Amy Coney Barrett Could Rule On Multiple Abortion Cases if Appointed to the Supreme Court

Heartbeat bills, regulations on medication abortion and bans on dilation and evacuation.

These are just some of the reproductive health issues making their way to the Supreme Court, where Judge Amy Coney Barrett—who was nominated by President Donald Trump to fill the seat vacated by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg—could soon be the deciding vote.

Barrett's expected confirmation on Monday will move the bench to a 6-to-3 conservative majority, stoking concern about the future of the landmark abortion decision Roe v. Wade.

In two abortion-related cases she heard as a judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, she ruled that the law does allow restrictions on the procedure. In 2006, when she was a law professor at Notre Dame, she signed a newspaper ad that criticized Roe v. Wade as "barbaric."

Barrett said she had "no recollection" of the advertisement and stressed she had nothing to hide during a hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month. But she largely dodged questions from lawmakers on abortion, declining to answer whether Roe v. Wade was correctly decided or settled law.

If she is confirmed as an associate justice, her position on the issue will likely become more clear. There are 17 cases dealing with reproductive health that are just one step away from the Supreme Court, according to a tally from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

"I think that Roe is at the greatest risk in a generation of being overturned," Helene Krasnoff, the vice president of public policy litigation and law at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told Newsweek. "But regardless, the court could use any one of these cases to cut back on access to abortion."

Krasnoff added an important footnote to her comments.

"The court doesn't need to overrule Roe in order to render the right meaningless for so many people," she said.

One of the most-watched cases for advocates on both sides of the issue is Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, as it could be the first abortion case taken up by the Supreme Court after Election Day.

The case addresses the constitutionality of a Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy except in cases of medical emergencies or severe fetal abnormalities. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals both struck the law down as unconstitutional, but the state has petitioned the Supreme Court to review the case.

Other cases dealing directly with abortion bans that are making their way through the federal courts include challenges to Tennessee and Georgia's so-called "heartbeat bills" that ban abortion as early as six weeks into pregnancy, a Missouri law that bans the procedure eight weeks into pregnancy, North Carolina's 20-week ban and Arkansas's 18-week ban.

A majority of the 17 cases that could make it to the Supreme Court deal directly with the regulation of abortion methods and procedures.

One such lawsuit, the Food and Drug Administration v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, was recently punted by the Supreme Court and temporarily pushed down to the lower courts. But the case could very well make its way back to the Supreme Court for review.

The case concerns whether an abortion medication needs to be distributed only in-person by a health care provider, even during a global health pandemic. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists sued the FDA over its long-standing requirement that mifepristone, an abortion-inducing pill, be dispensed by a doctor in-person. The college argued that the in-person requirement was medically unnecessary and placed patients and staff at risk amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

A federal court agreed with the health organization in July, but the Trump administration appealed. The emergency appeal made it to the Supreme Court, which refused for now to reimpose FDA regulations.

Steven Aden, the chief legal officer and general counsel at the anti-abortion law firm and advocacy group Americans United for Life, told Newsweek it was a "disappointment to many of us" that the Supreme Court denied to issue an emergency order.

"That's one case where a new justice like Judge Barrett could make a significant difference," Aden said.

Americans United for Life was the first national pro-life group to publicly call for Barrett's nomination following the death of Justice Ginsburg. Aden said they're "expectant about Justice Barrett and we hope that the court will begin to clarify and strengthen rights for pre-born persons going forward."

pro-life, pro-choice advocates Supreme Court
In this file photo, pro-choice and pro-life activists demonstrate in front of the U.S. Supreme Court during the 47th annual March for Life on January 24, 2020 in Washington, D.C. The debate over the future of Roe v. Wade has intensified due to the Supreme Court nomination of Amy Coney Barrett, the third conservative judge selected by President Donald Trump to sit on the bench.Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images

Another key case that could wind up before the Supreme Court is Whole Woman's Health v. Paxton. The lawsuit is a challenge to a Texas law that bans the use of the dilation and evacuation abortion procedure, which is the most common abortion procedure used in the second trimester of pregnancy. Just last week, a federal appeals court blocked the Texas ban, but an appeal is expected.

"That's significant because it's an effort to build on last big win for abortion opponents in the Supreme Court," Mary Ziegler, a professor at Florida State University College of Law and author of the book Abortion And The Law In America: Roe v. Wade To The Present, told Newsweek.

Ziegler was referring to Gonzalez vs. Carhart, a case that was decided in 2007 and allowed the banning of a single abortion procedure based on scientific uncertainty about the need for the procedure.

Other significant abortion cases that could come before the nation's highest court include a challenge to Kentucky laws that requires abortion providers to maintain written transfer agreements with a local hospital and a transport agreement with ambulance services; a challenge to an Ohio law banning abortions if a provider is aware that a diagnosis of Down syndrome, or the possibility of a diagnosis, is influencing the decision the reason for seeking abortion services; and a lawsuit against a series of Arkansas laws that ban dilation and evacuation abortions, force providers to involve family members in deciding how to dispose of fetal remains and and require doctors to obtain records to ensure terminations aren't influenced by sex selection.

But experts say it's important to note that any case that makes its way to the Supreme Court provides an opportunity for the justices to weigh in on the constitutional right of abortion.

"Any time the Supreme Court deals with an abortion case, there will be a brief asking them to overturn Roe, and they will have the opportunity to overturn Roe," Ziegler told Newsweek.