For millions of Americans, President Trump’s second Supreme Court nomination is about reproductive rights. Trump campaigned on a promise to appoint justices who would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case affirming a woman’s constitutional right to end a pregnancy. But Roe doesn’t have to be explicitly overturned for millions of women to lose access to abortion.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, a conservative justice who announced his retirement in June, often offered a liberal swing vote on social issues, including abortion rights. But a new, more solidly conservative majority could shift that balance.
And state legislators can keep passing laws that incrementally curb reproductive rights, hoping to trigger a Supreme Court fight in front of a more sympathetic majority on the bench.
It’s already difficult for women across the U.S. to exercise the right that Roe guarantees — there are currently hundreds of state laws restricting abortion. Some add burdens like pre-abortion counseling and waiting periods (which can require women to travel long distances to clinics twice, or pay to stay overnight) or mandate strict licensing rules for clinics; others place bans on abortion starting much earlier in pregnancy than the standard established by Roe.
These types regulations have already forced many clinics to close: six states currently have just one abortion clinic left.
Cases related to existing laws are working their way through the court system across the country.
VICE News examined three that could result in pivotal decisions for reproductive rights.
This segment originally aired July 9, 2018 on VICE News Tonight on HBO.