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And the Supreme Court’s two very different paths.
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The Supreme Court seems all but certain to rewrite the country’s abortion laws when it rules in coming months on a case from Mississippi. But the real-world effects of that ruling will differ enormously depending on how far the justices go.
In one scenario, only a small share of abortions now being conducted in the U.S. — less than 2 percent, perhaps — would become illegal. In another scenario, the ruling could lead to sweeping changes in abortion access and a large decline in abortions.
That’s one of the takeaways from a statistical portrait of abortion in the U.S., created by my colleagues Margot Sanger-Katz, Claire Cain Miller and Quoctrung Bui.
During oral arguments at the Supreme Court this month, all six Republican-appointed justices suggested that they would uphold the Mississippi law, which bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. It is less clear whether the justices will go further, scrapping Roe v. Wade entirely and allowing states to outlaw all abortions.
Chief Justice John Roberts seemed to favor a narrower ruling that would make 15 weeks the new cutoff, down from about 23 weeks under current law. Roberts noted during oral arguments that most other countries substantially restricted abortion at 15 weeks of pregnancy or earlier, and he called that threshold “the thing that is at issue before us today.”
The Times’s portrait shows that only 4 percent of abortions happen after 15 weeks. The portrait also shows that nearly two-thirds of abortions happen in states that President Biden won last year, and few of those states would pass new laws restricting abortion even if the Supreme Court allowed them.
Together, those facts mean that a narrow ruling upholding the Mississippi law might cause less than 2 percent of current abortions to become illegal.
To be clear, a ruling like that would matter. It would repudiate decades of legal precedent. It would stop thousands of abortions that opponents find especially offensive, because they end of the lives of fetuses well into their development. It would also restrict access in ways that abortion rights advocates consider especially cruel, because thousands of mostly lower-income women would lose control of their own bodies and be forced to complete pregnancies.
Yet such a ruling would not affect the vast majority of abortions in America. Which may be why Roberts — who worries about the court’s political standing and prefers to tread cautiously on many issues — seems to find this option appealing.
The other plausible scenario is a complete repeal of Roe. In response, experts expect that more than 20 states, now accounting for about one-third of abortions, might enact near-total bans.
Some of the women in these states would travel to places where abortion remained legal, while others would receive illegal abortions. But many who previously would have ended a pregnancy could no longer do so. Abortion policies in these states would become among the most restrictive in the world.
It would represent the kind of sweeping change that only rarely happens in American life.
Which of the two scenarios is more likely? Nobody outside the Supreme Court can be sure, because discussions among the justices after oral arguments often shape rulings in unexpected ways. But many court analysts think a more sweeping ruling is probable.
The oral arguments shaped that analysis: All five Republican-appointed justices other than Roberts seemed interested in a complete repeal of Roe v. Wade. And on a nine-member court, five obviously makes a majority. Before the arguments, court watchers thought that either Amy Coney Barrett or Brett Kavanaugh might provide a fifth vote for the compromise outcome.
Adam Liptak, who covers the Supreme Court for The Times, has a habit of reminding his colleagues that court decisions are often unpredictable. That lesson seems particularly important in a case that the justices know will help define their legacies. But the chances of a fundamental change in abortion policy are not small.
Women who get abortions look similar in several major ways to the overall population of American women: Most are already mothers who have attended at least some college and have not had an abortion before. Yet there are also notable differences, including in marriage rates. See The Times’s portrait for more.
The abortion rate has declined sharply since 1980. Among the reasons: better access to birth control and less teenage sex. The restrictions in red states also likely play a role, but not as large of one.
Public opinion on abortion is more complicated than it sometimes seems, Nate Cohn of The Times writes: Many religious Democrats favor abortion restrictions, while many secular Trump voters support abortion rights.
California is reinstating an indoor mask mandate.
The Air Force dismissed 27 service members — a tiny percentage — for refusing to get vaccinated.
The Supreme Court allowed New York State’s vaccine mandate for health care workers, which doesn’t allow for religious exemptions.
The Chicago Bulls postponed two games after 10 players had to quarantine. The N.H.L. postponed three Calgary Flames games after an outbreak.
The pandemic ravaged New York City’s tourism, hospitality and retail. As a result, job growth is slower than in the rest of the U.S.
