The Supreme Court on Friday (6-24-22) overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion
by Brittany Bernstein, National Review, June 24, 2022
The Supreme Court on Friday overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion, allowing a Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks to take effect.
“The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion; Roe and Casey are overruled; and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the 6-3 majority.
Justice Alito was joined in upholding the Mississippi law by Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, Clarence Thomas, and Chief Justice John Roberts. Roberts split from the 5-4 majority on overturning Roe, writing in a concurring opinion that he would have taken a “more measured course” stopping short of overturning Roe altogether, but agreed that the Mississippi abortion ban should stand.
The Court’s liberal Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor dissented.
“Whatever the exact scope of the coming laws, one result of today’s decision is certain: the curtailment of women’s rights, and of their status as free and equal citizens,” the dissent states.
The ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization means each state will now be able to determine its own regulations on abortion, including whether and when to prohibit abortion.
Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) hailed the ruling in a statement on Friday.
“The court has corrected a terrible legal and moral error, like when Brown v. Board overruled Plessy v. Fersguson,” McConnell said. “Millions of Americans have spent half a century praying, marching, and working toward today’s historic victories for the rule of law and innocent life.”
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House speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) slammed the decision, saying Democrats would attempt to codify the right to an abortion in law.
“A woman’s fundamental health decisions are her own to make, in consultation with her doctor and her loved ones—not to be dictated by far-right politicians,” Pelosi said in a statement. “While Republicans seek to punish and control women, Democrats will keep fighting ferociously to enshrine Roe v. Wade into law.”
Pelosi told reporters at a press conference that women now “have less freedom than their mothers” following the ruling. The speaker later added that “in the Congress, be aware of this, the Republicans are plotting a nationwide abortion ban. They cannot be allowed to have a majority in the Congress.”
Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) wrote on Twitter that “Today is one of the darkest days our country has ever seen” in response to the ruling.
The decision overturns both Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 case which created the “undue burden” standard — the modern test for abortion restrictions that says the court will invalidate state laws that had “the purpose or effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus.”
Dobbs asked whether all pre-viability restrictions on abortion are unconstitutional. Existing precedent prevented states from banning abortions before fetal viability, which is typically around 22 weeks or later.
Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the last remaining abortion clinic in Mississippi, sued the state to stop the 15-week ban from taking effect.
Mississippi asked the justices to review the viability standard, arguing that the rule prevents states from defending maternal health and its interest in protecting life.
The Mississippi law, which was passed in 2018, was blocked by the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“In an unbroken line dating to Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s abortion cases have established (and affirmed and re-affirmed) a woman’s right to choose an abortion before viability,” a panel of judges on the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in December 2019.
“States may regulate abortion procedures prior to viability so long as they do not ban abortions,” the court wrote, arguing that “the law at issue is a ban.”
Both blue and red states had been preparing for the potential that the Court could overturn Roe. Twenty-three states have passed laws to restrict abortion access, including Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Wyoming, according to NC Policy Watch.
Meanwhile, 16 states have laws that aim to preserve access to abortion, including Colorado, Maryland, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington, according to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute.