Will the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade? Possible outcomes for the upcoming abortion case

While the court could overturn its landmark decision in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion, observers have suggested the justices could take more complicated paths to allowing states the power to impose greater restrictions on abortion.

The case – Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health – is based on Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban, and could help craft a new standard for restrictions. This particular law offers the justices an opportunity to not only change abortion jurisprudence, but do so in a way that is substantially different from standards established in Roe or Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, which reaffirmed Roe and set the “undue burden” standard.

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In this Nov. 6, 2020, file photo, the Supreme Court is seen at sundown in Washington.

In this Nov. 6, 2020, file photo, the Supreme Court is seen at sundown in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Here are some of the ways they might rule:

Strike down Mississippi’s law

A majority of justices could eliminate the 15-week ban, claiming that it violates longstanding precedent in Roe and Casey. In doing so, it would likely uphold the idea that states can’t impose an “undue burden” on women’s access to abortion prior to fetal viability. 

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However, the court’s more conservative composition, 6-3 since the addition of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, has prompted observers to downplay this possibility.

They argue that the fact the court took such a direct challenge to Roe indicates a willingness to reshape precedent. The same could be said of its decision not to immediately block Texas’ heartbeat law, which acts effectively as a six-week ban. It’s unclear how willing they are, however, as the court only needs four justices to agree to hear a case and five to issue a majority decision.

Overturn Roe and Casey

Both sides of the abortion debate have speculated that the Supreme Court might use Dobbs to deliver the death blow to Roe that conservative activists have sought for decades. An outright repeal of Roe would return the issue to state legislatures, which conservatives have long considered the proper democratic avenue for regulating access. 

Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and Supreme Justice Brett Kavanaugh attend the State of the Union address in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives on Feb. 4, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and Supreme Justice Brett Kavanaugh attend the State of the Union address in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives on Feb. 4, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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