Could Abortion Be Illegal in Your State if the Supreme Court Overturns Roe v. Wade?

This post has been updated to clarify the status of abortion law in Illinois. 

With Donald Trump preparing to appoint another Supreme Court justice, many progressives in the United States are worried about how the court’s future makeup will affect LGBQT rights, disability rights, voting rights, racial inequality and much more. One particularly looming question is the future of Roe v. Wadethe landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion in the United States.

The fear: A Trump appointee could give the court the 5-4 conservative split it needs to overturn Roe v. Wade if an abortion-related case comes before the court.

The question: What happens then?

You may be surprised to learn that depending on where you live, the outcome of such a decision could be effectively instantaneous, with your state’s laws banning abortion immediately.

Three U.S. states have what are known as “trigger laws” in place: Kentucky, Louisiana and South Dakota. If the Supreme Court decided to overturn Roe v. Wadeaccess to abortion in these states would be entirely illegal as soon as the decision was issued. South Dakota already has very onerous anti-abortion legislation that makes it challenging to access the procedure safely, and it’s only going to get worse.

But ten additional states had abortion bans on the books before Roe v. Wade: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Wisconsin. These bans can’t be enforced, because federal jurisprudence trumps — so to speak — them, but if Roe v. Wade is overturned, those states could opt to pursue enforcement.

Another seven — including Louisiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, North Dakota and Ohio — have “expressions of intent” suggesting that they would likely ban or severely curtail access to abortion if Roe v. Wade was overturned. Arkansas, which already has a ban, has indicated intent to enforce it.

By contrast, just nine states explicitly protect the right to choose. In California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Nevada and Washington, legislatures have chosen to defend abortion access. If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, that wouldn’t necessarily negate these state laws — unless they’re challenged in court by abortion opponents.

Think about where your state sits on this issue. This may be a good time to contact your state lawmakers to express your opinion in advance of a potential challenge to Roe v. Wade that makes it all the way to the Supreme Court. If you think abortion access should be protected, you may want to push to repeal outdated laws and ask your lawmakers to affirm the right to access abortion care.

In addition to protecting abortion services, you may want to ask about buffer zone laws  and legislation to stop crisis pregnancy centers from lying to pregnant people — though the Supreme Court has struck down such laws in the past, it’s still worth exploring options.

Even if this issue doesn’t affect you personally, it’s important to advocate for access — not just for abortion, but for reproductive rights as a whole. A conservative court may hear cases on issues like whether same-gender couples should be allowed to adopt and raise children; whether disabled people have the right to parent; whether people have the right to access birth control or fertility care; and whether children should receive comprehensive sex education in school.

Without a robust and proactive defense of all of these rights, vulnerable residents of your state could be in trouble.

Photo credit: Elvert Barnes

76 comments

Tania N
Tania N4 months ago

Thank you for sharing

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Tania N
Tania N4 months ago

Thank you for sharing

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Tania N
Tania N4 months ago

Thank you

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Tania N
Tania N4 months ago

Thank you

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Deborah W
Deborah W4 months ago

Since states must meet their budgetary needs each year, they make choices and cuts accordingly. PERFECTLY WITHIN THEIR RIGHTS TO GOVERN. Don't personally believe an interim period to accommodate those already in the throes of birth will be without an allowed extension of current law rather than immediate cutoff. Medical complications, as well as rape and incest (which must deal with BOTH participants) must remain on the books. After that, new and inconvenient pregnancies produced through enslaved victims, free-choice escorts, inconvenient timing, etc. should be knocked off the books. Note that this issue is unrealistically attached to so much more ... same-gender couples allowed to adopt and raise children; disabled peoples' right to parent; peoples' right to access birth control or fertility care; and children's right to receive comprehensive sex education in school. EACH OF WHICH SHOULD BE A SEPARATELY PRESENTED ISSUE. Don't like it, VOTE next time elections roll around. Until then, deal, as we all do daily with the many other unfair laws currently in place. This one's no different.

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Tania N
Tania N4 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Tania N
Tania N4 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Karen H
Karen H4 months ago

Good comments S M. I'll bet most of our misrepresentatives haven't thought of the added cost. Of course, the way they want to cut CHIP, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and delete any health care prove they just don't give a damn.

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pam w
pam w4 months ago

We were joking at Planned Parenthood this week, about how we can build CASINO/SPAs at the Calif/Ariz border....call 'em "The Lucky Lady"....and quietly provide abortion services in the back. JUST IN CASE!

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S M
S M4 months ago

If the state overturns this then the state must provide orphanages, increase school sizes, provide more housing, - a subsidised type as it will be the poor that suffer this patriarchy most as the wealthy will just take a plane to another country or state and have the abortion.

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