Tuesday, January 22, 2008

the post-Roe era

Of all the potential ramifications of this election that people are speculating about, perhaps the only outcome that is simultaneously the most obvious, the one that will most impact people's lives, and the least discussed is the future of Roe v. Wade. The Supreme Court, at this very moment, is one judge away from overturning Roe, and it's a virtual certainty that the next president will be replacing 87 year old liberal justice John Paul Stevens.

All of the Democratic front-runners have publicly advocated "a woman's right to choose." All of the Republican front-runners have publicly advocated the destruction of Roe v. Wade and promised to appoint "strict constructionist" judges. In no case is there any reason to doubt them.

Yet I've yet to hear anyone state the obvious here: if a Republican wins the presidency, Roe v. Wade will be overturned, thus turning the abortion question over to the states and igniting a firestorm of campaigning, legislation, and court battles in nearly every state in the union.

Below is a US map that I've colored to represent the immediate legal ramifications of the repeal of Roe.
*RED states have "trigger laws" on the books that will ban abortion in the state the moment Roe falls.
*PINK states have similar legislation on the books called "statements of policy" that, unlike trigger laws, are not legally binding.
*PURPLE states have pre-1973 state bans that could be reactivated with a simple lifting of a court injunction.
*DARK BLUE states have legislated enduring abortion rights regardless of Roe's fate.
*LIGHT BLUE states have constitutions that state judges have determined implicitly guarantee abortion rights.

It should be noted that several of these states, such as New Mexico and Tennessee, have both abortion bans and implicit abortion guarantees and would likely spark a legislation/judicial battle to decide which side wins.

Were Roe v. Wade to be overturned, and southern states to do what one would expect southern states to do, lonely little New Mexico could end up as the only place where women can get a legal abortion between Yuma and the suburbs of Washington, D.C.

That's a distance of roughly 2,500 miles.

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