How At-Risk Are American Abortion Rights?

President Donald Trump’s nomination of conservative judge Amy Coney Barrett as the Supreme Court justice to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg has sparked questions about whether a court with a conservative majority could re-assess issues like abortion rights.

Abortion is a historically divisive topic, mythologized in American political ideology as the issue that cleanly divides Democrats and Republicans. The renewed anxiety about the future of abortion rights is well-grounded based on the President’s past remarks on overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision that ensured abortion as a constitutional right. In fact, during his 2016 campaign period, the President promised outright to appoint a Supreme Court justice who would “automatically overturn Roe v. Wade.” It seems as though drastic changes might be coming, but how concerned should the menstruating population really be that they will lose their constitutional right to an abortion?

Republicans are rushing to get Barrett confirmed before the Presidential Election on 3 November. If the President succeeds in getting Barrett appointed, the Supreme Court will have a six-to-three person conservative majority.

Amy Coney Barrett currently serves as a judge on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. She has made at least two judicial rulings in the past restricting abortion access. Barrett has also stated that abortion is “always immoral.”  However, she has also stated that she does not believe the court will strike down Roe v. Wade altogether, but, rather, that the court might change how much power states have to restrict abortion access.

Including Barrett, the only current Supreme Court justice to have openly opposed the upholding of Roe v. Wade is Clarence Thomas. However, there is no way to predict how the justices will rule on individual cases.

President Trump himself spoke more confidently of the conservative leanings of the new court.

“Maybe they’d give it back to the states,” he told Fox & Friends Weekend, in reference to each state being given the power to decide the extent to which abortion is accessible. “You just don’t know what’s going to happen.”

What seems like a struggle between sects of the American population, those who are pro-life and those who are pro-choice is actually a struggle between the American population and the American government.  The majority of Americans do not want to see Roe v. Wade overturned. One qualitative study that surveyed 217 Americans found that most do not compartmentalize their views on abortion into one-size-fits-all labels. Most consider the question of abortion with a variety of factors in mind, such as the health of the mother and child, the circumstances surrounding the pregnancy, and the financial and emotional readiness of the parents. Even among Barrett’s fellow religious Christians, 59% do not want the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v Wade. There is a dissonance between the views expressed by the people of America and the rhetoric of the government.

President Trump seems to be using pro-life rhetoric as a tool for self-preservation. He understands the zealousness of the religious right. He hopes that he can ensure their vote if he pantomimes their dogma.

The first abortion case to come before the new court concerns the prescription pill mifepristone, which is used to induce abortions during early pregnancy. This case will serve as an indicator of how the post-Ginsburg court will decide on future abortion cases.

Jaclyn Pahl

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