US abortion law challenges: here’s what’s happening in Texas and Mississippi

US abortion laws are facing their greatest challenges to date from Texas and Mississippi. Here’s what you need to know about the future of women’s rights in America

The Supreme Court of the United States, photographed on Monday, May 17, 2021. The Supreme Court announced that it will hear the Mississippi US abortion law 2021 in its next session
(Image credit: Kent Nishimura/Getty)

US abortion laws are being severely challenged in 2021, which ultimately begs the question, “What will happen to Roe v. Wade?” 

Controversial stances in both Texas and Mississippi are dividing the nation and raising red flags amongst women’s rights activists. Here’s everything you need to know—and what the future possibly holds.

 US Abortion law: What is Roe. v Wade?

In 1973, the US Supreme Court ruled that states are forbidden from banning abortions before fetal viability, which is when fetuses can survive outside of the womb. This typically occurs around 23 or 24 weeks into a pregnancy, according to medical experts. 

Roe v. Wade allows women to have control of their reproductive choices with little government interference, and it has been controversial since its inception 48 years ago.

What is the new Texas abortion law?

As of September 1, 2021, a highly disputed Texas abortion law, SB8, has gone into effect barring abortions at six weeks, which is considered the tightest restriction since Roe v. Wade went into effect, according to CNN.

Additionally, private citizens will be permitted to bring civil suits against anyone who assists a pregnant person seeking an abortion and attempting to violate the ban. This all has occurred after the Supreme Court failed to block SB8. Those in favor of the law believe it’s protecting a child’s right to life, but those who are opposed believe it is threatening women’s rights.

CNN further reports that the law prohibits abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected, and at times this is before a woman knows she is pregnant. This law does not exempt rape or incest but does take “medical emergencies” into account.

Crowds of women and men holding protest signs march through the streets during the Women's March on Washington, D.C.. Prominent sign says, "Our Bodies, Our Minds, Our Power."

(Image credit: Getty)

The Mississippi abortion law 2021: What is it? 

The Mississippi abortion law, formally known as Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health, aims to make the termination of a pregnancy illegal after 15 weeks. It will fight to ensure that the procedure can only be conducted after 15 weeks in cases of medical emergencies or severe fetal abnormalities.

According to NBC News, the Mississippi law does not include any exceptions for sexual assault victims. On May 17, 2021, the US learned that the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health case later in the year. 

The Mississippi law argues that important physiological developments have been made around the 15-week mark and that undergoing an abortion after 15 weeks becomes riskier for women. The law also claims that fetuses have developed the capacity to feel pain at this time marker, per Forbes

What happened at the December 2021 Supreme Court hearing?

On December 1, 2021, the Supreme Court seemed poised to uphold the Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, according to The New York Times. Protests from both sides of the argument filled the streets of Washington, D.C.

What does this all mean for Roe v. Wade? 

Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health and SB8 could potentially make abortion's legality vary state by state rather than federally. Jen Psaki, press secretary to President Joe Biden, revealed that POTUS is “committed to codifying Roe,” earlier this year, though there is still much to be determined.

After the December 1 hearing on the Mississippi law, the six-member conservative majority seemed tossed about whether or not the ban should stop at 15 weeks or if they should overrule Roe v. Wade, which would allow states to ban abortions as they see fit, per The Times.

For updates on all things related to these US abortion laws, keep your eye on the SCOTUS blog.

Danielle Valente
Digital News Writer

Need a TV show recommendation? Maybe a few decor tips? Danielle, a digital news writer at Future, has you covered. Her work appears throughout the company’s lifestyle brands, including My Imperfect Life, Real Homes, and woman&home. Mainly, her time is spent at My Imperfect Life, where she’s attuned to the latest entertainment trends and dating advice for Gen Z.

Before her time at Future, Danielle was the editor of Time Out New York Kids, where she got to experience the best of the city from the point of view of its littlest residents. Before that, she was a news editor at Elite Daily. Her work has also appeared in Domino, Chowhound, and amNewYork, to name a few. 

When Danielle’s not writing, you can find her testing out a new recipe, reading a book (suggestions always welcome), or rearranging the furniture in her apartment…again.