Will the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade?

December 6, 2021

On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, one of the most important abortion cases in decades. Here are answers to a few questions you may have about this monumental case.

Will the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade?

While it is impossible to know how the Supreme Court will rule on any case, this case presents a unique opportunity to overturn the precedents set in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The ERLC submitted an amicus brief asking the court to do just that and set a new precedent that respects the dignity of every life. 

Here is a look at some of the issues raised by the justices. 

What is the Dobbs case about?

In Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Supreme Court is reviewing a Mississippi law titled the “Gestational Age Act” that prohibits abortions after 15 weeks except in a medical emergency and in cases of severe fetal abnormality. This law replaces the ‘viability standard’ created by Roe with a limit on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The court is examining whether pre-viability restrictions on elective abortions are unconstitutional. 

What is the “viability standard?”

In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court admitted that the state has a legitimate interest in protecting unborn human life, but concluded that that interest did not become compelling until viability, because at that point the unborn child “has the capability of meaningful life outside the mother’s womb.”

However, the choice of viability as the point before which a state may not forbid abortion is entirely arbitrary. Even the author of Roe and two authors of Casey’s three-justice plurality have admitted this. When the “viability standard” was initially created in 1973, viability was around 28 weeks, but it is now around 21 weeks. The viability line will continue to move as our modern medicine continues to improve. No Supreme Court decision has ever provided a principled justification for the viability standard. 

Does the Constitution guarantee a right to abortion?

The ERLC’s amicus brief answers this question well:

“The Constitution does not create a right to an abortion of an unborn child before viability or at any other stage of pregnancy. An asserted right to abortion has no basis in constitutional text or in American history and tradition.” 

When will the Supreme Court rule on abortion?

While the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization on Dec. 1, 2021, a ruling is not expected until the end of the court’s term in June 2022. 

What happens if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade?

Even if the Supreme Court overturns the precedents set in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, abortion would not become illegal overnight. Instead, each state would then be free to set their own laws banning or allowing abortion. If Roe is overturned, an estimated 26 states will implement complete bans on abortion. 

If abortion becomes illegal in many states, many more vulnerable women and their preborn babies will need help and support. Christians must be ready to stand in the gap and provide love and care. Together, we must work toward a day when abortion is not only illegal but also unthinkable. 

Chelsea Sobolik

Chelsea Sobolik serves as the Director of Public Policy with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission in the Washington, D.C. office. Previously, she worked on Capitol Hill on pro-life policies, domestic and international religious freedom, adoption, and foster care issues. Chelsea has been published at the Wall Street Journal, USA … Read More

Conrad Close

Conrad Close serves as the Digital Marketing Manager for the ERLC. In this role, he oversees web strategy, manages email marketing, and provides communications support to the policy team. A former ERLC intern, Conrad graduated from Kennesaw State University with a B.A. in Public Relations. He lives in Chicago with … Read More