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The Supreme Court overruled the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision Friday morning by upholding Mississippi’s restrictive 15-week abortion ban.
‘The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion; Roe and Casey are overruled; and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives,’ the decision said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi immediately rebuked the decision.
‘The radical Supreme Court is eviscerating Americans’ rights and endangering their health and safety,’ the California Democrat said. ‘Today the Republican-controlled Supreme Court has achieved their dark, extreme goal of ripping away a woman’s right to make their own reproductive health decisions.’
‘Because of Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, the Republican Party and their supermajority on the Supreme Court, American women today have less freedom than their mothers,’ she continued. ‘With Roe and their attempt to destroy it, radical Republicans are charging ahead with their crusade to criminalize health freedom.’
‘In the Congress, be aware of this, Republicans are plotting a nationwide abortion ban,’ Pelosi said.
Tensions over the future of abortion rights in the country have been running high since a draft opinion of Dobbs was leaked – and showed that the high court’s conservative majority was poised to push whether abortion was legal back to the states.
The 6-3 conservative majority made good on what the draft said, with liberal justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer dissenting. Chief Justice John Roberts concurred. Conservative Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas also filed concurring opinion.
‘Guided by the history and tradition that map the essential components of the Nation’s concept of ordered liberty, the Court finds the Fourteenth Amendment clearly does not protect the right to an abortion,’ the decision, penned by conservative Justice Samuel Alito, said.
The decision reflects the stunning change in the court’s direction after Donald Trump’s four-year term. The court switched from a 5-4 majority where Roberts was often the swing vote, to a 6-3 conservative court with the addition of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who was confirmed by the GOP Senate following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Senate Republicans blocked President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to fill the seat of the Antonin Scalia following the justice’s death.
The opinion rejected the notion that stare decisis, or settled law, locked in the decades-old ruling, even after Trump’s recent court nominees all stated a commitment to the concept.
‘The doctrine of stare decisis does not counsel continued acceptance of Roe and Casey,’ the majority argued, adding: ‘But stare decisis is not an inexorable command,’ it said.
Pro-life activists cheer outside the Supreme Court Friday morning after learning that the high court had overturned Roe v. Wade
A woman cries outside the Supreme Court Friday morning after the court rules that the ‘Constitution does not confer a right to abortion’
Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene appeared outside the Supreme Court Friday morning after the Dobbs decision came down. In video filmed on her walk over she was giddy about the 6-3 decision overturning Roe
Pro-life supporters hug outside the Supreme Court Friday morning after the court ended the federal right to an abortion
Tensions over the future of abortion rights in the country have been running high since a draft opinion of Dobbs was leaked – and showed that the high court’s conservative majority was poised to push whether abortion was legal back to the states
There are 18 states that have near-total bans on their books, while four more have time-limit band and four others are likely to pass new bans if Roe is overturned
Security fences and a ‘police line do not cross’ sign are outside the Supreme Court Friday morning, as more decisions – including Dobbs – are expected to come out mid-morning
An anti-abortion protester stands in front of the Jackson Women’s Health Organization in Jackson, Mississippi, which challenged the state’s 15-week abortion ban
The conservative justices likened Roe to Plessy v. Ferguson, which upheld racial segregation as ‘separate but equal.’
‘Like the infamous decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, Roe was also egregiously wrong and on a collision course with the Constitution from the day it was decided,’ the ruling said.
‘Casey perpetuated its errors, calling both sides of the national controversy to resolve their debate, but in doing so, Casey necessarily declared a winning side,’ it continued. ‘Those on the losing side – those who sought to advance the State’s interest in fetal life – could no longer seek to persuade their elected representatives to adopt policies consistent with their views.’
‘The Court short-circuited the democratic process by closing it to the large number of Americans who disagreed with Roe,’ the ruling added.
The blistering language pointed to the array of state laws that outright banned abortion during the 19th century, and accused the high court of acting like a legislature to sort through in which circumstances abortion would be allowed.
The decision also savages the Planned Parenthood v. Casey ruling, which preserved abortion rights with its prohibition on laws that impose an ‘undue burden’ on the mother. ‘The decision provided no clear guidance about the difference between a “due” and an “undue” burden. But the three Justices who authored the controlling opinion “call[ed] the contending sides of a national controversy to end their national division” by treating the Court’s decision as the final settlement of the question of the constitutional right to abortion,’ Alito wrote.
Alito wrote: ‘Roe’s failure even to note the overwhelming consensus of state laws in effect in 1868 is striking, and what it said about the common law was simply wrong. Then, after surveying history, the opinion spent many paragraphs conducting the sort of fact finding that might be undertaken by a legislative committee, and did not explain why the sources on which it relied shed light on the meaning of the Constitution.’
