The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that established abortion as a constitutional right.
The decision by five of the Court’s nine justices will allow each state to set its own abortion laws, leading to a patchwork of access throughout the country. The result is expected to be an uptick in the number of women traveling out of state for abortions, as well as unsafe abortions in states where the medical procedure will now be banned or heavily restricted.
“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his opinion, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.
Chief Justice John Roberts filed a separate opinion concurring in the judgment about the Mississippi law at the center of the case, making that a 6-3 ruling, but not about overturning the constitutional right to an abortion, making that a 5-4 ruling.
“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 continued. “That provision has been held to guarantee some rights that are not mentioned in the Constitution, but any such right must be ‘deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition’ and ‘implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.’”
Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the dissent in the case for himself, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.
“With sorrow — for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection — we dissent,” he wrote.
The new status of abortion access on a state-by-state basis, Breyer wrote , “says that from the very moment of fertilization, a woman has no rights to speak of. A state can force her to bring a pregnancy to term, even at the steepest personal and familial costs.”
Breyer later added, “Whatever the exact scope of the coming laws, one result of today’s decision is certain: the curtailment of women’s rights, and of their status as free and equal citizens.”
Twenty-two states have laws that would restrict when and how a patient can terminate a pregnancy, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health and rights organization.
Arizona, Michigan and Wisconsin are among the 10 states that have pre-Roe abortion bans that are now expected to take effect. Thirteen states — including Idaho, Louisiana, Missouri and Tennessee — have laws enacted since Roe that will be “triggered” by the court’s decision.
A dozen states, including Maine, Maryland, Nevada and Washington, have laws that would protect abortion access up to the point of viability, usually 22 to 24 weeks into a pregnancy. Colorado, the District of Columbia, New Jersey, Oregon and Vermont have laws that protect abortion access throughout a pregnancy, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
The Right to Reproductive Freedom Remains Safe in North Carolina
The pro-choice state called the “Dobbs” decision a devastating rollback of human rights, but noted that abortion in North Carolina is still legal. Here’s more from their statement:
There are fourteen abortion clinics across North Carolina that provide compassionate abortion care for patients. Today’s ruling is devastating, but it is not the end of our fight for reproductive freedom in North Carolina.
Anti-abortion lawmakers in our General Assembly have spent decades methodically drafting and passing medically unnecessary and politically motivated laws to take away our access to abortion. They have introduced inflammatory and medically false bills to attack abortion patients and abortion providers and to deceive the public about the realities of reproductive health care. They have created a landscape of barriers and undue burdens, all designed to control the health, bodies, and lives of women, pregnant people, and families across North Carolina.
Yet advocates in North Carolina have held the line for abortion access, making our state one of the few in the southeast that will still have abortion care regardless of this devastating decision.
Thomas targets birth control, same-sex marriage and sexual relations
Justice Thomas wrote his own concurring opinion, arguing that since the court has overturned the constitutional right to an abortion, which was grounded in the 14th Amendment and the due process clause, other cases that have been rooted in the same right to privacy could all be reconsidered.
The Griswold v. Connecticut case from 1965 that said states couldn’t bar married couples from making private decisions about birth control use.
The Lawrence v. Texas case from 2003 that said states couldn’t criminalize consensual sexual relations between same-sex partners.
The Obergefell v. Hodges case from 2015 that legalized 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,” Thomas wrote.
Thomas also wrote of the Dobbs case that “The resolution of this case is thus straightforward. Because the Due Process Clause does not secure any substantive rights, it does not secure a right to abortion.”
Reaction pours in
The Center for Reproductive Rights, which brought the case to the Supreme Court, rebuked the Republican-nominated justices for ending the right to an abortion.
“The Court’s opinion delivers a wrecking ball to the constitutional right to abortion, destroying the protections of Roe v. Wade, and utterly disregarding the one in four women in America who make the decision to end a pregnancy,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.
“Utter chaos lies ahead, as some states race to the bottom with criminal abortion bans, forcing people to travel across multiple state lines and, for those without means to travel, carry their pregnancies to term — dictating their health, lives, and futures. Today’s decision will ignite a public health emergency,” Northup confirmed.