Supreme Court overturns Roe v Wade, gutting abortion rights across the US

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Abortion-rights activists Carrie McDonald (C) and Soraya Bata react to the Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on June 24, 2022. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty)

The Supreme Court in the United States has officially overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade ruling which legalised abortion across the country.

The decision, which was widely expected, means that it will now be up to individual states to decide their own abortion laws.

In a 213-page majority opinion, the Supreme Court justices wrote: “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 paves the way for at least 25 states to make abortion illegal, with many of those likely to ban the practice in almost all circumstances. Thirteen states have “trigger bans” in place which mean abortion will become illegal as early as Friday (24 June).

In its 6-3 ruling, the Supreme Court upheld a Mississippi law which bans abortion after 15 weeks. The court stated that the Constitution “makes no express reference to a right to obtain an abortion” and that the practice is not part of the nation’s history and tradition.

The Supreme Court justices went on to claim that Roe v Wade was decided based on a “faulty historical analysis”.

“Without any grounding in the constitutional text, history, or precedent, Roe imposed on the entire country a detailed set of rules for pregnancy divided into trimesters much like those that one might expect to find in a statute or regulation,” the justices wrote.

Pro-choice supporters react outside the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on June 24, 2022.
Pro-choice supporters react outside the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on June 24, 2022. (OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty)

Justices Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan issued a dissenting opinion in which they said Roe v Wade had “protected the liberty and equality of women” in the United States.

Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan said the Supreme Court had “struck a balance” between values and goals in deciding Roe v Wade and the 1992 Planned Parenthood v Casey rulings.

“Today, the Court discards that balance,” the dissenting justices wrote. “It says that from the very moment of fertilisation, 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. An abortion restriction, the majority holds, is permissible whenever rational, the lowest level of scrutiny known to the law.”

The dissenting justices warned that individual states will force women to carry their rapist’s babies and that those who don’t have the financial means to travel elsewhere for abortion access will be among the worst affected.

LGBTQ+ rights groups have condemned Supreme Court ‘extremists’ who overturned Roe v Wade

The Supreme Court’s decision was immediately condemned by human rights groups, with many hitting out at the justices for stripping millions of their right to bodily autonomy.

GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis described the decision as “distressing”, adding that “extremists” on the Supreme Court are stripping people of their human rights.

“Americans are losing protected access to abortion, a constitutional right they have valued for nearly 50 years, and other rights to personal liberty are at risk too. The anti-abortion playbook and the anti-LGBTQ playbook are one and the same. Both are about denying control over our bodies and making it more dangerous for us to live as we are.”

Abortion-rights activist Carrie McDonald reacts to the Dobbs v Jackson Women's Health Organization ruling in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on June 24, 2022.
Abortion-rights activist Carrie McDonald reacts to the Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on June 24, 2022. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty)

Ellis continued: “Both divide our country into free and less free, the opposite of what the United States should be. Our bodies, healthcare and our future belong to us, not to a meddling politician or extremist Supreme Court justices, and we will fight back.”

Human Rights Campaign interim president Joni Madison said the United States is experiencing “an exceedingly dangerous, unprecedented moment”.

“The court’s majority opinion does not reflect the will of our nation – two thirds of whom support Roe v Wade – but instead fulfils an extreme, out of step, ideological agenda,” Madison said.

“And it shows that all of our rights are on the line right now, as state lawmakers will be further emboldened to test the limits of our hard-won civil rights. Women are under attack, LGBTQ+ people are under attack, BIPOC people are under attack, and we are justifiably outraged. We cannot relent – we must fight back.”

A pro-choice supporter cries outside the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on June 24, 2022.
A pro-choice supporter cries outside the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on June 24, 2022. (OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty)

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said the court’s decision will affect approximately 36 million women. The organisation described the majority opinion as “shameful”, saying it would force countless people to “remain pregnant and have children against their will.”

Anthony D Romero, executive director of the ACLU, said: “Second-class status for women has once again become the law because of today’s decision. We can wave away any pretence that this is the United States of America when it comes to the fundamental right to decide when and if to become a parent.”

Romero continued: “Today’s decision will be remembered for the suffering it will impose on millions of people. The court’s ruling is a brazen assault on the fundamental rights of women – allowing politicians to ban abortion, criminalise people seeking medical care, and put doctors in jail for providing essential health care.

“Half the states are expected to ban abortion, forever changing the course of countless lives and condemning women and other pregnant people to a future they never envisioned or wanted for themselves.”

The ACLU promised to hold lawmakers who seek to ban abortion accountable in courthouses and through protest.

“The road ahead is long, and the ACLU will be there every step of the way fighting for the power to decide for ourselves if and when to have a child. We fought for abortion rights before they were recognised by the court, and we are not deterred from this fight by today’s decision.”

Political figures and activists shared their outrage at the decision on social media, including Barack and Michelle Obama. Many were quick to draw parallels between the rolling back of abortion rights and trans rights in the United States.

It was widely expected that the Supreme Court, which has a conservative majority, would overturn Roe v Wade after Politico leaked a draft opinion to that effect in May.




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