If the Supreme Court reverses its long-standing abortion precedent later this year and lets states ban abortions within their borders, it will unleash a new legal and legislative fight over how far anti-abortion lawmakers can reach to target conduct that happens outside their state lines.
A draft majority opinion published by Politico on Monday suggested the court’s majority was on the cusp of overturning 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. The opinion is not final, and it is possible the vote count will change before a formal opinion is later rolled out, likely by the end of June. In it, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that the “authority to regulate abortion must be returned to the people and their elected representatives.”
At the case’s December hearing, the conservative justices who appeared inclined to join Alito framed a post-Roe landscape as one where states can choose the contours of their abortion policies for themselves.
But legal experts say the reality, if Roe is reversed, will not be that simple.
Already, lawmakers in both red and blue states are beginning to draw new battles lines in expectation of a patchwork system where abortion rights are no longer protected nationwide.
Legislation introduced this year in Missouri is an extreme example of how anti-abortion lawmakers are looking to crack down on abortions that happen beyond their states’ borders.
One measure sought to allow private citizens to sue anyone who helps a Missouri resident obtain an abortion out of state, while also targeting efforts to provide medication abortion to residents. Another bill would apply Missouri’s abortion laws to abortions obtained out of state by Missouri residents and in other circumstances, including in cases where “sexual intercourse occurred within this state and the child may have been conceived by that act of intercourse.”
That bill has seen no movement in the legislature, while lawmakers did an end run around the other legislation when it was brought up on the state House floor last month.