The Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on Friday, holding that there is no longer a federal constitutional right to an abortion.
The opinion is the most consequential Supreme Court decision in decades and will transform the landscape of women’s reproductive health in America.
Going forward, abortion rights will be determined by states, unless Congress acts. Already, nearly half of the states have or will pass laws that ban abortion while others have enacted strict measures regulating the procedure.
“Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his majority opinion. “Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences. And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division.”
The vote was 5-4 in favour of overturning Roe. In a joint dissenting opinion, Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan heavily criticized the majority, closing: “With sorrow — for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection — we dissent.”
The opinion represents the culmination of a decades-long effort on the part of critics of abortion seeking to return more power to the states. It was made possible by a solid six-member conservative majority — including three of Donald Trump’s nominees.
At least 21 states have laws or constitutional amendments already in place that would make them certain to attempt to ban abortion as quickly as possible, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which favours abortion rights. And an additional four states are likely to ban abortions as soon as possible without federal protections.
Chief Justice John Roberts did not join the majority, writing in a concurring opinion that he would not have overturned Roe but instead would have only upheld Mississippi’s law banning abortions after 15 weeks.
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden said Friday “the health and life of women in this nation are now at risk” after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and eliminated the constitutional right to an abortion.
“It’s a sad day for the court and for the country,” Biden said, speaking from the White House, calling for Congress to codify the right to an abortion — something that’s unlikely given the split balance of power in the Senate.
“It was three justices named by one president, Donald Trump, who were the core of today’s decision to upend the scales of justice and eliminate a fundamental right for women in this country. Make no mistake, this decision is a culmination of a deliberate effort over decades to upset the balance of our law,” Biden said.
“It’s a realization of an extreme ideology and a tragic error of the Supreme Court in my view,” he added.
“The court has done what it’s never done before, expressly take away a constitutional right that is so fundamental to so many Americans that had already been recognized. The court’s decision to do so will have real and immediate consequences,” he said. (CNN)