One line in the opinion addressed arguments by the government and critics including President Joe Biden that a ruling striking down Roe’s privacy right could threaten other rights – from birth control to gay marriage.
The opinion states that this is not so. ‘The Solicitor General suggests that overruling Roe and Casey would threaten the protection of other rights under the Due Process Clause. The Court emphasizes that this 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.’
The ruling gives a green light to state efforts to restrict abortions, which has already been underway during a decades-long effort, particularly in Republican-run states. But Alito writes that women are not powerless to try to stop the effort using political power (which they lacked before the 19th Amendment came into effect with an array of abortion restrictions on the books).
‘Our decision returns the issue of abortion to those legislative bodies, and it allows women on both sides of the abortion issue to seek to affect the legislative process by influencing public opinion, lobbying legislators, voting, and running for office,’ he writes. ‘Women are not without electoral or political power. It is noteworthy that the percentage of women who register to vote and cast ballots is consistently higher than the percentage of men who do so,’ according to the opinion.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh, another Trump appointee who was confirmed after providing what Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said were assurances that Roe was settled law, issued his own concurring opinion. He voted with the majority, but took pains to describe the difficult nature of the decision. ‘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,’ he wrote.
He also addressed the matter of blowing up precedent. ‘Adherence to precedent is the norm, and stare decisis imposes a high bar before this Court may overrule a precedent. This Court’s history shows, however, that stare decisis is not absolute, and indeed cannot be absolute.’
Reaction on both sides of the aisle in Washington was swift.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, called it ‘one of the darkest days our country has ever seen.’
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent out a fundraising email entitled: ‘Devastated.’
Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene was filmed galloping toward the Supreme Court, a grin upon her face.
‘This is so awesome, oh my gosh – I can’t believe they just did it. This is so amazing,’ the Georgia lawmaker said. ‘I’m trying not to cry.’
In a signal that the Biden administration was at least preparing for bad news, Vice President Kamala Harris convened seven state attorneys general at the White House Thursday to discuss strategies to combat any such ruling.
‘I have asked these attorneys general to meet with us knowing that they have a pivotal role to play in defending women’s reproductive freedom and their rights to make decisions about their own body,’ Harris said at the top of the meeting.
She said the attorneys general may have to challenge any Supreme Court ruling.
‘As reproductive rights are being restricted around our country and potentially by the Supreme Court soon I think we believe and we’ve started prelimianry discussions about how Attorneys General have the power, may have the power at the very least, to issue guidance to ensure that the people of their state know their rights, that they have the power to assess and potentially challenged the constitutionality of laws that are being passed in their states,’ she said.
Harris has taken the lead for President Joe Biden’s administration on defending abortion and reproductive rights.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the administration would also push Congress to codify Roe into law.
‘If this happens, one of the things that I can say right now that we will do is call on Congress to restore Roe,’ she said during an interview on ABC’s The View.
Even with Democratic control of Congress it is unlikely an abortion-rights law would pass the 50-50 Senate, where any legislation needs the support of at least 10 Republican senators to move forward in the legislative process.
Vice President Kamala Harris met with state attorney generals on Thursday to talk defense should the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that made abortion legal in this country
‘I have asked these attorneys general to meet with us knowing that they have a pivotal role to play in defending women’s reproductive freedom,’ Vice President Harris said
The meeting with Harris was attended by the attorneys general of Wisconsin, Nevada, Illinois, California, Delaware, New York and Washington state.
State attorney generals will likely be the front line of defense should abortion be outlawed.
They are the top legal officers in their states and could bring additional lawsuits regarding reproductive rights.
Biden is a lifelong Catholic who was opposed to Roe in the early days of his career and has only later come to embrace abortion rights.
He was critical of the leaked draft opinion.
Protesters on both sides of the contentious issue have been gathering outside the court daily.
The building is surrounded by a tall fence that went up after the draft leaked last month.
The political debate on abortion reignited last month when Politico published a draft majority opinion that showed Roe v. Wade being struck down. In it, conservative Justice Samuel Alito writes: ‘Roe was egregiously wrong from the start’ and must be overturned.
If judges haven’t switched their positions since Alito authored the draft, it would result in the overturning of the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision which provides for abortion rights.
Currently, there are 18 states that have near-total bans on abortion already on the books.
They are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
On the other side of the spectrum, 16 states and the District of Columbia have laws that protect a person’s right to an abortion.
With public attention focusing on the court, where conservatives hold a 6-3 majority, Congress passed legislation to provide security protection to justices, after an armed man was arrested outside Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s home.
