What Would Happen If Roe v. Wade Was Overturned?

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That's the question that USA Today asks in this roundup of abortion rights in America. The paper's conclusion?:

Twenty-two state legislatures are likely to impose significant new restrictions on abortion….

Sixteen state legislatures are likely to continue current access to abortion….

Twelve states fall into a middle ground between those two categories.

Details and much, much more (see where your state ranks in abortion in raw numbers or as a percentage of the total!) here.

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  1. Answer: _________’s head would explode.

  2. I bet 16 states would have increased levels of “tourism” by nervous young women and men.

  3. Just another story that repeats the error that overturning Roe would “leave it to the states.” All overturning Roe would do is leave it to Congress, where a Federal Right to Life Act would immediately be introduced and probably passed.

  4. “I bet 16 states would have increased levels of ‘tourism’ by nervous young women and men.”

    Until Congress enacted legislation making it a crime to transport a fetus/embryo across state lines for purposes of aborting it.

  5. All overturning Roe would do is leave it to Congress, where a Federal Right to Life Act would immediately be introduced and probably passed.

    ’cause we all know that Pregnancy = Commerce.

  6. That’s right, MP. Illicit commerce.

  7. Just another story that repeats the error that overturning Roe would “leave it to the states.” All overturning Roe would do is leave it to Congress, where a Federal Right to Life Act would immediately be introduced and probably passed.

    No, overturning Roe would take it back to the states, where it belongs. Where, as the post points out, if left alone things would return to pretty much where they were before Roe was enacted.

    Of course, you’re right in predicting that Congress would get involved, thus ensuring that once again a branch of the Federal Government would nationalize an issue that should be left up to the states.

  8. ’cause we all know that Pregnancy = Commerce.

    I think the argument goes that all those medical instruments used to perform abortions moved across state lines.

  9. coat hanger company stocks post modest gains?

  10. That table listed some %pregnancies ending in abortion stats as high as 39%, and probably averaging around 20%. Do one-fifth of pregnancies really get aborted, or did I read that wrong.

  11. Kip: You’re wrong. Any attempt to ban abortions in Congress would be filibustered to death. I agree that concerns about federalism wouldn’t stop many Republicans from trying to outlaw abortion nationally, but the issue is too controversial to get through the Senate.

  12. I bet 16 states would have increased levels of “tourism” by nervous young women and men.

    Many years ago, my dad (who is generally anti-abortion, but not nearly so hardline as you’d expect someone influenced by his rather legalistic brand of Catholicism to be) had a thought about this. He suggested that if Roe v. Wade were overturned, groups like NARAL and NOW would try to seize the high moral ground by forming an “Underground Railroad” to help poor women travel from abortion-outlawed to abortion-legal states to obtain the procedure.

  13. good ole virginy… we’re so predictable…

  14. by forming an “Underground Railroad”

    Next stop, Confederacy!

    Now we just need a Harry Turtledove novel…

  15. There’s a huge difference between what they say they’ll do and what will happen.

    I think overturning Roe would be a wet dream for the Democrats. They would have a cause to send their base into hyperdrive. Republicans, on the other hand, would lose the moral free lunch they get today by paying lip service to banning abortion. They would be forced to take an actual stand..a politician’s worst nightmare.

  16. There’s a huge difference between what they say they’ll do and what will happen.

    I think overturning Roe would be a wet dream for the Democrats. They would have a cause to send their base into hyperdrive. Republicans, on the other hand, would lose the moral free lunch they get today by paying lip service to banning abortion. They would be forced to take an actual stand..a politician’s worst nightmare.

  17. We’ll get the opportunity to carefully test the link between abortion and crime rates, again.

  18. I believe congress would be salivating at the chance to impose a nationwide rule. And I think it’s pretty clear from interstate commerce rulings that they would be allowed. But I’m just impressed that they are asking the right question- it wasn’t that long ago they (or another big news source) conducted a survey in which they asked “should the supreme court outlaw abortion?”

  19. “…by forming an “Underground Railroad” to help poor women travel from abortion-outlawed to abortion-legal states to obtain the procedure.”

    Probably. An action which would immediately be followed by Congress passing a “Fugitive Slave Act” for pregnant women. I believe there are already federal statutes about taking someone across state lines to avoid abortion laws.

    This would be the compromise that moderate Republicans and conservative Democrats would sign on for.

  20. C’mon Nick: it’s not “was overturned”; it’s “were overturned” (the subjunctive).

  21. Totally off the topic, but did the real Jonathan Rick just post a smart-assed grammar post, or was just some savy fellow being a smart-ass with a graduate degree in english? It would be kind of cool, though, if it WERE the case. . .

