The Supreme Court on Friday overruled the controversial 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling creating a constitutional right to an abortion, sending the issue back to the states to regulate.
In a 6-3 decision, the court upheld a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, that the Constitution does not enshrine a right to an abortion, and that the issue correctly belongs with the states.
“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 in the majority opinion of the court.
The vote was 5-4 to overturn Roe, with Chief Justice John Roberts writing separately to say he would have upheld the Mississippi law but not taken the additional step of erasing the Roe precedent altogether.
A draft opinion in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was leaked in May, setting off a wave of condemnation from Democrats and other liberals decrying the possibility that Roe would be overturned.
Protests outside the court in Washington and at the suburban homes of some of the justices followed, and a California man was arrested and charged with attempted murder after he was found outside the Maryland residence of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and his family armed with a gun, burglary tools, zip ties, and pepper spray.
The outcry apparently did little to change the minds of the six justices — Alito, Kavanaugh, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Amy Coney Barrett, and Chief Justice John Roberts, who agreed or concurred on Dobbs.
Liberal justices Elena Kagan, Sonya Sotomayor, and Stephen Breyer dissented.
“Guided by the history and tradition that map the essential components of the Nation’s concept of ordered liberty, the Court finds the Fourteenth Amendment clearly does not protect the right to an abortion,” Alito wrote.
“Respondents’ argument that this history does not matter flies in the face of the standard the Court has applied in determining whether an asserted right that is nowhere mentioned in the Constitution is nevertheless protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.”
Lower courts had blocked enforcement of the Mississippi law, triggering the appeals and eventual decision by the Supreme Court. But the Supreme Court said the original Roe ruling was “egregiously wrong.”
“Without any grounding in the constitutional text, history, or precedent, Roe imposed on the entire country a detailed set of rules for pregnancy divided into trimesters much like those that one might expect to find in a statute or regulation,” it said. “Roe’s failure even to note the overwhelming consensus of state laws in effect in 1868 is striking, and what it said about the common law was simply wrong.”
An estimated 63 million abortions have been performed in the United States since 1973. The U.N. World Health Organization said around 73 million abortions take place globally each year, including 29% of all pregnancies.
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