On Thursday, the court stuck down a New York law that required ‘proper-cause’ to carry a concelaed weapon, a ruling that could result in an increase in the number of guns in public places. It also ruled law enforcement officers can´t be sued when they violate the rights of criminal suspects by failing to provide the familiar Miranda warning before questioning them.
Fencing has gone up around the Supreme Court and the justices have faced increased threats
The Supreme Court: Seated from left are Associate Justice Samuel Alito, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John Roberts, Associate Justice Stephen Breyer and Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Standing from left are Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Associate Justice Elena Kagan, Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch and Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett.
Roe v. Wade: The landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in America
Norma McCorvey, seen in 1983 – ten years after the Supreme Court decision
In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion in Roe v. Wade. The landmark ruling legalized abortion nationwide but divided public opinion and has been under attack ever since.
The case was filed in 1971 by Norma McCorvey, a 22-year-old living in Texas who was unmarried and seeking a termination of her unwanted pregnancy.
Because of state legislation preventing abortions unless the mother’s life is at risk, she was unable to undergo the procedure in a safe and legal environment.
So McCorvey sued Henry Wade, the Dallas county district attorney, in 1970. The case went on to the Supreme Court, under the filing Roe vs Wade, to protect McCorvey’s privacy.
Supreme Court Decision
The Supreme Court handed down the watershed 7-2 decision that a woman’s right to make her own medical decisions, including the choice to have an abortion, is protected under the 14th Amendment.
In particular, that the Due Process Clause of the the 14th Amendment provides a fundamental ‘right to privacy’ that protects a woman’s liberty to choose whether or not to have an abortion.
The landmark ruling saw abortions decriminalized in 46 states, but under certain specific conditions which individual states could decide on. For example, states could decide whether abortions were allowed only during the first and second trimester but not the third (typically beyond 28 weeks).
Among pro-choice campaigners, the decision was hailed as a victory which would mean fewer women would become seriously – or even fatally – ill from abortions carried out by unqualified or unlicensed practitioners. Moreover, the freedom of choice was considered a significant step in the equality fight for women in the country. Victims of rape or incest would be able to have the pregnancy terminated and not feel coerced into motherhood.
McCorvey became a born again Christian in 1995 and started advocating against abortion. Shown above in 1998, she died in 2017
However, pro-lifers contended it was tantamount to murder and that every life, no matter how it was conceived, is precious. Though the decision has never been overturned, anti-abortionists have prompted hundreds of states laws since then narrowing the scope of the ruling.
One such was the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act signed by President George W. Bush in 2003, which banned a procedure used to perform second-trimester abortions.
Norma McCorvey (Jane Roe)
Following the ruling, McCorvey lived a quiet life until the 1980s when she revealed herself to be Jane Roe.
McCorvey became a leading, outspoken pro-abortion voice in American discourse, even working at a women’s clinic where abortions were performed.
However, she performed an unlikely U-turn in 1995, becoming a born again Christian and began traveling the country speaking out against the procedure.
In 2003, a she filed a motion to overturn her original 1973 ruling with the U.S. district court in Dallas.
The motion moved through the courts until it was ultimately denied by the Supreme Court in 2005.
McCorvey died at an assisted living home in Texas in February 2017, aged 69.
Shelley Lynn Thornton (Baby Roe)
Norma McCorvey (Jane Roe) gave birth to Shelley Lynn Thornton in Dallas in 1970 – a year before the Supreme Court Roe v. Wade case was filed. Shelley was the single mother’s third pregnancy. She gave her up for adoption the day after giving birth, then continued fighting for the right to abortion afterwards.
Shelley’s identity became public last year. She waived her right to anonymity, speaking out in multiple interviews about the landmark case.
She says that Norma used her for ‘publicity’, only trying to make contact with her when she was a teenager and for the wrong reasons.
‘It became apparent to me really quickly that the only reason why she wanted to reach out to me and find me was because she wanted to use me for publicity. She didn’t deserve to meet me. She never did anything in her life to get that privilege back.
Baby Roe: Shelley Lynn Thornton, a 51-year-old mother of three, has spoken out for the first time on camera. Her biological mother Norma McCorvey was Jane Roe, whose landmark lawsuit Roe vs Wade won women across America the right to have abortions
‘She never expressed genuine feeling for me or genuine remorse for doing the things that she did, saying the things that she did over and over and over again,’ Shelley said last year.
Shelley has refused to say whether or not she agrees with abortion, for fear of weaponized by either side of the debate.
‘A lot of people didn’t know I existed. It doesn’t revolve around me, I wasn’t the one who created this law. I’m not the one who created this movement. I had nothing to do with it. I was just a little itty-bitty thing and, you know, circumstances prevailed.
‘My whole thinking is that, ‘oh God everybody is going to hate me because everyone is going to blame me for abortion being legal.’