  22. Why would there need to be an “underground” network to get women to abortion states? Congress is certainly not going to be able to pass a law banning interstate movement to get abortions, and states cannot ban interstate movement.

    Actually, it might not be a bad thing is Congress was somehow able to pass a nationwide ban. You think that the medical marijuana issue is contentious — this might be what it takes to break a lot of these federal laws that have no business being around.

  23. Does anyone know whether abortions are legal in any of the countries south of the US? My guess is that they are not. Do Latino immigrants support anti-abotion laws?

  24. The language of the federal partial birth abortion ban, as well as that of Al Gore’s ban on organ sales, refers to persons “in or affecting interstate commerce”. That means it’s to be decided on a case by case basis by the trial court. Juries could be asked to decide whether a person was in or affecting interstate commerce and performing the other actions in question. There’s never been a prosecution under the organ transplantation act, so we have no idea how that’d go. Basically, it’s never been worth anyone’s while to find out, organ transplantations being such a big deal. Abortions aren’t as big a deal, so maybe there would be actual cases. I don’t know how often illegal abortions were ever prosecuted anyway.

  25. Why would there need to be an “underground” network to get women to abortion states?

    Poor people. Poor people use abortions too, and they can’t afford to jump on a plane to CA or WA to get an abortion. Not without help, anyway.

  26. Akira,
    Thanks for the link to the map. I see by it that some countries allow abortions for the sake of the mother’s life or health, and in some cases that would include mental health. Mental health could pose a pretty big loophole, but something tells me that an influx of immigrants from those countries would not bode well for pro-choice laws in this country. The Fundamentalists would probably love it though.

  27. edit: I should have said Pro-lifers instead of Fundamentalists.

  28. Does anyone know whether abortions are legal in any of the countries south of the US? My guess is that they are not. Do Latino immigrants support anti-abotion laws?

    Latino immigrants are anti-abortion and anti-gay. Two reasons why the right is in love with amnesty talk.

  29. It will probably increase the shrillness level of speakers at places like NOW conventions, even the Democratic Party convention, I suppose.

    And I mean shrillness in a kind way.

  30. I saw a few ‘pro-choice’ demonstrators here in Phoenix a week or two ago, in the Biltmore area (read: rich people’s shopping area). There were about five women who looked to be at least 65 and one maybe about 50, waving placards.

    Of course a few days before there were 100,000 Mexicans downtown protesting something. I’d say the fear of overturning of Roe v. Wade hasn’t exactly reached hurricane force here, if my little observations are worth anything.

  31. “They would be forced to take an actual stand..a politician’s worst nightmare.”

    Very interesting supposition. Even in my darkest cynicism I find it hard to believe that a significant number of Republicans (in power) actually consider a glop of cells a “baby”.

  32. My prediction is that the USSC will not substantially alter the Roe outcome. It may alter the reasoning, but it will not touch Roe writ large. Most likely, the decision of the case that winds up in front of them will be very narrow in focus and not generalizable, leaving Roe as established law.

    My thinking here is that I don’t think the conservative movement can count on the court to do anything substantial any more than the libertarian movement can. If the anti Roe movement were truly populist and we were facing riots in the streets, the court would act. Otherwise, they’ll leave it alone.

  33. Prediction: by upholding state prerogatives in this area, many experiments will be tried and it will be discovered that people have a very different opinion of early and late term abortion. The states where citizens are most comfortable with the laws will be states where women have easy access to early term abortions, but will be required to justify late term ones with some really good excuses. In other words, the successful states will follow the successful Eurpean model. Gradually states that started out as either more prochoice or more antichoice than this will gravitate to the European model. There may continue to exist a state or two on either extreme to serve as an outlet for people with really strong, extremist views on the matter.

    Comment: all this should have happened a long time ago. As a matter of fact, I read Roe as inviting this kind of outcome. In fact, I think the Supreme Court will not overturn Roe, but will rather make it clear that the 1971 decisions was serious when it said that states can restrict and regulate 2d and 3d trimester abortions. It is sort of like when Obi Wan tells Luke that he always had the power. That will be SCOTUS 2009 talking to the states. I think the reason this didn’t happen previously comes down to politics, where both parties were more comfortable with the status quo from a political standpoint than whatever may come next. In this case, I believe the political stratergizing got in the way of sensible, doable legal progress.

  34. I’ll believe that the alternative to Roe v. Wade is to “leave it to the states” the day that the Partial Birth Abortion Act is overturned. Until then, Congress has proven that it intends to federalize the issue, and can get away with it.

    All this “leave it to the states” talk is utopian. While Congress may deadlock on the issue in the short term, with a decade or so of filibusters, it will end up in Congress’s power one way or another sooner or later.

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