Amy Coney Barrett's expected nomination means a more conservative Supreme Court is primed to weaken or nix Roe v. Wade. Here are 18 abortion cases in the pipeline to the high court.
It's the worst-case scenario that reproductive rights groups have feared for years: A solidly conservative Supreme Court that could chip away at, or knock down the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
The Supreme Court will almost certainly turn more conservative once the Republican-controlled Senate confirms Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Donald Trump's pick to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who died on September 18.
The 48-year-old Barrett has a record of opposing abortion rights and her confirmation could shift the ideological balance of the Supreme Court for decades.
"There is no question that the risk of Roe being overturned is probably the highest it's been in 25 years," said Helene Krasnoff, vice president of public policy litigation for Planned Parenthood.
Insider reviewed 18 abortion cases that both sides of the abortion debate are watching closely as the fight for the future of the Supreme Court kicks into high gear.
Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Roe v. Wade could soon be history.
Much of it anyway, as Republicans eye the real possibility of a 6-3 conservative majority Supreme Court that could rule in their favor in a myriad of anti-abortion cases making their way through the lower courts.
Roe, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide, is facing its biggest threat in decades following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She's about to be replaced by Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Donald Trump's conservative pick.
Trump on Saturday is slated to announce Barrett's nomination. The 48-year old has a judicial record against abortion and can almost be guaranteed a Senate confirmation — possibly before Election Day — that would allow Republicans to solidify the high court's conservative bent.
It's the worst possible outcome for reproductive rights groups that are already panicking about the near certainty that safe abortions could become harder to access for millions, especially poor women.
"There is no question that the risk of Roe being overturned is probably the highest it's been in 25 years," said Helene Krasnoff, vice president of public policy litigation for the reproductive health organization Planned Parenthood.
A 'turning point' for the anti-abortion movement
More than a dozen cases, many filed by conservative states, could soon reach the conservative Supreme Court.
If the options go the way of Republicans they could chip away at abortion's legality, including by blocking Planned Parenthood from getting government healthcare funds, limiting how far into pregnancy abortions can be done, the kinds of surgical methods doctors can use, or placing restrictive rules on abortion providers. Others ban abortions on the basis of fetal race, sex, or disability.
These are all goals that have been sought by conservatives for years but became a real possibility once Trump became president and more so now that he's poised to make his third lifetime appointment to the high court, after picking Neil Gorsuch in 2017 and Brett Kavanaugh in 2018.
It's a "turning point" for the anti-abortion movement, Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List said of Trump's chance to add a sixth conservative to the court. The organization wields a great deal of influence on Trump and his administration.
Since Trump took the White House, hailed by conservatives as the "most pro-life president" in US history, several red states, including Georgia, Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri, and Mississippi have passed abortion restrictions that are now tied up in legal challenges.
The Supreme Court only takes up a small subset of requests to hear cases. But right now, many of the legal challenges to abortion laws across the country could reach the high court for a final verdict or cause the justices to look more broadly at Roe. If the Supreme Court were to overturn Roe, states would have to decide whether to keep abortion legal within their borders.
Reproductive rights groups have been sounding the alarm for years as several red states have regulated abortion clinics out of business. Even if the Supreme Court doesn't overturn Roe, it can still place strict limits on abortions.
"The court doesn't have to overrule Roe to make abortion inaccessible," said Noel Leon, an attorney at the National Women's Law Center.
The Supreme Court is already considering a handful of abortion cases, and others aren't that far off from reaching the high court. Insider reviewed 18 cases being closely watched by both sides of the abortion debate, as the fight for the future of the highest court heats up. Three of those cases are close to going before the Supreme Court, which requires the consent of four justices for a case to land on the docket.
Read more: Democrats just passed a House bill to bolster Obamacare and lower drug prices as they aim to defeat Trump. Here are the 6 key things you need to know about the bill.
Blocking telemedicine abortions
Case: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists v. Food and Drug Administration
What it's about: The Trump administration wants the Supreme Court to block a ruling by a federal district court in Maryland that allows doctors to meet with patients over the phone or video conference to prescribe abortion pills that can be delivered by mail. Remote abortions are allowed during the coronavirus pandemic as many patients remain at home to reduce their risk of getting the disease.
Where it stands: A district judge temporarily blocked the Food and Drug Administration from requiring healthcare providers to see patients in person to prescribe abortion pills. Doctor groups filed a lawsuit for the court to block the FDA's move that would require that abortion drugs be offered only under the supervision of a certified healthcare provider in a hospital or clinic and after a patient certifies that she's been counseled about the risks of the drug being prescribed.
Timeline: The Supreme Court could hand down a decision any time now.
15-week abortion ban
Case:Jackson Whole Woman's Health Organization v. Thomas Dobbs
What it's about: The case, brought by an abortion clinic and its patients, challenges a Mississippi law that would have imposed a ban beginning in 2018 on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Roe allows the procedure up to the point of fetal viability, which doctors place at about 24 weeks into a pregnancy.
Where it stands: The law was blocked by the lower courts early this year, and the state appealed the case to the Supreme Court.
Timeline: Supreme Court justices were all set to meet about the case on September 29, but they took it off the calendar just a week earlier — a few days after Ginsburg's death. It's unclear how soon they could meet about whether to take up the case.
Kicking Planned Parenthood off Medicaid
Case: Baker v. Planned Parenthood South Atlantic
What it's about: Through a 2018 executive order, South Carolina's Republican Gov. Henry McMaster tried to block Planned Parenthood from getting money from Medicaid, the program that offers government-funded health insurance to the poor. Planned Parenthood and a patient sued, arguing that Medicaid allows patients to get healthcare from any provider willing to offer the procedure.
Where it stands: A federal district judge and the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals based in Richmond, Virginia, blocked the move from taking effect.
Timeline: The Supreme court justices are scheduled to meet about the case on October 9. They're specifically being asked to consider whether patients can sue against those kinds of regulations.
Read more: Leaked internal memos reveal the Democratic plan to use the battle over RGB's replacement to Joe Biden's advantage