Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen said that if the Supreme Court overturns the landmark decision in Roe v. Wade it could precipitate a “revolution.”
When asked by a reporter if public discussion over abortion had tempered since the 1973 ruling, Shaheen answered that outrage and potentially violence could erupt, among young people especially, in the event of a reversal.
“I hope the Supreme Court is listening to the people of the United States because – to go back to Adam Sexton’s question – I think if you want to see a revolution go ahead, outlaw Roe v. Wade and see what the response is of the public, particularly young people,” Shaheen remarked. “Because I think that will not be acceptable to young women or young men.”
The senator was referring to the high court’s upcoming review of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case originating in Mississippi that challenges a state law prohibiting abortion after 15 weeks of gestation, with some exceptions.
The proceedings, which start with opening arguments on Wednesday, are expected to address remaining ambiguity around fetal viability and whether abortion can be outlawed at an earlier stage of fetal development. In order to rule in favor of the Mississippi law, to allow an abortion ban before 23 weeks in the state, Roe v. Wade must naturally be nullified, from which point the issue will be returned to the states to decide.
In a different statement, Shaheen said: “I’ve lived the consequences of the pre-Roe era – I had friends in college who were forced to seek dangerous back alley abortions because women across the country were denied access to critical family planning services. We cannot allow Republican lawmakers to turn back the clock on women’s reproductive health and rights, which is precisely what the Mississippi case seeks to do. It is time to sound the alarm. Roe v. Wade isn’t just a decision that impacts women, their health and their financial security – it also impacts generations of families.”
Many law scholars have argued that Roe v. Wade’s outcome was built on shaky legal foundations, given that the Constitution does not explicitly enumerate a right to privacy, which critics of the ruling say the bench invented to justify legalizing abortion on a national scale. Even Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the progressive icon, acknowledged in a law review article that Roe “ventured too far in the change it ordered and presented an incomplete justification for its action.”
In anticipation of a potential ruling reversal, Democrats in Congress have acted preemptively, with the party passing a bill in the House with its razor-thin majority in September to codify Roe in advance of the Supreme Court hearing of Dobbs.