CHICAGO – Pro-lifers attending an Illinois conference envisioned a nation without Roe v. Wade, and a speaker told them there are many signs the landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion could be overturned.
“We see signs everywhere that an overturn of Roe v. Wade may soon be a reality,” said Ann Scheidler of the Pro-Life Action League and an organizer of the 17th annual SpeakOut Illinois. “Most notably, we see signs from abortion supporters who have said they are afraid they may lose the Supreme Court’s support.”
SpeakOut Illinois, sponsored in early February by a wide range of pro-life organizations, addressed how states would be affected if the Supreme Court overturned its 1973 ruling.
The Roe decision threw out most state restrictions on abortion, and its companion decision, Doe v. Bolton, permitted abortions through all nine months of pregnancy.
The conference looked at how laws made to comply with Roe have shaped culture, and how overturning the ruling would reshape culture.
“An overturn of Roe v. Wade will not mean the end of abortion,” Scheidler said. “Most likely, the Supreme Court will allow individual states to make their own laws. So the states that now have especially liberal abortion laws will become meccas for abortion.”
Those states include Illinois and New York, she added.
Speaker Chris Slattery, who operates a network of 15 crisis pregnancy centers in New York, spoke about how the centers will need to prepare for these potential changes.
He said the centers he operates are expanding their services to provide ultrasounds to expectant mothers via mobile units parked in front of abortion centers. In addition, the centers are expanding their services for counseling and prenatal and postnatal care.
State Rep. Roger Hunt of South Dakota spoke at the conference about his state’s recent effort to ban abortion in any situation unless it endangered the mother’s life. The legislation was approved by the legislature and the governor, but was overturned in a state referendum in 2006.
Hunt’s goal was not only to provide the state with pro-life legislation but to push the Supreme Court to take a stand on the issue, since the law would have directly conflicted with Roe v. Wade. Hunt spoke about mobilizing the states to pursue “trigger legislation” that would result in national action.
Daniel McConchie, executive director of Americans United for Life, said the Supreme Court is not likely to overturn Roe v. Wade in response to a direct challenge.
Nearly a dozen cases have “come before the Supreme Court asking them to reconsider Roe since 1992, and the court has refused to consider any of them,” McConchie said.
The last time the Supreme Court made a decisive decision that had an impact on Roe v. Wade was in 1992 in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey.
The case was not a direct challenge using a state abortion ban, but was a case addressing abortion regulations seen as incremental, such as parental consent and waiting periods, McConchie said.
The law, most of which was upheld by the high court, required parental consent for minors, a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion, the filing of detailed reports about each abortion and distribution of information about alternatives to abortion. The court struck down a requirement that married women notify their husbands before having an abortion.
“I do believe the Supreme Court will address this issue (Roe) at some point, perhaps soon, but clearly it will be in its own time,” McConchie said.
“Most likely, it will be again addressing some incremental regulations, but will at the same time quietly assert that the right to have an abortion is an issue that should be decided by the states,” he said.