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The overturning of Roe v. Wade has led to attacks on abortion rights in multiple states as trigger bans have gone into effect. Anna Rose Layden/Getty Images
  • It’s been 51 years since Roe v. Wade, but the 2022 reversal has ignited a series of attacks on abortion rights.
  • On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court ruled that every person in the U.S. has the right to get an abortion.
  • The Court’s decision to overturn this ruling unleashed trigger abortion bans in multiple states across the country, impacting the health and safety of millions.

It’s been 51 years since Roe V. Wade became the law of the land.

On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court ruled that every person has the right to get an abortion — a decision that has since been overturned decades later in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in June 2022.

Though abortion has long been a heated and controversial topic in the United States, the 2022 ruling kicked off a series of legal restrictions on abortion rights in many states.

The physical and mental health effects of abortion bans have had a ripple effect across the country.

Following the Dobbs decision, a new survey of 718,753 participants shows that residents of states with trigger abortion bans experienced a significant increase in anxiety and depression symptoms compared to residents of states without such bans.

Below, we spotlight three abortion issues that reproductive health experts are keeping an eye on in 2024.

In 2021, Texas banned nearly all abortions in a sweeping law named the Texas Heartbeat Act.

As the name suggests, the ban prohibits and criminalizes abortions performed if a “heartbeat” can be detected.

Since the ban was enacted, medical professionals have been in the dark about when, exactly, providing an abortion is legal and what constitutes a medical exemption, if, for example, the mother’s life is in danger.

“Not only is the law unclear, but Texas officials have been zealous in threatening prosecution under the state’s abortion laws, and the courts have provided no real guidance, either,” says Jessie Hill, JD, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University who specializes in reproductive rights.

This confusion has reportedly led to some providers to avoid performing potentially life-saving abortions on people with and risky pregnancies out of fear they could be penalized or lose their medical licenses.

This can leave “patients at risk of losing their ability to have children in the future or suffering other even more serious health outcomes if they are required by law to carry the fetus to term,” says Alison Gash, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Oregon specializing in reproductive health.

As a result, lawmakers petitioned the Texas Medical Board to get more clarity on the state’s anti-abortion law.

The hope is that the board could outline specific conditions that would and would not meet the law’s requirements, says Hill.

Meanwhile, there is a larger case, Zurawski v. Texas, that aims to clarify what “medical emergency” exceptions are permitted.

Several women in Texas who were denied abortions, even when medically warranted, experienced risks to their health, life, and fertility, according to the case.

According to Hill, the Texas Supreme Court will decide whether the law permits the state of Texas to punish doctors who provide abortions via their good-faith understanding of the law and the patient’s health situation.

“Personally, I’m not betting that they will rule for the physicians; they have given every indication of an intent to be as abortion-restrictive as possible,” Hill said.

In Florida, abortion rights groups have collected enough signatures to get abortion on the 2024 ballot.

The measure seeks to add an amendment to the state constitution that would prevent restrictions on abortion before fetal viability, which is around the 24th week of pregnancy.

According to Gash, opponents of the ballot measure argue that the term “viability” introduces too much ambiguity into abortion regulation.

“Scientifically, viability can be a moving target,” she said.

If passed, the amendment would bar the state’s current 15-week ban and recently-passed six-week ban. The six-week ban is currently blocked by the courts.

Still, there are hoops to jump through before the measure can appear on the November ballot.

“The Florida Supreme Court is weighing in to determine whether the ballot’s language must be changed or whether having any ballot supporting reproductive choice is, illegitimately, in conflict with existing state law,” says Gash.

If it does make it to the ballot, it’ll need at least 60% of the votes to pass, according to Hill.

“This will be a real test of how popular abortion rights are in Florida,” says Hill. “In many states, these measures have passed with just shy of 60%.”

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments regarding the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of mifepristone, one of the pills used in medication abortions.

In 2023, an appellate ruling introduced new restrictions against mifepristone: It can no longer be mailed to pregnant people, even in states where it is legal, and people can only take it through seven weeks of pregnancy, rather than the previously-permitted length of 10 weeks.

The ruling has not yet gone into effect, due to a previous stay issued by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The arguments in the case are set to take place this spring.

In April, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments for a case from Idaho regarding the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), a federal law that requires hospitals receiving Medicare funds to provide stabilizing care to patients with medical emergencies, regardless of whether or not they can pay.

In July 2022, the Biden Administration issued a memo stating that abortion falls under this type of required care.

The Justice Department sued Idaho in August 2022, claiming the state’s near-total abortion ban, the Defense of Life Act, violates EMTALA.

While there is an exception that permits abortions if it saves the mother’s life, physicians, including emergency room doctors, who perform an abortion in certain urgent medical situations could face jail time, heavy fines, or the suspension of their medical license.

The future of EMTALA and its impact on abortion access rests on court interpretations of the legality of the memo and whether Biden wins in 2024, Gash said.

“This case is about whether EMTALA trumps a state’s abortion ban in cases where an abortion is required to stabilize a patient but, because of the narrowness of the state’s emergency exception — in this case, Idaho’s — the abortion would be illegal under state law,” says Hill.

Though abortion has long been a heated and controversial topic in the United States, the 2022 ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade kicked off a series of legal restrictions on abortion rights in many states. We looked at the state of abortion rights in the U.S. today.