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Murky Future

What will happen to reproductive rights under Trump?

November 15, 2016

During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump said that Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion across the United States, would “automatically” be overturned under his presidency because he plans to appoint pro-life judges to the Supreme Court. Now that Trump is preparing to take over the Oval Office, people across the country are wondering — and worrying — about what will happen to women’s reproductive rights under his presidency.

At the moment, the Supreme Court has a 5-3 majority supporting reproductive rights. Trump has one vacancy to fill, due to the death of conservative justice Antonin Scalia. Appointing a pro-life judge in Scalia’s stead would, as The Cut points out, “merely restore the status quo of the court.” But should one of the pro-choice justices vacate his or her seat, Trump will have the opportunity to upset the balance of the institution and, potentially, threaten the status of Roe v. Wade.

If the law were to be overturned, The Associated Press reports, the country would become a “patchwork map” of abortion rights, with some states protecting access to abortion, others forbidding it, and still others grappling with the limits they should impose.

Indeed, during an interview with 60 Minutes, Trump suggested that the reversal of Roe v. Wade would force state legislatures to decide if and under what circumstances women will be able to access abortions. States in the Northeast and along the Pacific Coast would in all probability uphold women’s reproductive rights, but the rest of the states are likely to enact limitations — perhaps allowing abortions only during the first trimester — or ban the procedures unless a woman’s life is at risk.

This could mean that women living in large swaths of the country will be left without access to abortion providers — as Trump acknowledged during his conversation with 60 Minutes. “Well, they’ll perhaps have to go, they’ll have to go to another state,” he said.

If a woman cannot afford to travel, such limitations would be entirely prohibitive. “For many women, it’s not possible to traverse across multiple state lines,” Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, told The Associated Press. “This could have tragic consequences.”

While a group of predominantly pro-life justices might “chip away” at Roe v. Wade to impose more onerous restrictions, it seems unlikely that the decision will be reversed completely. The Court tends to uphold its precedents, for one thing. And as Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation, told the AP, “It’s not so easy to overturn Roe. Women in this country would not stand for it.”

Read the full story at The Associated Press.


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