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Abortion Access Is Not the Only Right We’ll Lose If Roe v. Wade Is Overturned

Pro-choice protesters rally at the Supreme Court

It was revealed Monday night that the Supreme Court has voted to reverse Roe v. Wade, with a draft of Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion leaked to Politico.

The move to overturn Roe comes as part of the reported decision on Jackson Women’s Health Organization v. Dobbs, a wildly unconstitutional case out of Mississippi that the court has been considering. The case centers around a 15-week abortion ban that is in direct contradiction with Roe, as well as Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which also offers constitutional protections for those seeking abortions. (Which is why Dobbs never should have gotten before the court in the first place.)

In order for the Supreme Court to uphold Mississippi’s ban, they would have to overturn Roe and Casey, and that’s exactly what they did. In the leaked document, Alito writes that Roe was “egregiously wrong from the start” and declares that abortion is once again a states’ rights issue. That means that as soon as this ruling takes effect, abortion will be illegal in dozens of states across the country that have trigger bans in place and pre-Roe bans still on their books. And more states will surely follow.

When Roe is overturned, millions of people will lose access to safe, legal abortions. That is absolutely scary and enraging enough on its own but it’s surely not going to be all that comes of this. It is likely just the start.

Roe v. Wade is rooted in a constitutional protection of privacy. So by overturning that case, the court is effectively undoing decades of precedent for other forms of privacy protections. Alito’s opinion is also based in a (ridiculous) strict originalist approach to the Constitution, as he basically insists that abortion can’t be protected by the Constitution because it’s not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution. Protected civil rights and liberties need to be “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition,” he argues.

There are a ton of cases that this would affect (here’s a terrifying thread with lots of examples) but the obvious next target of the religious right would be Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark 2015 case that required all states to permit and recognize same-sex marriages. This new decision absolutely sets the stage to reverse Obergefell.

Obergefell is very likely to be the next target, but it is far from the only landmark case at risk of being overturned. There is now a very real threat to precedent protecting all sorts of civil rights and liberties, from contraception to same-sex relationships to interracial marriage.

If the Supreme Court follows though in overturning Roe and Casey, it will be catastrophic. It will also only be the beginning.

(image: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.