Federal protection for women’s access to abortions is in more peril than in decades. Women across America should not lose the right to safe, legal abortions because of an ideological tilt by the U.S. Supreme Court.
On May 17, justices voted to hear an abortion case that may give the court’s newly established six-member conservative majority an opening to overturn the guarantee of abortion access in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Washingtonians should be spared the worst of it, but voters here should watch the situation closely.
The case concerns a Mississippi law enacted in violation of the court’s prohibition on abortion bans, or laws that have effects approaching that. The law in question bars abortion after the 15th week of pregnancy. The Court has repeatedly held that abortions must remain available before a fetus is viable outside the womb — about the 24th week or later. A new Texas law signed Wednesday pushes the line further, prohibiting abortions after the sixth week, which is earlier than many women even know they are pregnant.
If the court overturns or diminishes the Roe v. Wade decision, expect similar prohibitions to creep across the country. Because the then-Republican-held Senate enabled former President Donald Trump to push three conservative justices onto the U.S. Supreme Court, the 5-4 margins that protected abortion access in a 2016 Texas ruling and a 2020 Louisiana one cannot be read as predictive of the next decision on abortion access.
This is a perfect illustration of why elections matter — in this case, those for the president who nominates justices and the Senate seats that confirm them.
Washington voters’ voices matter deeply on abortion too. Statewide elections have reliably installed pro-choice candidates and, in 1991, passed Initiative 120 to make the state America’s first with a voter-approved abortion-access guarantee.
Despite Washington’s consistent leadership on this important right for women, the state’s three Republican members of Congress — Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler, Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Dan Newhouse — all supported the attack on abortion rights that fell short in the 2020 Louisiana case.
If the newest case succeeds in stripping away the protections Roe v. Wade extended to women across the nation, voters should hold Washington’s Republican members of Congress accountable for their aid of the long march to that precipice.