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Issues Law Med. 2012 Spring;27(3):181-228.

The legal status of abortion in the States if Roe v. Wade is overruled.


This article explores the legal status of abortion in the States if the Supreme Court overrules Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), and Doe v. Bolton, 410 U.S. 179 (1973), as modified by Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992). Although an overruling decision eventually could have a significant effect on the legal status of abortion, the immediate impact of such a decision would be far more modest than most commentators on both sides of the issue believe. More than two-thirds of the States have expressly repealed their pre-Roe laws or have amended those laws to conform to the trimester scheme of Roe v. Wade, which allows abortions for any reason before viability and for virtually any reason after viability. Those laws would not be revived by the overruling of Roe. Only a few of those States have enacted post-Roe laws that would prohibit most abortions if Roe were overruled. Slightly less than one-third of the States have not expressly repealed their pre-Roe laws. Many of those laws would notbe effective to prohibit abortion if Roe were overruled either because they allow abortion on demand, for undefined reasons of health or for mental health reasons; because enforcement would be precluded on state constitutional grounds; or because the pre-Roe laws prohibiting abortion have been repealed by implication with the enactment of post-Roe laws regulating abortion. In sum, no more than eleven States, and very possibly as few as eight, would have laws on the books that would prohibit most abortions if Roe were overruled.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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