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When will the Supreme Court make a decision on the fate of Roe vs. Wade?

Abortion rights activists put up a banner in Washington, D.C.
Abortion rights activists put signs back onto barriers after they were removed by Capitol Police officers during a march to the Supreme Court on May 14, 2022, in Washington.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
1

The Supreme Court will soon announce its decision in a historic abortion case that will affect millions of Americans.

Here’s what we know about the timing of the decision.

A look at three common beliefs about the justices’ expected ruling on Roe vs. Wade.

2

When will the abortion decision be announced?

The short answer is we don’t know. The Supreme Court term usually concludes the last week of June or first week of July, so likely before then.

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In 2020, there were 930,160 abortions in the United States, an 8% increase from 2017 and the first significant rise in three decades.

3

Doesn’t the court have a schedule of when decisions will be announced?

Sort of.

The justices meet each week and review pending cases. All nine of them have to agree they are finished and have nothing further to add. Then the decision is ready to go and set to be released the next week.

But all of that happens privately.

The court usually announces “decision days” only a few days in advance. And they never say which cases will be decided on those days. So it’s a guessing game.

Many legal experts expect the abortion case will come in the term’s final week.

The Supreme Court strikes down Roe vs. Wade, the landmark ruling on abortion that has stood for nearly 50 years.

4

Why do the big cases always seem to come at the end?

The big cases are the ones that the justices care most about, and they are usually badly divided on them. If the justices are unanimous, they can turn out a single opinion in under six weeks that speaks for all of them.

But in a very big case — like Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the one deciding the fate of Roe vs. Wade — they are likely to be split. And dissenters will write extensively to explain why the majority is wrong.

The chief justice says he would like to have all the opinions done and ready to go by the end of June, but he has limited control over his independent-minded colleagues.

Knowing that such decisions and dissents will go down in history, they sometimes keep writing up to, and beyond, the deadline.

Ahead of an expected Supreme Court decision on Roe vs. Wade, medication abortions have surged — and drawn the interest of opposition groups.

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5

Any other reasons the abortion case might be among the last?

Security may be a factor, but it’s hard to say. There have already been protests outside the court and threats against justices over the abortion case.

Some speculate that releasing the decision at the end of the term could make it easier to protect the justices. That way they can leave town immediately after and don’t need to return to court.

Others think the timing won’t make a difference.

And with the precedent set during the pandemic, justices could also announce the decision remotely, rather than appear in person at the court.

Conservative statehouses are dropping rape exceptions from abortion bans as they look ahead to the Supreme Court’s expected decision in a major abortion case.

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