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Conservative activists plan to overturn Roe v. Wade with state abortion bans



The Supreme Court’s precedent in Roe v. Wade makes state bans against abortion unenforceable and unconstitutional, but conservative activists and lawmakers hope to use the bans as a strategy to overturn the 1973 ruling.

Anti-abortion activists have been pushing restrictive state laws for years in hopes of forcing the Supreme Court to ban the procedure nationwide.

But the effort overturn to Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in 1973, has gained force in recent months, with a law passed in Georgia banning abortion after a heartbeat is detected, and Alabama’s new law banning nearly all abortions, even in cases of rape and/or incest.

Heartbeat bills, which seek to ban abortions at the time when a fetus’s heartbeat can be detected, were first introduced in Ohio in 2011.

The organization Faith2Action, which describes itself as a “pro-active launching pad for the pro-family movement,” backed the bill, and though it did not get signed into law, it inspired anti-abortion legislators in dozens of states to start floating their own heartbeat bills.

Advocacy groups including Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union are filing legal challenges against the latest abortion laws, and in the past bills have have been struck down by state and federal judges — but that may be the point.

Anti-abortion activists hope the challenged bills will be picked up by the Supreme Court.

When the bills are challenged legally, they have a chance to be picked up by the Supreme Court. Once there, the justices would have to determine whether to uphold Roe v. Wade, or set a new precedent.

Carrie Flaxman, Planned Parenthood’s deputy director of public policy litigation and law, told The Hill that the state bills and laws are targeted at conservative justices on the Supreme Court.

“With Justice [Brett] Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, there is a grave threat to abortion rights. That’s what these bills are targeted at. The sponsors of these bills are doing this, and states are doing this, because they hope that the court will overturn Roe,” she said.

The Supreme Court does not often overturn major precedents, though it does happen. Earlier this week, the conservative majority overturned a 1979 ruling that allowed individuals to sue a sovereign state in another state’s courts.

Read more: A wave of extreme new abortion bans is part of a larger Republican coordinated attack on Roe v. Wade

Justice Stephen Breyer raised concern in his dissent on the ruling over what’s to come on the Supreme Court.

“Today’s decision can only cause one to wonder which cases the court will overrule next,” Breyer wrote, in what many viewed as a reference to Roe v. Wade.

But even some anti-abortion activists are weary of what’s to come with the Supreme Court.

Steven Aden, chief legal officer and general counsel for the national anti-abortion group Americans United for Life, told CNN that heartbeat bills have a tough journey to the Supreme Court.

He said the bills “were designed as a vehicle to challenge Roe in the Supreme Court. “But they won’t get to the Supreme Court unless you can convince four members of the court that a fifth member would go with them to uphold the heartbeat bill,” he said.

Anti-abortion activists see this as a “favorable time” to push conservative-leaning legislation.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the anti-abortion nonprofit Susan B. Anthony List, said in a statement about Alabama’s new law that “American people want a fresh debate” on Roe v. Wade.

“Across the nation there is growing momentum, informed by science and compassion, and spurred on in reaction to abortion extremism in New York and Virginia, to recognize the humanity of the unborn child in the law. It is clearer than ever that Roe is far from being settled law in the eyes and hearts of the American people, and this is increasingly reflected in state legislatures,” she said.

A spokeswoman for Ohio Right to Life told CNN that it is now a “favorable time” to push conservative-leaning legislation.

“The Supreme Court, as I’m sure you know, is tilting more originalist and conservative,” spokeswoman Jamieson Gordon said. “We see this as a favorable time to push legislation that might eventually make it to the Supreme Court, as the ultimate goal is to get Roe v. Wade overturned.”

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