Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade; states can ban abortion

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The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years in a decision by its conservative majority to overturn Roe v. Wade. Friday’s outcome is expected to lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states.

The decision, unthinkable just a few years ago, was the culmination of decades of efforts by abortion opponents, made possible by an emboldened right side of the court that has been fortified by three appointees of former President Donald Trump.

The ruling came more than a month after the stunning leak of a draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito indicating the court was prepared to take this momentous step.

It puts the court at odds with a majority of Americans who favored preserving Roe, according to opinion polls.

Alito, in the final opinion issued Friday, wrote that Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 decision that reaffirmed the right to abortion, were wrong the day they were decided and must be overturned.

“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled. The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision,” Alito wrote.

Authority to regulate abortion rests with the political branches, not the courts, Alito wrote.

Joining Alito were Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. The latter three justices are Trump appointees. Thomas first voted to overrule Roe 30 years ago.

Chief Justice John Roberts would have stopped short of ending the abortion right, noting that he would have upheld the Mississippi law at the heart of the case, a ban on abortion after 15 weeks, and said no more.

Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan—the diminished liberal wing of the court—were in dissent.

“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 wrote.

The ruling is expected to disproportionately affect minority women who already face limited access to health care, according to statistics analyzed by The Associated Press.

Thirteen states, mainly in the South and Midwest, already have laws on the books that ban abortion in the event Roe is overturned. Another half-dozen states have near-total bans or prohibitions after 6 weeks of pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant.

In roughly a half-dozen other states, the fight will be over dormant abortion bans that were enacted before Roe was decided in 1973 or new proposals to sharply limit when abortions can be performed, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.

More than 90% of abortions take place in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy, and more than half are now done with pills, not surgery, according to data compiled by Guttmacher.

The decision came against a backdrop of public opinion surveys that find a majority of Americans oppose overturning Roe and handing the question of whether to permit abortion entirely to the states. Polls conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and others also have consistently shown about 1 in 10 Americans want abortion to be illegal in all cases. A majority are in favor of abortion being legal in all or most circumstances, but polls indicate many also support restrictions especially later in pregnancy.

The Biden administration and other defenders of abortion rights have warned that a decision overturning Roe also would threaten other high court decisions in favor of gay rights and even potentially, contraception.

But Alito wrote in his draft opinion that his analysis addresses abortion only, not other rights that also stem from a right to privacy that the high court has found implicit, though not directly stated, in the Constitution. Abortion is different, Alito wrote, because of the unique moral question it poses.

Whatever the intentions of the person who leaked Alito’s draft opinion, the conservatives held firm in overturning Roe and Casey.

In his draft, Alito dismissed the arguments in favor of retaining the two decisions, including that multiple generations of American women have partly relied on the right to abortion to gain economic and political power.

Changing the composition of the court has been central to the anti-abortion side’s strategy. Mississippi and its allies made increasingly aggressive arguments as the case developed, and two high-court defenders of abortion rights retired or died. The state initially argued that its law could be upheld without overruling the court’s abortion precedents.

Then-Gov. Phil Bryant signed the 15-week measure into law in March 2018, when Justices Anthony Kennedy and Ruth Bader Ginsburg were still members of a five-justice majority that was mainly protective of abortion rights.

By early summer, Kennedy had retired and was replaced by Justice Brett Kavanaugh a few months later. The Mississippi law was blocked in lower federal courts.

But the state always was headed to the nation’s highest court. It did not even ask for a hearing before a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ultimately held the law invalid in December 2019.

By early September 2020, the Supreme Court was ready to consider the state’s appeal.

The court scheduled the case for consideration at the justices’ private conference on Sept. 29. But in the intervening weeks, Ginsburg died and Barrett was quickly nominated and confirmed without a single Democratic vote.

The stage now was set, although it took the court another half year to agree to hear the case.

By the time Mississippi filed its main written argument with the court in the summer, the thrust of its argument had changed and it was now calling for the wholesale overruling of Roe and Casey.

The first sign that the court might be receptive to wiping away the constitutional right to abortion came in late summer, when the justices divided 5-4 in allowing Texas to enforce a ban on the procedure at roughly six weeks, before some women even know they are pregnant. That dispute turned on the unique structure of the law, including its enforcement by private citizens rather than by state officials, and how it can be challenged in court.

But Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted in a searing dissent for the three liberal justices that their conservative colleagues refused to block “a flagrantly unconstitutional law” that “flouts nearly 50 years of federal precedents.” Roberts was also among the dissenters.

