Federal judge suggests 13th Amendment could protect abortion

Supporters against abortion are seen during the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., on Friday, January 20, 2023. This is the first march since the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade.

(NewsNation) — A federal judge has suggested abortion could still be protected despite the Supreme Court decision that reversed Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that guaranteed the right to an abortion.

The decision in Roe v. Wade was based on the 14th Amendment’s assumed right to privacy, but in Dobbs v. Jackson, the sitting Supreme Court ruled the Constitution does not explicitly protect abortion.

Since the Dobbs decision, 12 states have issued near-total bans on abortion. Four other states have issued bans based on gestational age, while three others have attempted to pass such bans but are currently being blocked by lower courts.

Other states are working on laws to ban or severely limit abortion, but have not yet passed them.

In a Washington, D.C. criminal case against an anti-abortion group charged with blocking clinic access, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly suggested the court’s decision only referred to the 14th Amendment, and other amendments could protect the right to an abortion.

Her request could pave the way for challenges citing the 13th Amendment, which outlaws slavery. Kollar-Kotelly asked attorneys to prepare briefs on the question by early March.

Pro-abortion activists have argued the 13th Amendment protects bodily autonomy and reproductive health rights, since the removal of those things were part of the practice of slavery. They argue that because of this, abortion is protected as a right.

If she rules that the 13th Amendment does protect the right to have an abortion, the decision is likely to be appealed and sent to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Reproductive rights activists have also filed challenges to abortion bans using the First Amendment. Several Jewish groups and a Satanic Temple in Massachusetts have filed lawsuits arguing the right to an abortion is protected under freedom of religion.


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