August 29, 2020
Is Roe v. Wade in danger of being overturned?

As COVID-19 began spreading across the United States in the spring, several states designated abortion as an elective procedure that must be canceled or delayed due to the pandemic. After legal challenges to these efforts, most of the COVID-related restrictions were blocked. But even before the pandemic struck, new laws had restricted access to the procedure in certain states, many of which have been challenged in court. In June the U.S. Supreme Court struck down one of them, but scholars and activists caution that the court’s narrow decision does not necessarily signal how the court might rule on future abortion cases.

Photo of anti-abortion and pro-abortion rights activists confronting one another during a demonstration outside the Supreme Court on March 4. Anti-abortion and pro-abortion rights activists confront each other during a demonstration outside the Supreme Court on March 4, as the justices were hearing oral arguments on a Louisiana law requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. In June the court declared the law unconstitutional. (AFP/Getty Images/Saul Loeb)

For abortion opponents, 2020 was supposed to be the year they took an important step toward overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing the procedure.

As two conservative justices appointed by President Trump joined the high court, several test cases considered direct challenges to Roe were working their way through the judiciary. While Roe made abortion legal nationwide, the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision granted states some latitude to restrict the procedure.