Then in December, after hearing additional arguments over whether to block the Texas law known as S.B. 8, the court again declined to do so, also by a 5-4 vote. “The clear purpose and actual effect of S. B. 8 has been to nullify this Court’s rulings,” Roberts wrote, in a partial dissent.

In their Senate hearings, Trump’s three high-court picks carefully skirted questions about how they would vote in any cases, including about abortion.

But even as Democrats and abortion rights supporters predicted Kavanaugh and Gorsuch would vote to upend abortion rights if confirmed, the two left at least one Republican senator with a different impression. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine predicted Gorsuch and Kavanaugh wouldn’t support overturning the abortion cases, based on private conversations she had with them when they were nominees to the Supreme Court.

Barrett was perhaps the most vocal opponent of abortion in her time as a law professor, before becoming a federal judge in 2017. She was a member of anti-abortion groups at Notre Dame University, where she taught law, and she signed a newspaper ad opposing “abortion on demand” and defending “the right to life from fertilization to natural death.” She promised to set aside her personal views when judging cases.

Trump, meanwhile, had predicted as a candidate that whoever he named to the court would “automatically” vote to overrule Roe.

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38 thoughts on “Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade; states can ban abortion

  1. The Trump justices all lied about overturning Roe v Wade. The GOP only cares about their base and no one else. The GOP doesn’t care about life outside the womb. Guns have more rights than women.

    1. This is a horribly biased report….but what else would you expect from the Dissociated Press?

    2. Interesting that the same party that wants wants state law to control the gun issue wants federal law to control abortion.

    3. Susan Collins represents the citizens of Maine. Given the general left-leaning make-up of her constituency and the state’s legislature, the availability of abortions is unlikely to change one bit.

      But if it does (because Maine is drifting slightly more GOP than it has in the past), it will be the citizens of Maine who choose the legislature that gives them the abortion laws that best accord with their own ethical stance on the subject.

      IOW, a representative government. Such a novel idea.

    4. And I suspect those citizens will choose someone else to represent Maine because the entire world knew that Brett Kavanaugh was lying to her on the topic of abortion.

      You could blame the woke leftist mob. I suspect it will be because her voters will deem her a fool. Choices have consequences, I’ve been told.

    5. Joe, it was your preferred party who put Kavanaugh through a political litmus test. Something that always happens these days. The GOP did the same to Jackson Brown and we know she lied too: she claimed to be unable to define a woman, among other things. If women don’t exist per modern leftist dogma, doesn’t that mean they aren’t being singled out for discrimination with Roe v Wade?

      A certain woman who was apparently a promiscuous teenager made ridiculous allegations about Kavanaugh (even her own father thought she was lying in her testimony, and absolutely zero people could corroborate) to try not just to destroy his career but make him face criminal charges. The left’s treatment of Kavanaugh was one of my first massive red pills. And I believed the woman at first.

      The irony, of course, is that even Ruth Bader Ginsburg–a brilliant legal mind and a hardened partisan–admitted that Roe v Wade was a slippery attempt under constitutional “privacy” for the federal government to supersede the states on a decision that should belong to the states. Of course, we’ll never know how she’d actual rule on such a decision, but she was at least even-handed enough to remain a staunch pro-choice advocate while recognizing Roe v Wade emerged from murky legal grounds.

      The Bible Belt states will probably make abortion illegal. Since Indiana is not the Bible Belt (despite what its detractors would have us believe), I think abortion in Indiana will remain what it should always be: “safe, legal, and rare”. When the Democratic party was reasonable (in the Clinton years), this was a mantra. The word “rare” has been completely absent in the modern discourse. Why?

    6. My preferred party would be the Republican Party I grew up with. They lost me when they primaried Lugar for a talentless clown who fumbled away a safe Republican seat. But, go on.

      Not a huge fan of the litmus test, but it’s the reality of the situation nowadays. Started with Bork (who, let’s be honest, shouldn’t have been a justice), then deteriorated with Thomas (who hasn’t exactly shown himself to be a great legal mind either). McConnell took the entire process nuclear and that’s what it will remain. That Republicans wouldn’t even vote Garland down … that’s hard to come back from, unless you’re willing to convince a Republican judge to retire and let Biden pick the replacement. Which isn’t happening.

      McConnell got his packed Supreme Court and judicial system. It will be his legacy. I don’t think it will reflect particularly well for him because the Federalist Society, once you look into it, is pretty radical and that’s what has been the source for most of the judges. A court or judicial system that tosses out numerous rulings that Americans don’t agree with will lose its legitimacy rather quickly.

