The United States Supreme Court has just officially overturned Roe v. Wade and eliminated the constitutional right to an abortion.
The ruling gives individual states the power to allow, limit, or ban abortion altogether.
The ruling came in the court’s opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
The case centered on a Mississippi law that banned abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
The Republican-led state of Mississippi asked the Supreme Court to strike down a lower court ruling that stopped the 15-week abortion ban from taking place.
“We end this opinion where we began,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the court’s opinion.
“Abortion presents a profound moral question.
“The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion.
“Roe and Casey arrogated that authority.
“We now overrule those decisions and return that authority to the people and their elected representatives.”
Alito’s opinion began with exploration and criticism of Roe v. Wade.
He highlighted the landmark ruling’s holding that while states have “a legitimate interest in protecting ‘potential life,” this interest was not strong enough to prohibit abortions before the time of fetal viability.
Fetal viability is understood to be at about 23 weeks into pregnancy.
“The Court did not explain the basis for this line, and even abortion supporters have found it hard to defend Roe’s reasoning,” Alito wrote.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote:
I write separately to explain my additional views about why Roe was wrongly decided, why Roe should be overruled at this time, and the future implications of today’s decision.
Abortion is a profoundly difficult and contentious issue because it presents an irreconcilable conflict between the interests of a pregnant woman who seeks an abortion and the interests in protecting fetal life.
The interests on both sides of the abortion issue are extraordinarily weighty.
On the one side, many pro-choice advocates forcefully argue that the ability to obtain an abortion is critically important for women’s personal and professional lives, and for women’s health.
They contend that the widespread availability of abortion has been essential for women to advance in society and to achieve greater equality over the last 50 years.
And they maintain that women must have the freedom to choose for themselves whether to have an abortion.
On the other side, many pro-life advocates forcefully argue that a fetus is a human life.
They contend that all human life should be protected as a matter of human dignity and fundamental morality. And they stress that a significant percentage of Americans with pro-life views are women.
When it comes to abortion, one interest must prevail over the other at any given point in a pregnancy.
Many Americans of good faith would prioritize the interests of the pregnant woman.
Many other Americans of good faith instead would prioritize the interests in protecting fetal life—at least unless, for example, an abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother.
Of course, many Americans are conflicted or have nuanced views that may vary depending on the particular time in pregnancy, or the particular circumstances of a pregnancy.
The issue before this Court, however, is not the policy or morality of abortion.
The issue before this Court is what the Constitution says about abortion.
The Constitution does not take sides on the issue of abortion. The text of the Constitution does not refer to or encompass abortion.
To be sure, this Court has held that the Constitution protects unenumerated rights that are deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition, and implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.
But a right to abortion is not deeply rooted in American history and tradition, as the Court today thoroughly explains.
Justice Clarence Thomas wrote:
I join the opinion of the Court because it correctly holds that there is no constitutional right to abortion.
Respondents invoke one source for that right: the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee that no State shall “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.”
The Court well explains why, under our substantive due process precedents, the purported right to abortion is not a form of “liberty” protected by the Due Process Clause.
Such a right is neither “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition” nor “implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.”
Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U. S. 702, 721 (1997) (internal quotation marks omitted).
“[T]he idea that the Framers of the Fourteenth Amendment understood the Due Process Clause to protect a right to abortion is farcical.”
I write separately to emphasize a second, more fundamental reason why there is no abortion guarantee lurking in the Due Process Clause.
THE SUPREME COURT HAS OVERTURNED ROE V. WADE, ELIMINATING THE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO ABORTION.https://t.co/ZNYRs3QnpJ
— SCOTUSblog (@SCOTUSblog) June 24, 2022
Chief Justice John Roberts agreed that the viability line “never made any sense.”
However, he said that he would have taken “a more measured course” with this case.
Rather than overturn Roe v. Wade altogether, Roberts said he would have continued to recognize a right to get an abortion.
He explained that the right should “extend far enough to ensure a reasonable opportunity to choose, but need not extend any further.”
The court’s majority took a firmer stance against Roe v. Wade and the subsequent case Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
The SCOTUS asserted that “Roe and Casey must be overruled.”
“The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision, including the one on which the defenders of Roe and Casey now chiefly rely—the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment,” Alito wrote.
The Court’s opinion recognized that the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause has been found to guarantee certain rights that are not spelled out in the Constitution, but that those rights are “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition.”
Abortion, the Court said, “does not fall within this category,” as “such a right was entirely unknown in American law” until the late 20th century.
The opinion continued to shred the Roe decision, saying it “was egregiously wrong from the start,” and that “its reasoning was exceptionally weak.”
Rather than continue the tradition established by Roe and Case, the Court wrote that it “is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”