CONWAY, S.C. (WBTW) – What started as a ruling on a single issue will likely cause ripple effects across the nation, potentially bringing other rights before the U.S. Supreme Court that were previously considered solidified.
Since the court ruling in late June that overturned Roe v. Wade and handed states the decision to make their own laws on abortion access, politicians on either side of the aisle have scrambled to pen legislation both trying to protect and limit abortion rights.
While many states already had “trigger laws” in place to essentially instantaneously ban abortions once Roe v. Wade was overturned, others have followed suit in the weeks since the decision.
Once abortion access is limited, how long could it take to potentially restore access? And how long could it be before other rights cases are brought before the court?
News13 spoke with Mikel Norris, an associate professor of politics and the chairman of the Coastal Carolina University Department of Politics, to hear about what legislation is being proposed, whether decisions could flip-flop with election cycles and what the Dobbs decisions means for other precedents.
What would it take to add the right to abortion to a constitution?
Passing a piece of legislation takes approval from both the senate and house of representatives at either the state or national levels. If approved at the state level, a bill must then be signed by the governor. At the national level, a piece of legislation must be signed by the president before it goes into law. The passed legislation can also be vetoed, but that can then be overridden if there are enough votes to do so.
The process of adding rights to a constitution varies by state. Some states, Norris said, require an amendment to be approved by voters. When it comes to the U.S. Constitution, an amendment needs the support of two-thirds of Congress, and then three-quarters of the states must ratify it, something Noris said there is not “a chance in the world” of happening.
“The foreseeable future of abortion is through passing laws,” Norris said.
What trends are we seeing in abortion legislation?
Republican-led states either already had “trigger laws” banning abortion or have since proposed legislation to do so to a certain degree.
Norris said those initial “knee-jerk” reactions were expected in light of the court decision. However, a lot is still unknown.
“We are certainly in the period where the dust is being kicked up,” he said.
Proposals for a blanket ban, he said, aren’t unexpected. However, what has stood out to him is states that are proposing criminalizing looking up or sharing information on abortion.
“That is as blatant of a First Amendment violation as anything,” Norris said.
He said interstate commerce will become another issue as states potentially try to sue billion-dollar corporations like Alphabet – which owns companies like Fitbit, YouTube and Google – after the corporations have offered to pay for expenses for employees to travel out of state for an abortion.
Could abortion bans be rolled back?
Norris said there isn’t a chance that the U.S. Supreme Court’s current lineup will ever take up abortion rights again.
However, he said, just because laws are passed, doesn’t mean that an issue is over. While people assume that once a law is created that it’ll never be reversed, he said that isn’t the case.
“Just because they overturned Roe v. Wade, that isn’t the end of the story,” Norris said. “It could very well be the beginning of the story, but we don’t know that.”
States will pass laws, and he said people are going to challenge them. The Dobbs decision, he said, hasn’t changed that.
A future makeup of the court, perhaps decades from now, could decide to pick it up again.
“The Pandora’s box of abortion was opened 50 years ago, and we haven’t put the lid on it, yet,” he said.
What about banning contraceptives?
While the Dobbs decision specifically revolved around whether the right to privacy extends to an abortion, a concurring opinion penned by Justice Clarence Thomas argued that the court also needs to “reconsider” Griswold v. Connecticut, which protects the rights to contraceptives, and Obergefell v. Hodges, which protects the right for same-sex couples to marry.
Contraceptive use, Norris said, hits closer to home for more people than abortion does, with many who are adamantly against abortion rights arguing that contraceptive use is protected.
Challenging that, he said, is like “touching a nerve.”
“How many people out there in the 21st century, how many married individuals out there don’t have some sort of birth control?” he said.
Legislators need an incentive to challenge a law, he said. He points to the Affordable Care Act as an example for something that was a “political cudgel” when it was introduced but would face outrage if it was overturned now.
Could we see same-sex marriage rights overturned?
“Gay marriage will be before the court very, very soon,” Norris said, adding that he expects a case to move through the legal system in between one to three years.
It could happen sooner, he said, because there’s been a trend for politically charged cases to make it to the conservative-dominated U.S. Supreme Court “in no time at all.”
Dobbs, he said, wasn’t more than a few months old when the court announced that it would visit the issue.
“The handwriting is on the wall,” Norris said. “They are going to overturn that.”