      As far as abortion, I will be surprised if Indiana has any protections for a child from rape or incest by the end of July. There might be a provision for the health of the mother if we are lucky, though I suspect that some cockamamie judicial review will be inserted into the process because you just can’t trust those doctors, which will lead to its own problems. I suspect abortion will be illegal from conception, and legislators will then use that to criminalize Plan B and IUD’s. Maybe birth control will be legal if we are lucky.

      That’s the path things will go down until the pendulum swings back, either from women having enough of this nonsense or enough people know someone affected by these new laws.

      Not surprised that you no longer find Democrats reasonable, time was Republicans also believed in staying out of your pocketbook and your private business. Tell me why Republicans, if their desire is to minimize the number of abortions, are already discussing going after access to contraception. I mean, if they’re going criminalize IUD’s, they should also make castration the penalty for using condoms. Fair’s fair.

    1. Nope, it’s exactly what happened. Republicans lied, SCOTUS nominees lied, and they deserve to be called out for lying.

      Own your party’s policies or sit down.

  2. Today we step back 50 years and take away the rights of women – half of the country. Forced pregnancy is not the answer. This should not be a state’s decision. Shame on the Supreme Court for forcing their religious right agenda on the country. I am disgusted, this is wrong.

    1. This article headlines the reversal, but no discussion of the legal theories at work. Just attack the “conservative” justices. The US Constitution was written to loosely bind the states in a federal, not national, government where the defense of all the states was the focus. Many of the drafters of the Constitution felt it was so weak, there was no reason for the Ten Amendments. States determined criminal law. Roe v Wade has long been criticized as poorly written and very weak on legal basis. If we don’t want State government, try to get agreement to change the Constitution to create a national government. In many ways using the power of its income taxation to “induce” state action, the federal, now more like a national, government has done this.
      While Roe v Wade brings on hysterics about women’s rights, when does the fetus have its own paramount right to life?

      If we need a really big government earth shaker, take a look at the Constitutional requirements for Congress to pass law, especially criminal law. At present, Congress agrees vaguely something needs done, and passes the lawmaking to the federal bureaucracy to write the actual law. If Congressmen had to agree on actual laws, there would be a lot fewer laws, and fewer regulations, as they don’t seem to agree to much of anything. The Supreme Court approved that state of affairs, with difficulty, like Roe. Sotomayor and the liberal justices say the Constitution is totally maleable, it says what they say it means. Conservatives tend to read the document and say what the words commonly mean. The Constitution was a contract among the states. They ceded power to the federal government. Do you read their agreement for what it says, OR for what you want it to say.

    2. Legal theories? More like the gymnastics out of Kavanaugh who goes ahead to say that, no, states can’t ban people traveling for an abortion due to “constitutional right to interstate travel”—which, like abortion, is a right not mentioned explicitly in the text of the Constitution. Can’t have it both ways, Brett.

      Or Thomas going on to state that the Court should also go after access to contraceptives, same sex relationships, and same sex marriage to their reliance on the Due Process Clause. Wonder why he didn’t also include interracial marriage, which is also based on the Due Process Clause, on that list…

      Why attack the conservative justices when their own words do the job for you?

  3. Its only my opinion that:
    I question our governments legitamacy
    We overturn aborrion to save lives.

    We dont impose absoulute gun control and endure inocent mass murders.

    We want ro save the universe by going green
    . Yet we are willing to suffer economically by limiting focil fuels. Im all for green but not at the economic impact its having on us. Tax holiday puts us further in debt.And who is going to pay the bill? Our children,the ones the shooters dont manage to kill. Tje ones yourgoi gren for.

    I think This country needs a rewind.

    1. Tell that to the 63,000,000+ Americans who were denied the Right to Life that you have enjoyed all your years on the planet, David G. Or are you so jaded that you haven’t enjoyed them?

    2. Bob P – took you a while to troll in. Thanks for visiting.

      I am not in support of abortion as you think. I’m in support of women in making a decision about their bodies. I know first hand someone who had no choice to have an abortion or risk losing their own life. What’s more valuable, an unborn terminally ill child, or the health of the mother who has no control over the situation except abort and live (with the grief).

      There is more to every story, but you only see one side, yours.

    3. When they come after access to contraception next, and they will, women should make sure men face mandatory castration for use of condoms or getting a vasectomy. That would change some hearts and minds really quick.

      Because, despite the protests of folks like Bob who throws some diapers at the situation, it’s not really about abortion or the life of the unborn child. It’d about keeping women subservient. The child is just collateral damage.

    4. Truly the Gilead paradise those crazy right-wingers wanted!

      Women’s rights are being clawed away…with the hooked part of coat hangers, no less!

