Supreme Court Overturns Roe v. Wade, Ending Right to Abortion Access in U.S.
Photo of protesters in Washington, D.C. in 2019 | Photo by Chris Boese
Within minutes of the Supreme Court decision to officially overturn Roe v. Wade, the legislation that protected Americans and gave them the right to access safe, legal abortions, people flocked to social media in droves to express disgust, fear and plan protests.
The decision comes from the Mississippi case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in which challenged the state’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Dobbs, which ultimately overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide in 1973.
Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the court majority, said that the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling “must be overruled” because the argument was “exceptionally weak” and amounted to “an abuse of judicial authority.”
In early May, the Supreme Court's decision was leaked to the public which caused panic as overturning the legislation would allow for states with anti-abortion trigger bills to take affect immediately. Mississippi is one of those states.
Director of the Jackson Women's Health Organization, Shannon Brewer, told The Washington Post in May that if the Supreme Court ruled against the clinic and struck down Roe v. Wade, the clinic was preparing to move to New Mexico.
Justice Clarence Thomas (appointed by George H. Bush), and Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett (appointed by Donald J. Trump), joined Alito's opinion.
Dissenting were Justices Stephen Breyer (appointed by Bill Clinton) and Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan (appointed by Barack Obama).
"With sorrow — for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection — we dissent," they wrote.
The opinion cited various sources and authorities to support the proposition that there is no inherent right, let alone personal bodily autonomy, in the Constitution (original or provisioned). For example, Alito referenced the 1992 decision from Planned Parenthood v. Casey which upheld Roe v. Wade, was written by Republican Justices Sandra Day O'Connor, Anthony Kennedy and David Souter. Alito used this decision to concede that the use of contraception could prevent almost all unplanned pregnancies.
However, this is not exactly true. The 1992 opinion actually contradicts the argument Alito made. The 1992 opinion states that “people have organized intimate relationships and made choices … in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that conrtaception should fail.”
In addition to this, sexual reproductive and sexual health education is not the same across the United States. Some schools have an in-depth sexual education course which teaches students about sexual reproduction, various forms of contraceptions, sexual health, etc, whereas other schools only teach abstinence. If people don’t know the proper way to use contraceptives, or even know about them at all, where does that leave them? What about the people who live in places where contraceptives are not widely available?
Alito wrote, “We hold the Constitution does not confer a right to abortion” and added that any regulation on abortion passed by a state is valid and “must be sustained if there is a rational basis on which the legislature could have thought" it was serving "legitimate state interests," including "respect for and preservation of prenatal life at all stages of development."
Alito went on to call abortion “gruesome and barbaric” and called to “preserve the integrity of the medical profession” while preventing discrimination on the basis of race, sex or disability (referring to having an abortion if the fetus has an abnormality of some kind). This opens up the doors for states to ban abortions for any reason its legislators see fit.
"To ensure that our decision is not misunderstood or mischaracterized, we emphasize that our decision concerns the constitutional right to abortion and no other right. Nothing in this opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion," Alito wrote.
Justice Thomas’ concurring opinion brought up the legal rationale for this decision could be applied to overturning other major judicial decisions, such as same-sex marriage. “For that reason, in future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court's substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell," he wrote. "Because any substantive due process decision is 'demonstrably erroneous.'"
Read the full opinion via hyperlink or .PDF below.