On December 1st, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case centered on a Mississippi law that bans abortion after fifteen weeks of pregnancy. Dobbs v. Jackson is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, which upholds the federal right to abortion in the US before viability.
Why Dobbs v. Jackson Is Different
In earlier decisions such as Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood, the Supreme Court upheld a federal right to seek abortion before “fetal viability”: 24-28 weeks. The Mississippi law at the center of the Dobbs case bans abortion well before that threshold. Previability bans like this one exist in states around the country in various stages of litigation. Dobbs is the first to make it to the Supreme Court.
The Mississippi Law at the Heart of Dobbs Disproportionately Impacts Black People
The restrictions challenged in Dobbs inequitably affect Black Mississippians, who represent the highest proportion of people accessing abortion care in the state. We know from existing data that any rollback of federal protections for abortion access will have an unequal impact on Black people in Mississippi and those similarly situated in other abortion-hostile states.
What to Expect from the Supreme Court
It’s hard to predict what decision the Supreme Court justices will make. There are several options, but with the current composition of the Court we’re bracing for the worst. The justices could eliminate federal protections entirely, leaving abortion access to state legislatures. They may strike down previability protections and create a new, more conservative federal framework. Whatever the court decides, access to abortion will likely become more challenging in many parts of the country.
What We’ll See If Abortion Access Is Restricted at the Federal Level
Only fourteen states and the District of Columbia have laws that explicitly protect access to abortion. Twenty-two states have laws or constitutional amendments already in place that could be used to restrict access if Roe is overturned. This means that without federal protection, roughly half of US states could lose legal access to abortion in the next year.
Many pregnant people already have to travel out of state to access abortion — this is a pattern that funds in our network have been reporting for years. The model for protecting abortion access in the future already exists in funds’ work to assist callers traveling for hours (sometimes days) to obtain an abortion.
How We’re Planning to Meet This Challenge
This decision will come fast, and its impacts will be felt immediately. In the short term, abortion funds are focusing on building up their practical support systems. We’re helping funds coordinate these efforts securely and effectively.
In the long term, we’re focused on launching Operation Scale Up, our plan to give abortion funds the resources they need to fund every caller request, nationwide. When confronted with challenges like Dobbs, both sets of strategies are necessary: we must meet the current moment while staying focused on building the future we want to see.
How You Can Help
The most important thing you can do is find and support your local abortion fund. You’ll find a complete list of NNAF-member abortion funds here. There are additional actions you can take to support abortion justice here. We’ll work to keep you informed about the Dobbs case and its impacts as we move closer to the decision date in the spring of 2022.