      I mean, they’re just trying to turn us all into the buckle of the Bible Belt, where women have no rights…
      …except that Alabama has long had a female Governor (Kay Ivey).
      …and Mississippi has a female US Senator (Cindy Hyde-Smith)

      The goal of course is to take their rights away, since it’s nothing but men who pass these anti-choice laws….except that it was eight white men (and one black man) who originally issued the Roe v Wade verdict.

      It doesn’t hurt to make peace with the notion that this decision, like most, should be the domain of state legislatures…and I for one will be petitioning the Indiana legislature, to maintain a woman’s right to choose.

    1. Very well put. As a person who generally favors pro-choice arguments (up to a point of reasonableness which I believe should remain open to dispute), I agree.

  4. Giles I agree.
    One small example of the bias here is; if you read what it says about percentage of Americans attitude about abortion you would think that overwhelmingly people want abortion in almost all cases. However PEW research found:
    27% illegal in most cases
    36% legal in most cases
    6% legal in all cases
    8% illegal in all cases
    So the beat of the left leaning press goes on.

  5. Women do have a choice on this matter. If they don’t want to be pregnant and have a baby, don’t engage in “choices” that result in pregnancy. As more and more people favor a culture that relieves individuals from consequences of their choices and behavior, more and more “other people” are unwilling to accept this culture of no consequences.

    1. So a women gets raped, she should be forced to have the baby because it was her choice to get raped?

      When a women chooses to have a baby, but something awful happens and a miscarriage is taking place, she should be forced to die because if that baby has a heartbeat, the health of the mother is subservient to that baby? (Go google Savita Halappanavar.). Because that’s what takes place in most of those “late term” abortions, which are a very small number. If you’ve carried a baby that far, it’s because you wanted to have a baby.

      What’s going to happen is that we are going to get a bunch of extreme abortion bans because that’s where the pro-life movement is. No exceptions for rape, none for incest, and none for the life of the child.

      Then you’ll start hearing the stories of women who died in the hospital, entirely preventable deaths, because some politician thought he knew what was better for that woman than her own doctors. Women who take their own lives because they can’t handle the mental strain of being forced to carry a child of rape or incest to term. (And spare me that pro lifers are going to offer better counseling for these women. They don’t care about the women.)

      After enough of those cases, abortion will be legalized again in America, in roughly the form it is today. It’s sad that a bunch of women will have to die because Americans forgot the lessons of the 1960’s, the lessons of Prohibition, and are too foolish to look at the rest of the world like Ireland.

    2. So, Joe; you’re willing to overlook the women who are killed in the womb during an abortion? Thats’ roughly 50% of the aborted babies, you know.

      Let’s get one thing straight about this “it’s her body” nonsense. Since Roe vs. Wade was passed, the science of DNA has come to the fore. DNA, not the Bible, has proven that the baby inside a woman does not, repeat, NOT, have the same DNA as the woman in whom the baby is growing. If that growing baby was “part of her body,” the baby’s DNA would be the same as hers, just as is the DNA in her blood, hair, toenails, etc., etc. But it is not, so, therefore, it is not “part of her body” to do with as she pleases.

    3. Bob, we’ve had this talk like 14 times. So I’m going to be lazy and copy/paste since normally when I post this, you get real quiet.

      What’s the pro-life case for forcing women to get pregnant when we have the knowledge and ability for them to, practically, not get pregnant to begin with with IUD’s? Why would Thomas ever breach the topic that access to contraceptives are next? Is he that crazy, that stupid, or both?

      Why not achieve minimal abortions by reducing the demand, via better access to contraception, better sex education, and people better able to afford the cost of raising a child, as opposed to thinking that banning abortion clinics (reducing the supply) will help? How’s that going to be any different than the 1960’s, or Prohibition for that matter?

      I also note how many (but not all) lose interest in that life once the abortion is stopped. Little interest in Indiana’s abysmal maternal mortality rate, little interest in better schooling outcomes, little interest in doing something to help people who can’t afford the $250,000 average cost it takes to raise a child. Throwing diapers at it is not going to help.

    1. It wasn’t done for wins and losses – it was the reversal of a court opinion that was never law. Read the Constitution and appreciate a federal government that stays in its own land.

    2. Thank you Mike D. I also applaud the court’s ruling today, not because of how I feel about abortion but because I care profoundly about the rule of law.

  6. Thank God for SCOTUS doing the right thing and overturning a bad ruling. May Roe v Wade forever be relegated to the dust bin of history, along with the Holocaust and slavery.

