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Roe v. Wade decision and abortion rights news


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Abortion rights supporters gather for a demonstration outside the Supreme Court on Friday.
Abortion rights supporters gather for a demonstration outside the Supreme Court on Friday. (Sarah Silbiger for CNN)

Te Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade Friday, holding that there is no longer a federal constitutional right to an abortion. Going forward, abortion rights will be determined by states, unless Congress acts. 

Here are the answers to some of the most common questions about what this ruling means.

Will women get arrested for having an abortion?

An abortion-seeker’s criminal liability will depend on the abortion policies that her state put into place.

Leaders of the anti-abortion movement have said in the past that women shouldn’t be prosecuted for obtaining an abortion and that criminal laws prohibiting it should be aimed at abortion providers or others who facilitate the procedure. Several states with abortion prohibitions that could go into effect with Roe’s reversal have language exempting from prosecution the woman who obtained the abortion.

There’s also nothing to stop lawmakers from passing the laws calling for the prosecution of the people who sought the abortion.

In the event of rape or incest or even underage pregnancy, where does the law lie for these individuals?

Exemptions in abortion bans for rape, incest or the health of the mother will now vary state by state. In the wave of abortion limits that have been passed by state legislatures recently in anticipation of the Supreme Court’s ruling, only a few of the proposals included exemptions for rape and incest.

It’s a question lawmakers will likely revisit now that the opinion has been handed down. While previewing plans to call a special legislative session once the opinion is issued, Republican South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said he opposed rape or incest exemptions. On the flip side, Arkansas Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson told CNN this May that he supported adding rape and incest exemptions in the trigger law currently on the books in the state.

How are in vitro fertilizations defined? If a state defines the fertilized egg as a human with rights, then if a doctor fertilizes four eggs, but does [not] implant all four in a woman, is that homicide?

What this opinion means for fertility treatments is still uncertain. Some state laws have language that would appear to exempt the disposal of unused embryos created for IVF, but that language doesn’t necessarily exempt the process of selective reduction — when a woman whose fertility treatments lead to multiple pregnancies has one or more of those fetuses terminated to protect the viability of the other fetuses and/or the health of the mother. More broadly, fertility law experts raise concerns about how Roe’s reversal will embolden lawmakers to regulate IVF procedures — which have been largely shielded from the abortion debate because of the protections of Roe.

Why does the currently Democrat-controlled legislature not pass a federal law making abortion legal?

Democrats currently lack the votes to dismantle the Senate filibuster, a 60-vote procedural mechanism that Republicans can use to block federal abortion rights legislation — so as long as 40 senators oppose abortion rights. But it’s worth noting that the Women’s Health Protection Act — a bill that would codify and expand upon Roe — failed 49-51 when it was voted on in May in the Senate, meaning that, even without the filibuster, it would have not become law.

There are also legal questions about whether it would be constitutional for federal lawmakers to enact a nationwide ban. The late Justice Antonin Scalia stressed in his legal writings about abortion that the policy decisions belonged in the hands of individual states, while expressing skepticism that Congress has the constitutional authority to regulate the procedure.

Get more answers to common questions here.

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