’s right to privacy with a state’s interest in regulating abortion.” In other words, making abortion absolutely illegal was not allowed, but states are able to determine a cap or the maximum gestational age of a fetus before an abortion is an offense. In May 2021, states like Texas and Ohio did as much as they could to make abortions as restricted as possible; their cap is at six weeks and 22 weeks, respectively, according to Britannica.  

The draft gives an insight into the justices’ views on one of the most consequential cases of the Court. With a conservative majority on the Court, many believe that abortion rights are under attack. 

“Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences. And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division,” Justice Samuel Alito said in an initial draft majority opinion.

Roe v. Wade, established in 1973 has held strong throughout the years and has not yet been overturned despite challenges. Cases like Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey and Whole Woman Health v. Hellerstedt resulted in the Supreme Court’s dismissal.

Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey revolved around the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, led by Governor Robert Casey, which established an abortion regulation that required that a woman who sought abortion give her informed consent, and that a minor needs to have parental consent. In addition, a married woman had to notify her husband of her intended abortion, and clinics were required to provide specific information to a woman seeking an abortion within a 24-hour wait before going through with the abortion. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, protesters believed that these laws threatened a women’s right to privacy and centered around an undue burden.

“The judgment also revised the test that courts use to scrutinize laws relating to abortion, moving to an ‘undue burden’ standard: a law is invalid if its ‘purpose or effect is to place substantial obstacles in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability,’” stated Britannica.

Additionally, Whole Women Health v. Hellerstedt is a case where abortion restrictions in Texas were deemed unconstitutional, since regulations aimed to shut down many clinics in the state. Texas’ restrictions were ruled as an undue burden to access safe, legal abortion. These requirements were unjustly targeting women’s health care providers, as they didn’t apply to others with similar medical practices. The Supreme Court dismissing Texas’s potential restrictions enforced the precedent that women have the right to abortions and bodily autonomy. 

With all the legal and background information, the Supreme Court’s potential overturning of Roe v. Wade is definitely a step back from the progression of women’s rights. First of all, the crux of this debate is whether or not an abortion is simply the removal of a clump of cells that reside in the womb. Scientifically, they are just cells, cells that would develop into human beings. Abortion is only about one body, the woman’s. These beliefs have led to the “my body, my choice” mantra, expressing that a woman should have the right to do whatever she wants with her body for her own good.

 If a woman does not have the means to provide for a child, if she still has a whole life ahead of her, if she were sexually assaulted, would bringing a child into the world truly be for good? Being the person to carry the child in her body, give birth, and care for them, the choice of whether or not to follow through with her pregnancy is her choice, as she will be the most affected.

Overturning Roe v. Wade would spark a re-evaluation of our constitutionally protected rights to have equal ruling over women’s privacy, as the Constitution states that all people have the right to their medical privacy. Overturning Roe v. Wade could lead to a woman’s pregnancy records being revealed to the authorities if called for, whether it be the police or a family member investigating an illegal abortion, or someone reporting such knowledge to the authorities.

Though there are a fair number of ways to interpret the freedoms written in the Constitution, and even if Justice Alito argued that abortion rights are not “strongly rooted” in America’s constitution and history, autonomy and the right to one’s own privacy are such freedoms. However, regulating a woman’s pregnancy journey and banning her from getting an abortion, telling a woman what to do with her own body, and punishing or forcing her to go to other lengths are not rooted in American values. Roe v. Wade’s foundations are mistaken; it isn’t about when life starts and when abortions become murder, it’s about liberty. 

Planned Parenthood estimates that 26 states will fully ban abortions if this law passes, according to New York Times. But just because they are illegal, does not mean they won’t happen. Banning abortions will only decrease safe procedures, as women will be relying on dangerous abortion processes since they will no longer have the proper resources.

“In September, a law went into effect banning abortion after the fetal cardiac activity is detected, around six weeks. Abortions at Texas clinics fell by half. But many women were able to obtain abortions in neighboring states or by ordering pills, resulting in an overall decline of only around 10 percent,” stated New York Times

Instead of banning abortions, there are plenty of better alternatives to encourage fewer abortion practices that don’t restrict women’s bodily autonomy. From more sex education to free birth control to healthcare, safety, and better access to food security, fostering a more educated and supportive environment would improve abortion rates dramatically. 

As stated in a Finnish population study by the National Library of Medicine, “upper secondary education was associated with an average of 10–13 abortions per 1,000 women in this age group in all cohorts, and women with a university degree had fewer than 6 abortions per 1,000 women in all cohorts and age groups.”

Finland also notably has comprehensive sex education, which encourages women to be more knowledgeable about pregnancy prevention and protection.

This common debate, pro-life versus pro-choice, is often discussed in society. But pro-life ideology, or the support of anti-abortion policy, is flawed in perspective. With around ten million children living in poverty, bringing another life into a world of struggle and pain as a result of limited abortion access is essentially a cruel act. Women who are forced to have a child may grow to resent their kids, neglect them, or even put them up in an already overflowing adoption system, with more statistics found at State Policy Advocate & Reform Center. Roe v. Wade’s importance lies in its representation of the right to privacy, liberty of one’s own body, and each individual’s personal judgments and situations. Essentially, whether or not a woman decides to completely change her life should be up to her.