After the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade’s federal abortion protections, Rice University experts are available to discuss what comes next.
Paul Brace, the Clarence L. Carter Professor of Political Science at Rice and an expert on the judiciary, said many who follow the Supreme Court closely believed former President Donald Trump’s addition of three staunch conservatives to the court rendered such an opinion a fait accompli months ago.
“In overturning the Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood decisions, the Supreme Court has allowed states to pursue bans and other restrictions on pre-viability abortion,” said Brace.
“That said, the ruling itself will not have the effect of banning abortion nationwide,” he continued. “According to the logic expressed in the court’s decision, the question of abortion policy will now go to state and local lawmakers — and potentially federal lawmakers as well. States, and perhaps Congress, will now be free to enact abortion restrictions or prohibitions.”
Mark Jones, a professor of political science at Rice, fellow at the Baker Institute for Public Policy and expert on Texas politics, said public opinion in the Lone Star State is rather evenly split when it comes to abortion. Under trigger law legislation passed by the Texas Legislature in 2021, now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned, abortions in Texas will become illegal in 30 days, except if the mother’s life or health is in grave danger, Jones said.
“An outright ban on abortion of this type is opposed by a majority of Texans, but so too was the Roe v. Wade status quo under which abortion was legal through 24 weeks of pregnancy,” he said.
Jones said recent polling conducted by the University of Houston and Texas Southern University indicates the average Texan would prefer abortion be legal through 15 weeks. But given the current polarization on abortion and many other issues in the state and nation, he said middle-of-the-road reform is not politically viable.
“How the decision affects the 2022 election will depend in part on whether Democrats or Republicans will be able to better utilize the decision to turn out their voters,” he said. “On one hand, Democrats will have the easier task, since they can point to a right that has been taken away. On the other hand, Democrats have to avoid turning the election into a referendum on abortion, since swing voters in Texas — those in the pivotal middle — may support abortion rights, but they do so grudgingly, since they consider abortion to be a tragedy and not something to be celebrated. As Wendy Davis learned in 2014 when she lost to Greg Abbott by 20 percentage points in the gubernatorial contest, a steadfast pro-choice position is contrary to the preferences of a majority of Texas voters.”
Lora Wildenthal, the John Antony Weir Professor of History is a faculty affiliate in the Center for the Study of Women, Gender and Sexuality. She is a historian of women, gender and feminism, primarily in the context of Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as human rights.
“From a human rights perspective, any readiness to coerce pregnant people is worrisome,” she said. “The current moment reflects the deep problems we have with the disempowerment of people with the capacity to become pregnant. Nothing in recent legislation restricting access to care and freedom of speech around sex education, sexuality and abortion reflects sound public policy, majority opinion in our country, health care realities or the most pressing problems of everyday people.”
Wildenthal said when it comes to people’s lives and the power relationships under which they live, isolation and reducing options for pregnant women and girls is not the way forward.
“People still need abortion care, regardless of legislative and judicial changes,” she said. “The American people see the current laws and legislative proposals, as well as the overturning of Roe v. Wade, as the vengeful, damaging and disempowering strategy that it is. It is not any good-faith effort to find a just solution to a complex issue.”
Helena Michie, the Agnes Cullen Arnold Professor in Humanities and director of Rice’s Center for Women, Gender and Sexuality, is also available to comment on the court’s decision. Michie, a scholar who teaches courses in feminist theory, can speak to the uniqueness of the court rescinding a right, allegations of hypocrisy and gynophobia toward the anti-abortion movement, the connection between Roe v. Wade and other decisions such as Obergefell (which legalized same-sex marriage), and what the return to a pre-Roe world would entail.
Brace can be contacted directly for interviews at 832-628-5285. Jones is available at 832-466-6535. Michie can be contacted at 713-253-7566 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. To set up an interview with Wildenthal, call Schaefer Edwards at 713-348-6769.