Five hours on the tarmac, half a day inside a terminal: Omicron turned a Times reporter’s flight from South Africa into a nightmare of conflicting public health orders.
A House committee recommended charging Mark Meadows for stonewalling its Jan. 6 investigation.
“He is destroying his legacy.” Three Fox News hosts texted Meadows during the Capitol riot, urging him to tell Donald Trump to try to stop it.
Senator Joe Manchin doesn’t sound like he’s on board with passing Biden’s climate and social spending bill before Christmas.
The Pentagon won’t punish the U.S. military personnel involved in an August drone strike that killed 10 civilians in Afghanistan.
The official death toll from tornadoes in Kentucky rose to 74, a number that will probably grow.
The youngest victim was a 5-month-old, the oldest was 86.
In the Southern Ocean, wilder winds are altering currents and ice is melting from below, adding to sea level rise, scientists say.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett became the first Israeli leader to make an official visit to the United Arab Emirates.
Hundreds of female gymnasts abused by Larry Nassar reached a $380 million settlement.
Influencing the influencers: Beijing paid and organized travel for foreign YouTubers to post pro-China videos.
“The Power of the Dog,” “Belfast” and “Succession” lead the 2022 Golden Globes nominations.
China overreacted to Biden’s democracy summit because it saw it as a threat, Mareike Ohlberg and Bonnie S. Glaser argue in Foreign Policy.
Want to reduce abortion? Make contraception widely accessible, Jill Filipovic writes.
Play outside, kids: Even in winter.
Olympic prodigy: Chloe Kim built a life outside of snowboarding.
Advice from Wirecutter: Doorbell cameras help even when you’re not home.
A Times classic: Can you read people’s emotions?
Lives Lived: The Rev. C. Herbert Oliver confronted a segregationist police commissioner in Birmingham, Ala., and later challenged the way New York City public schools educated Black children. He died at 96.
Critics broadly loved Steven Spielberg’s remake of “West Side Story.” Disney gave it a traditional theatrical rollout. But will people go see it?
The movie opened to an estimated $10.5 million in North American ticket sales. “A feeble result — even by pandemic standards,” Brooks Barnes writes in The Times. The disappointing figures add to Hollywood’s fears about the theatrical viability of films that are not fantasy spectacles driven by visual effects or ongoing franchises.
At a time when studios are distributing movies on streaming services, Spielberg is a holdout, even as audiences may have come to expect they can watch new releases at home or are content to wait.
It’s also possible that people no longer find the plot, about an interracial romance, as provocative. As a film consultant told The Times: “For moviegoers, context may have caught up with this film, however well made it is.”
Others were less pessimistic: Musicals often get off to a slow start at the box office, even more so when they are released in mid-December. — Claire Moses, a Morning writer
Top store-bought breads with smoked Gouda and broccoli.
Rob Dunn’s “A Natural History of the Future” reminds us that we live in a much weirder, more disorienting world than we tend to appreciate.
The latest installment of the flutist Claire Chase’s multidecade project to create music.
The hosts discussed a PowerPoint with plans to overturn the election.
The pangram from yesterday’s Spelling Bee was inhibitor. Here is today’s puzzle — or you can play online.
Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Curved bone (three letters).
If you’re in the mood to play more, find all our games here.
Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. — David
P.S. Women voted in a U.K. general election for the first time 103 years ago today. In some districts, The Times reported, they outnumbered male voters 10 to one.
Here’s today’s print front page.
“The Daily” is about the assassination of Haiti’s president. On “The Ezra Klein Show,” a discussion about what makes a meaningful life.
Claire Moses, Ian Prasad Philbrick, Ashley Wu and Sanam Yar contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The Supreme Court’s Role: The justices seem poised to rewrite the country’s abortion laws, but the real-world effects depend on their ruling in the Mississippi case.
If Roe v. Wade Is Overturned: Abortion would remain legal in more than half of states, but not in a wide swath of the Midwest and the South.
Who Gets Abortions in America?: This is a portrait of the women most affected if Roe is diminished or overturned.
The Politics Are Complicated: Despite decades of partisan fighting, Americans are not as neatly divided on abortion as politicians and activists.