The Supreme Court decided on June 24, 2022 in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (597 US (2022)) to overturn the constitutional right to abortion, a seismic shift in abortion policy that makes states key battlegrounds in fights over abortion and broader reproductive rights. In this paper, we focus on the role of state supreme courts in setting state abortion policies. Using an original data set of state court decisions surrounding abortion from the past 20 years, we investigate how two overarching factors affect state supreme court decision-making on abortion. First, we track how the political environment of states affects the decisions courts make about access to abortion. Second, we consider the scope of the abortion policy considered by the courts. We find that the partisan makeup of state legislatures does not influence the direction of state supreme courts’ rulings on abortion issues, but it does affect the scope of abortion regulation being considered by the courts. Additionally, we find that elected judges tend to be more responsive to constituent preferences when ruling on abortion policies. Overall, our findings suggest the multifaceted dynamics in state supreme courts’ rulings on abortion.

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