  7. Sound legal minds have argued that Roe v Wade was incorrectly decided. They may well be right. 50 years of reliance on that decision, though, in a country with 50% greater population and a completely different healthcare system today is not nothing and this reversal is clearly a takeaway for many. Even if Roe was a bad decision, two wrongs don’t make a right.

    This is a classic competing rights question, which makes the debate complicated. The rights in question are those of the pregnant mother and the unborn fetus. Those who would argue that one or the other of those parties has absolute rights and the other none are reducing the question to an inaccurate simplification. Roe prioritized the rights of the mother and this reversal prioritizes the rights of the fetus or at least neutralizes the disparity. All but the most extreme anti-abortion voices intuitively understand that the rights of the mother are superior in some perhaps unexplainable way to the rights of the fetus, which is demonstrated by the fact that, regardless of which side of the debate we fall, a miniscule minority of us would suggest that all abortive mothers should be tried for murder. We understand that abortion, while premeditated, is not equivalent to the premeditated killing of another living,breathing human.

    Alito’s argument that the constitution does not provide the right to abortion is neither sound nor consistent with precedent. There are many unenumerated rights that the Constitution doesn’t provide for, including the right to marry who we choose. The Supreme Court has established a number of rights since the 19th century, including Brown v Board. At best this defense of the position is cherry picking. At worst, it will lead to attacking other unenumerated rights down the road. Outgroup being attacked in the future: “But Alito said this applies only to abortion and not other rights because abortion is related to life and is special.” Supreme Court of the future: “Who cares about court precedent, he was wrong cuz I believe something different.”

    Kicking the issue to the states is both a cop out and doesn’t represent a just outcome for women. Particularly given the partisan acrimony of today, depending upon the state in which one lives, vastly different laws will apply. One of the ways in which a constitutional republic works is that as much as possible is legislated at the level of governance closest to the people but at the federal level, endeavors that are either impractical or impossible at lower levels of goverance are undertaken. Uniformly just treatment of women is a good example and forced pregnancy in one state versus availability of options in another represents an unequally just system. It’s also blatantly obvious that negative outcomes will be disproportionately owned by women. Only one gender in our species carries and bears a child and I expect very few red states’ restrictive laws will address responsibilities of the fathers in any meaningful way. In fact, it’s always seemed to me that the rah-rah males in the anti-abortion group have no legitimate standing at all.

    This decision will have many second order consequences which will lead to negative outcomes. The burden of forced pregnancy will fall disproportionately to the disadvantaged who have both the lowest access to healthcare and are least capable of dealing with it. Burden on the social safety net will increase in ways not yet imagined. Enforcement challenges and black market opportunities will be prevalent. In actuality, this will result in a relatively small reduction in abortions as most abortions occur in blue states which will find ways to be more accommodative to their citizens and neighboring citizens. Growing businesses with an eye to the future that provide an economic engine to red states will consider this as another variable in the calculation of where to locate their businesses, causing red states to lose out.

    While many have come to believe this, the abortion debate has never been about the morality of killing fetuses. That characterization simply provides cover and plausible deniability for a distinct minority to exercise its will over the majority. The vast majority of us are in the safe legal and rare camp. Women don’t choose abortions for funsies or convenience or because they have evil in their hearts. Abortions are often the last resort for women or families in desperate circumstances. That last resort will be removed for a subgroup of women and families. The Venn diagram of the group who believes that forced pregnancy is the best rule for large segments of our society represents a perfect overlap with the group that consistently votes against social programs to assist mothers and families who are disadvantaged. Also perfect overlap with the group promoting sloganeering such as welfare queens, personal responsibility, family values, no one wants to work, etc

    The first big domino to fall in the long game initiated by the GOP 40 years ago – a remaking of the Supreme Court as a political institution. Recognizing that the country’s demographics were changing and GOP influence would increasingly represent minoritarian rule, there was a need to further strengthen the structural advantage provided by the Electoral College and Senate rules. This is just the start – bad faith actors, fueled by the burn it all down crowd, will bring other legal actions intended to undermine and delegitimize groups they despise. This was very clearly demonstrated by the 2020 election. A good example is the Texas attorney general’s lawsuit seeking to overturn the results of other state’s elections. Yes, the case was rejected by the Supreme Court, but the point is that it was brought at all, on top of which it was signed onto by 18 states’ attorney’s general. Any of us, with no legal education but just a modicum of common sense would be able to identify the corrupted and blatantly unjust thinking required to suggest that one state should have the power to overrule the will of the citizens of another state in order to reverse an election result that didn’t suit our preference. It seems almost ludicrous in retrospect but represents the morally bankrupt and bad faith action that can lead to crumbling of the foundations of what we all believe to be the greatest free society in history.