With support from the University of Richmond

History News Network

History News Network puts current events into historical perspective. Subscribe to our newsletter for new perspectives on the ways history continues to resonate in the present. Explore our archive of thousands of original op-eds and curated stories from around the web. Join us to learn more about the past, now.

The fight to end Roe v. Wade enters its endgame next week. Here's the History Behind It.

The constitutional right to an abortion is almost certainly coming to an end — the only question is how long the Supreme Court’s new majority will take to kill it off. It’s not likely to be very long. On Monday, the Supreme Court will meet to decide whether to hear a case that could leave little, if any, of this right standing.

For years, Justice Anthony Kennedy held the balance on a Supreme Court divided between four staunch opponents of this right and four supporters.

His replacement, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, looks ready to change that. Just months after joining the Court, Kavanaugh wrote an opinion seeking to shrink abortion rights.

Nor is Chief Justice John Roberts, the closest thing this Court has to a swing vote, likely to vote in favor of abortion rights out of respect for precedent. In 2007’s Gonzales v. Carhart, decided less than two years after Roberts joined the Supreme Court, Roberts voted to uphold a ban on so-called “partial birth abortions” that was very similar to a law the Supreme Court struck down just seven years earlier. The salient difference between Gonzales and the earlier case, Stenberg v. Carhart, wasn’t any difference between the two laws. It was the fact that the Court’s personnel had changed, and the new majority with Roberts as chief justice was far less protective of the right to an abortion.

Litigators on both sides of the abortion debate, in other words, are now experiencing deja vu — except that the Court’s current majority is even more hostile to abortion rights than the one that decided Gonzales. The salient question today is not if the Supreme Court will gut what remains of its pro-abortion decision in Roe v. Wade. It is almost definitely when.

The decision undercutting abortion rights could come as soon as next week, though it is more likely that the Court will wait until next June, when they typically hand down their highest-profile decisions, to come for Roe. But make no mistake, when the justices meet Monday for their first conference of the next term, the continued vitality of the abortion right is very much on the line.

Read entire article at Vox