Abortion Rights
July 22, 2021
Will the Supreme Court end Roe v. Wade?

The death of liberal Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg just six-and-a-half weeks before the 2020 election dramatically shifted the legal landscape for abortion in the United States. Her replacement on the high court, Amy Coney Barrett, altered the court’s makeup, and the new lineup of justices is set to consider its first big challenge to Roe v. Wade, a case involving a highly restrictive Mississippi abortion law. Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization will be a crucial test of whether the long-held goal of abortion opponents — overturning Roe, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States — is achievable. Meanwhile, states where anti-abortion lawmakers dominate have stepped up their efforts to restrict the procedure. Abortion rights advocates are hoping President Biden, and Democratic majorities in Congress, will help protect access to abortion.

Photo of white house swearing in ceremony for Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett on October 26, 2020. President Donald Trump applauds during a ceremonial swearing-in for Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett on Oct. 26, 2020. Barrett’s arrival on the court gives conservatives a 6-3 majority and potentially the votes to overturn Roe v. Wade. (Getty Images/Tasos Katopodis)

Abortion rights advocates were already on the defensive last year after a slew of state laws restricting the procedure and the appointment by President Donald Trump of two anti-abortion Supreme Court justices, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch. Those two appointments meant Republican presidents had appointed five of the nine justices, cementing a conservative majority believed to oppose abortion rights.

But in a surprise, the court in June 2020 struck down a Louisiana abortion law that required abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinics. If upheld, the law would have shut all but one of the state’s abortion clinics. The decision gave new hope to abortion rights defenders and left abortion opponents wondering whether they had the votes to overturn Roe.