AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – According to a draft opinion published by Politico on Monday evening, the Supreme Court appears set to overturn the landmark 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade that has protected the federal right to an abortion.
For Texas, a state that has so far maintained the most restrictive laws surrounding abortion in the country, and saw one person narrowly avoid a murder charge related to abortion in April – what could the end of Roe v. Wade mean?
The law currently enacted in Texas, S.B. 8, authorizes citizens to file private lawsuits against those who perform, aid, or abet an abortion after fetal cardiac activity is detected, typically around six weeks of pregnancy — before most people know they are pregnant, according to research such as that from the Maternal and Child Health Journal. Successful suits under S.B. 8, which contains no exceptions for rape or incest, fetch at least $10,000.
Because the abortion ban in S.B. 8 is so early in a pregnancy, it has conflicted with the current Supreme Court Precedent which has prevented states from banning abortion before a fetus is “viable” – according to the Roe v. Wade decision, generally considered to be around 24 weeks. However, if Roe v. Wade is overturned, that conflicting precedent could no longer exist.
S.B. 8 is also not the only recent law concerned with banning abortion in Texas – last year, the Texas Legislature passed a “trigger law” that would make performing an abortion a felony, set to go into effect 30 days after an event in which the Supreme Court overturns “wholly or partly” Roe v. Wade.
Under the “trigger law” – House Bill 1280 – doctors could be sentenced to life in prison or face $100,000 fines for performing abortions. Exceptions under the bill are only made for women who face death or a “substantial impairment of major bodily function” if an abortion is not performed.
With Texas among them, there are currently 13 states that have such “trigger laws” to ban all, or nearly all, abortions if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade – Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Texas, Oklahoma, and Wyoming.
However, the draft obtained by Politico is just that - a draft. As of May 3, 2022, no official Supreme Court ruling had been issued regarding making any change to the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling. Until then, abortions are federally protected by that precedent across the United States, and HB 1280 has not gone into effect in the state of Texas.
In 1992, then-Justice Anthony Kennedy indicated he was going to vote with the majority of the Supreme Court to overturn Roe in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. However, he changed his mind, and the court ultimately voted to uphold the ruling. The draft obtained by Politico was noted as a first draft and dated Feb. 10, 2022 - up through May the court's opinion might have shifted, and could still do so until the final ruling is published.