Why Roe v. Wade Could Be Overturned by 2021

Republican lawmakers have attacked Roe v. Wade since it was decided in 1973. States began proposing and passing anti-abortion restrictions decades ago in the hopes of overturning the landmark decision. Roe still stands, despite those anti-abortion bills and organizations like March for Life constantly attacking it. But with a conservative-tilted Supreme Court and several states passing new abortion bans, Republican legislators are positioned to take Roe v. Wade down. It feels like only a matter of time until it’s overturned. And reproductive rights activist Robin Marty says it’ll happen far faster than you might think.

“Everybody’s always surprised when I say I have a date that [Roe will be overturned],” Marty says, “but it’s 2021, after the next presidential election.”

Marty, author of Handbook for a Post-Roe America, says Republicans won’t push the issue before the 2020 presidential election for fear it might affect Donald Trump’s re-election. She describes abortion as a “gimme” issue for Republicans, one they can easily use to activate their voting base. But Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans have worked tirelessly to pack courts with conservative judges during Trump’s first term. Going after Roe v. Wade will be high on the judiciary agenda once the next president is sworn in, whether it’s a Republican or a Democrat.

“It doesn’t matter who wins the Senate, who wins the House, or even who wins the White House,” Marty says. “There are at least 20 cases they’re trying [to challenge Roe]. Any one of them could lead the Supreme Court to look at Roe and determine if it was wrongly decided, and they will do that.”

Reproductive rights are under full assault and their future looks bleak. Some have argued that overturning Roe v. Wade could fracture the Republican Party without abortion opposition to unite it. But most Republicans have rallied and around Trumpism following Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination, and it’s unlikely that will change.

Still, polling consistently shows that most Americans don’t support abortion bans or overturning Roe v. Wade. And though it’s far from ideal, Marty believes once Roe is overturned, more people will awaken to the reality that women in abortion-restrictive states have faced for years.

“We can see from the outpouring of support over the last week that America is not a country that’s going to allow abortion to become completely illegal and inaccessible,” she says. “Now everybody’s on the same page, and that’s a good feeling.”