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Roe v. Wade at risk: key facts on legal challenges to U.S. abortion rights
In recent months, some conservative-leaning U.S. states have taken action to curb abortion rights, the most recent being Missouri, where the state's only abortion clinic could close. But any attempt to restrict or ban abortion will ultimately face a final test at the conservative U.S. Supreme Court.
USA-COURT/
RTSQKPS
October 03, 2016
In recent months, some conservative-leaning U.S. states have taken action to curb abortion rights, the...
Washington, UNITED STATES
U.S. Supreme Court is seen in Washington
In recent months, some conservative-leaning U.S. states have taken action to curb abortion rights, the most recent being Missouri, where the state's only abortion clinic could close by the end of the week.

But any attempt to restrict or ban abortion will ultimately face a final test at the conservative U.S. Supreme Court.

This is how that process will play out:

REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
USA-ABORTION/
RTX23LU6
January 22, 2016
CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO ABORTION: There is an accelerating effort by some states and anti-abortion activists...
Washington, UNITED STATES
Pro-abortion supporters stage die-in in front of the U.S. Supreme Court during National March for Life...
CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO ABORTION: There is an accelerating effort by some states and anti-abortion activists to get the Supreme Court to reconsider its landmark 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade, holding that a woman has a constitutional right to abortion.

The high court reaffirmed Roe in a 1992 decision that said abortion restrictions cannot place an "undue burden" on the right and most recently in 2016, when the court threw out a Texas law that would have imposed difficult-to-meet requirements on abortion clinics and doctors.

The retirement last year of Justice Anthony Kennedy, who co-authored the 1992 decision and joined the 2016 one, has given conservatives a new opening to challenge Roe. Kennedy was replaced by President Donald Trump's conservative appointee Brett Kavanaugh, who has a thin record on abortion. The court has a 5-4 conservative majority.

Pictured: Pro-abortion rights supporters stage a die-in in front of the Supreme Court in Washington January 22, 2016. REUTERS/Gary Cameron
USA-COURT/ABORTION
RTX2IJ6G
June 27, 2016
RECENT COURT ACTION: The Supreme Court sent mixed messages on its approach to abortion on May 28 when...
Austin, UNITED STATES
An exam room at the Planned Parenthood South Austin Health Center is seen in Austin
RECENT COURT ACTION: The Supreme Court sent mixed messages on its approach to abortion on May 28 when it upheld an Indiana measure that requires fetal remains to be buried or cremated, but stayed out of the fight over a second provision that would have barred abortions based on foetal disability or the sex or race of the foetus.

By rejecting Indiana's attempt to reinstate the partial ban, the court indicated a reluctance to directly tackle the abortion issue, at least for now.

REUTERS/Ilana Panich-Linsman
USA/
RTR2X60Y
February 01, 2012
PENDING CASES: There are other cases pending at the high court aimed at weakening Roe v. Wade.

A case...
Indianapolis, UNITED STATES
Union members protesting the right-to-work legislation stand on the steps of the State Capitol in Indianapolis...
PENDING CASES: There are other cases pending at the high court aimed at weakening Roe v. Wade.

A case from Indiana challenges a law requiring women to undergo an ultrasound examination at least 18 hours before they undergo an abortion. It was struck down by lower courts.

A separate case concerns an Alabama law that would effectively ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

The court is also set to act later this year on a bid by Louisiana to revive restrictions on doctors who perform abortions, requiring that they have hospital admitting privileges.

Pictured: The State Capitol in Indianapolis, February 1, 2012. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes
USA-ABORTION/GEORGIA
RTX6UQYQ
May 07, 2019
OTHER STATE LAWS: Alabama's governor on May 15 signed a law that would outlaw nearly all abortions in...
Atlanta, UNITED STATES
Protesters Houston and Martin hold signs against Georgia's anti-abortion "heartbeat" bill at Georgia...
OTHER STATE LAWS: Alabama's governor on May 15 signed a law that would outlaw nearly all abortions in the state, the strictest such measure in the United States. It has already been challenged in court.

Other conservative states have passed laws that will face legal challenges. Kentucky, Ohio, Mississippi, and Georgia this year passed bills that would ban abortions when a fetal heartbeat is detected after about six weeks. In January, a federal judge struck down a similar Iowa law and Louisiana is poised to pass its own version.

Missouri's governor on May 24 signed into law a bill that would ban abortion after eight weeks.

A number of states have passed laws that ban a method of abortion used during the second trimester of pregnancy, known as dilation and evacuation.

Pictured: April Houston and Lara Martin hold signs while dressed as handmaids in protest of Georgia's anti-abortion "heartbeat" bill at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta, May 7, 2019. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
USA-ABORTION/ALABAMA
RTS2HQO4
May 15, 2019
ROAD TO SUPREME COURT: Before reaching the Supreme Court, the Alabama law would need to be challenged...
Montgomery, UNITED STATES
Pro-choice supporters protest in front of the Alabama State House as Alabama state Senate votes on the...
ROAD TO SUPREME COURT: Before reaching the Supreme Court, the Alabama law would need to be challenged in federal district court. The judge's decision would be appealed to the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (pictured). The 11th Circuit is currently split 6-6 between Republican- and Democratic-appointed judges. Trump has made three recent appointments to that court.

Both those courts are bound to follow existing Supreme Court precedent. Only after those two rulings, which could take more than a year, would an appeal reach the high court.

There is a chance that the justices could be asked to intervene at an earlier stage if one of the parties files an emergency application seeking immediate review of a lower court decision. The court could, for example, stay a lower court ruling, but would not rule on the merits of the case at that point.

Pictured: Pro-abortion rights supporters protest in front of the Alabama State House in Montgomery, Alabama, May 14, 2019. REUTERS/Chris Aluka Berry
USA-COURT/PORTRAIT
RTS28BTQ
November 30, 2018
HOW WOULD ROE BE OVERTURNED?

The Supreme Court could overturn Roe if it decides that the principle known...
Washington, UNITED STATES
U.S. Supreme Court justices pose for group portrait at the Supreme Court in Washington
HOW WOULD ROE BE OVERTURNED?

The Supreme Court could overturn Roe if it decides that the principle known as stare decisis, whereby the court traditionally stands by its older decisions, does not hold sway.

The legal doctrine protects the court's credibility by avoiding politicization and keeps the law evenhanded. However, the court can overrule its prior precedents if a majority of justices believe such action is warranted, in part because they believe the precedent had been wrongly decided.

On Monday, liberal Justice Stephen Breyer dissented when the court overturned a 1979 precedent in an unrelated case and in doing so cited the 1992 abortion ruling that upheld Roe.

"Today's decision can only cause one to wonder which cases the court will overrule next," he wrote.

REUTERS/Jim Young
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