Last week, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that could overturn Roe v. Wade, which would allow more than a dozen state “trigger laws” banning abortion to take effect immediately. In the case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the state of Mississippi urged the court to not only uphold its 15-week abortion ban, but it explicitly asked the court to overturn Roe—and a majority of justices seemed open to doing just that!
But according to a Morning Consult/Politico poll conducted in the days after the arguments, lots of people have no idea what’s coming. The poll found that 44 percent of registered voters surveyed said they had either heard “not much” or “nothing at all” about about the Dobbs case, and even more women than men—49 percent vs 39 percent—said they were unaware of it. While restrictions on bodily autonomy don’t only concern cisgender women (more on that in a minute), it’s worrying all the same.
Yes, more people than ever understand the stakes of this captured court, with the percentage of respondents who think the court will overturn Roe hitting a plurality of 40 percent, up from 26 percent in a 2019 poll conducted right after the The Great Six-Week Abortion Ban Spree. But that leaves about 60 percent of respondents who think the court either won’t overturn the landmark decision or simply don’t know.
Let me state it plainly: This Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade. Even if the court doesn’t formally overturn it in the Mississippi case next June, when it releases most blockbuster decisions, Roe is dead in the water and will likely go the following year with a six-week ban like the Texas law or a “trait selection ban.” Coincidentally, 2023 would be the 50th anniversary of the Roe opinion.
There were spirited protests outside the court last week, but the fact that 60 percent of voters don’t know or don’t think that the end of Roe is imminent is frankly a gift to the conservative majority that will gut the legal right to abortion and undermine other sexual privacy rights.
The most extreme conservative activists and lawmakers won’t stop with Roe, and if they get what they want—fetal personhood under the 14th Amendment—it could not only outlaw all abortions, but also imperil fertility treatments like IVF, possibly outlaw certain forms of birth control, interfere with medical treatments and end-of-life wishes, and criminalize pregnancy outcomes like miscarriage and stillbirth. If embryos have personhood, pregnant people, by extension, do not.
The end of Roe will affect far more people than those who can become pregnant. It’s part of a chain of cases enumerating personal freedoms under what’s known as the “liberty doctrine” and, as Justice Sonia Sotomayor made clear last week, these legal precedents won’t be safe either. The cases include marriage equality (Obergefell v. Hodges, 2015), same-sex sex (Lawrence v. Texas, 2003), interracial marriage (Loving v. Virginia, 1967), and even the use of birth control in any form (Griswold v. Connecticut, 1965).
If so many people don’t know what’s coming, it makes it all the more easy for a group of unelected judges with lifetime appointments—three of whom were chosen by Donald Trump—to rip the rug out from under you.