Here’s What Would Actually Happen If Roe Is Overturned

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Laurel Duggan Social Issues and Culture Reporter
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The Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments Wednesday in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, a case that could potentially overturn the Roe v. Wade precedent which enshrines elective abortions throughout the first six months of pregnancy nationwide.

Overturning Roe would not outlaw abortion in the U.S., but would instead allow individual states to restrict abortion in the first two trimesters, according to The New York Times. Some states would enforce laws that restrict abortion, such as the six-week abortion ban in Texas which is at the center of another Supreme Court case.

Lenient abortion laws in states like New York and California would not be affected by the end of Roe, the Times reported. Seven states have no abortion bans at any point during pregnancy, according to the Guttmacher Institute, and overturning Roe would not impose any new abortion restrictions on these or other states which choose legal abortion on demand into the late stages of pregnancy.

Trigger bans — abortion bans that would go into effect automatically if Roe is overturned — are in effect in 12 states, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Several other states have pre-Roe bans that were never removed from law, which could go back into effect if Roe’s precedent was revoked, although states could also remove those pre-Roe restrictions. (RELATED: Scientific Advancements At Center Stage In Major Supreme Court Abortion Case)

Only 17 states have trigger laws or pre-Roe laws which would ban or restrict abortion in the first trimester, according to Guttmacher data. The remaining states with trigger laws, pre-Roe laws or both would restrict abortions in the second and third trimesters.

A majority of European nations limit elective abortions by 12 weeks (the end of the first trimester), and 47 out of 50 European nations limit elective abortions before 15 weeks, according to the Charlotte Lozier Institute.

Mississippi’s only licensed abortion clinic does not offer abortions after 16 weeks, so the state law at the center of the Dobbs case which bans most abortions after 15 weeks will have only a minor impact on the state if it is upheld by the court. But legal challenges to the Mississippi law give the Court a chance to strike down Roe v. Wade and allow each state to choose how to regulate abortion through the democratic process.

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