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U.S. Supreme Court decision could fuel abortion debate in Delaware

Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media

The U.S. Supreme Court kicked the debate over Texas’ abortion law back down to lower courts.

Abortion rights have been the focus of the U.S. Supreme Court, as Justices consider a new Mississippi law banning abortion at 15 weeks.

Justices also just ruled on another controversial law from Texas, banning abortion after six weeks, often before a women even knows she’s pregnant. The court decided to allow that law to remain in place, but gave clinics the right to sue the state in lower courts.

In a statement on the ruling, Planned Parenthood of Delaware Public affairs manager Matt Bittle says “The law hurts many people across Texas, especially those in traditionally marginalized communities. Individuals of means can still travel to other states to obtain abortions, but those without such advantages will be driven to seek illegal and possibly dangerous abortions. This measure from supposedly “pro-life” politicians will ensure some people are unable to escape poverty.”

Widener Delaware Law School professor John Culhane says the decision was really meant to prolong the fight in Texas while the court decides the fate of Roe V. Wade in the Mississippi case.

“The more this case gets kicked around, the likelier it is that abortion will never resume in Texas — because the court is likely to either compromise seriously or take away that right completely,” Culhane said.

Removing federal protections leaves that decision to the states. Delaware codified a women’s right to choose back in 2017 to protect against any change at the federal level.

But Culhane expects the fate of abortion rights fuel strong debate heading into the midterm elections.

“A majority of the country favors abortion rights, at least in some context,” he said. “So the vocal minority has had the whip hand on this issue for a long time but we may start to see that change.”

Culhane says the debate motivated conservatives looking to appoint judges who would overturn Roe V. Wade. As that outcome appears more likely, he says the scales may shift toward those in favor of abortion rights.

Despite codifying Roe v. Wade in Delaware, pro-choice activists here still face battles.

The city of Seaford is revisiting a proposed ordinance requiring the burial or cremation of a fetus after an abortion, and placing the cost on the abortion provider or the woman. Women's rights groups plan to protest the city council meeting Tuesday night.

Roman Battaglia is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.