Legislative Update: Supreme Court actions in Washington and Columbia

In the world of geology, tectonic shifts are major geological events that happen outside of our view but often bring about momentous change to the physical landscape. In the world of politics, metaphoric tectonic shifts are rare, but there have been several that have occurred in 2021. Earlier this year, the United States Supreme Court announced it will review the constitutionality of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. This case involves a Mississippi law that bans abortions at 15 weeks, which is well before the viability standard of 22-24 weeks established by Roe v. Wade. In announcing it will take the case, the Court stated their interest involves the question of viability — specifically, should a state be allowed to ban abortions before the current accepted standard of viability.

What are the possible outcomes in this case? The current conservative makeup of the Court (5-3 conservative, with Roberts as the new swing vote) could mean the end of Roe v. Wade, with the Court sending the question of abortion back to the states. If that happens, South Carolina, in passing the Heartbeat Bill, linked viability to the detection of a heartbeat. This means the viability standard would be set as early as six weeks! Since most women don’t know they are pregnant at six weeks, the vast majority of abortions in South Carolina would be against the law. Even if the Court lands somewhere short of overturning Roe v. Wade in its entirety, any change in the viability standard would spell the beginning of the end for Roe. Some liberal writers are now admitting that pro-life groups who backed laws focusing on viability standards may have found the Achilles heel of Roe v. Wade. Whatever the outcome, this case has the potential to shift the national landscape on the life issue in a very positive direction.

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