Roe v. Wade overturned, ending 50 years of precedent


Washington D.C
Pro life protestors march in front of the Supreme Court building amid the ruling that could overturn Roe v. Wade on June 13, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images)

Roe v. Wade, which secured a constitutional right to abortion, was overruled by the Supreme Court on Friday, marking a significant break from a half-century of rulings on one of the nation's most contentious topics. Fifty percent of states have already signaled their intent to outlaw the surgery.

An early draft of the ruling was leaked in May, sparking days of protests in more than two dozen locations and causing proponents of abortion rights to prepare for defeat. Protesters even turned up at the residences of certain court members.

In response to the leak, Democrats in Congress, alarmed by the possibility that Roe would be overturned, held a Senate vote to approve legislation that would guarantee access to abortion nationally. However, the bill was voted down mostly along party lines.

Justice Samuel Alito said in the conclusion that the court's Roe decision "sparked a national controversy that has poisoned our political culture for half a century."

We believe Roe and Casey must be overturned. He noted in the majority opinion, supported by Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett, that "the Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no constitutional provision implicitly protects such a right."

Alito remarked, "It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people's elected representatives,"

Kavanaugh stated in a concurring opinion that states retained the authority to restrict or grant the right to an abortion.

"After today's decision, all of the States may evaluate the competing interests and decide how to address this consequential issue," he added.

Chief Justice John Roberts voted with the five conservative justices to maintain the challenged Mississippi statute, but in a concurring opinion, he warned against proceeding further.

"Surely we should adhere closely to principles of judicial restraint here, where the broader path the Court chooses entails repudiating a constitutional right we have not only previously recognized, but also expressly reaffirmed applying the doctrine of stare decisis," he said.

Liberal Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor wrote in a dissenting opinion that the court "reverses course today for one reason and one reason only: because the composition of this Court has changed."

"Today, the proclivities of individuals rule," they continued. "The Court departs from its obligation to faithfully and impartially apply the law."

"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 concluded.

The court's decision does not make abortion illegal, but now that access to the operation is no longer considered a constitutional right, states can seek to outlaw it. Approximately fifty percent of them have already expressed willingness to do so.

Alexis McGill Johnson, head of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, stated, "Knowing that this moment was inevitable does not make it any less sad. The Supreme Court has authorized politicians to govern what we do with our bodies, concluding that we can no longer be trusted to determine the direction of our own lives.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-California) described the verdict as "outrageous and heart-wrenching."

"Today, the Supreme Court under Republican rule has accomplished the dark and extreme purpose of the Republican Party, which was to strip women of the ability to make their own reproductive health decisions. "Due to Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, the Republican Party, and their Supreme Court supermajority, American women today have less freedom than their mothers," stated Pelosi.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, stated, "Today is one of our nation's worst days. Five unelected Justices on the radical MAGA court have stripped millions upon millions of American women of their rights.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican who changed the court balance by refusing to conduct hearings for former President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee and then expediting Trump's nomination of Barrett, lauded the verdict as "courageous and accurate. This is a monumental victory for the Constitution and the most vulnerable members of our society."

Also applauding the court's action was House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). "Every unborn child is valuable, exceptional, and deserving of protection. McCarthy stated, "I applaud this historic ruling that will save countless innocent lives."

"The Court is right to return the power to protect the unborn to the people's elected representatives in Congress and the states."

According to legal scholars, the decision to overturn Roe is one of the few instances in which the Supreme Court has rejected an earlier decision that recognized a constitutional right and the only instance in which it revoked a right with substantial public support.

For opponents of abortion who had fought Roe for decades, the court's decision represented a monumental win. However, it was a sad defeat for proponents of abortion rights, who have struggled to protect them as the courts have restricted their application over the previous half-century.

The verdict resulted from a lawsuit over a 2018 bill approved by the Republican-controlled legislature of Mississippi to prohibit abortions after 15 weeks. The law, which permitted exceptions for medical emergencies and severe fetal abnormalities but not for rape and incest, was promptly challenged and stayed by lower courts.

Supporters stated that the proposal was designed to restrict "inhumane procedures" and asserted that a fetus is capable of sensing and reacting to pain at that stage of pregnancy.

Mississippi's statute was a direct assault on the court's 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade decision and its 1992 follow-up, Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Under these decisions, states were permitted to place limited restrictions on abortions before viability, so long as they did not create an "undue burden" on the right to obtain the procedure. However, absolute bans before viability, which is commonly estimated to be approximately 24 weeks into a pregnancy, were declared unconstitutional.

The court's altered makeup is one reason why these judgments are no longer in effect. Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Anthony Kennedy, who participated in the court's earlier abortion decisions, were replaced by justices chosen by President Donald Trump: Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh. Trump stated that he would appoint "pro-life justices" to the Supreme Court.

In response to the verdict, the Senate Judiciary Committee tweeted that it "will hold a hearing next month to explore the grim reality of a post-Roe America."

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, said he was "deeply disappointed" by the verdict and singled out Kavanaugh and Gorsuch for voting to overturn Roe in a statement released Friday. Manchin voted to confirm both candidates.

Manchin stated, "I trusted Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh when they testified under oath that they also believed Roe v. Wade was settled legal precedent and I am alarmed they chose to reject the stability the ruling has provided for two generations of Americans,"

Although he is pro-life, he stated, "I favor legislation that would codify the rights Roe v. Wade previously safeguarded. I am optimistic that Democrats and Republicans would work together to propose legislation that would accomplish this."

The Center for Reproductive Rights had urged the court to uphold its past abortion decisions upholding the right to abortion.

"Two generations have relied on this right, and one in four women choose to terminate a pregnancy," the court told the lawyer, Julie Rikelman, a lawyer representing the organization.

According to Mississippi's attorneys, the state's only abortion facility does not conduct the procedure after 16 weeks. Thus the law will have minimal impact on women in Mississippi. They stated that more than 90 percent of abortions occur before or during the 13th week of pregnancy.

The court's judgment was the second to restrict abortion access to this term. In December, the court permitted Texas legislation to continue while challenges are pending in lower courts. By allowing lawsuits against abortion providers and anybody who aids them, the bill effectively prohibits abortions beyond six weeks of pregnancy.

Its unorthodox enforcement mode was meant to circumvent past Supreme Court decisions that prohibited states from directly banning abortion. However, in June of last year, Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill to ban abortion in the state within 30 days of a judgment overturning Roe.

In over half of the country, it seems likely that abortion will soon be prohibited. After the Supreme Court's abortion precedents were overturned, Texas was one of almost two dozen states deemed definite or probable to ban abortion. Thirteen of these states have already enacted "trigger laws" that will go into effect when or shortly after Roe v. Wade is reversed.

However, abortion will remain legal in the remaining states, including big states such as California, New York, Illinois, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

Publish : 2022-06-24 21:15:00

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