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Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade

Jun 24, 2022


The Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, reversing 50 years of precedent and sending the issue of abortion back to the states. In a (6-3) decision, the justices ruled in favor of a Mississippi law that banned elective abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. 

“The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion; Roe and [Planned Parenthood v.] Casey are overruled; and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives,” the justices ruled in a opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito. 

“Abortion presents a profound moral question,” the decision said. “The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohib- iting abortion. Roe and Casey arrogated that authority. The Court overrules those decisions and returns that authority to the people and their elected representatives.”

Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor dissented. 

The case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, stemmed from Mississippi’s 2018 “Gestational Age Act,” which prohibited abortions except in cases of medical emergencies or severe fetal abnormalities.

The petitioner, Dobbs, argued the high court should overturn Roe v. Wade because the constitution does not provide the right to an abortion. Dobbs also argued Roe took the decision of abortion rights away from the people. 

The case is named Dobbs because Dr. Thomas Dobbs is the state health officer of the Mississippi Department of Health and the law states the plaintiffs must sue the head of the regulatory authority. 

The respondents, Jackson Women’s Health, argued the court already rejected many of the same arguments Dobbs is making in their Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision. Attorneys for Jackson Women’s Health also argued the central findings in Roe, that a state cannot ban abortions before fetal viability, have been reaffirmed multiple times. 

Roe v. Wade was decided in January 1973. In a 7-2 decision, the justices ruled women have a constitutional right to an abortion under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment, which provides a right to privacy. The justices said that right protects their ability to choose whether to have an abortion. 

Roe’s precedent was reaffirmed in Casey in 1992. In a 5-4 ruling, the justices ruled states laws cannot impose an “undue burden” on receiving an abortion, which they defined as “substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability.”

The suit stemmed from a Pennsylvania law that required women who wanted abortions to wait 24 hours; if married, inform their husbands; and if minors, receive consent from one of their parents.  

A draft of the Dobbs decision by Justice Alito was uncharacteristically leaked in May. Chief Justice John Roberts ordered the court’s marshal to investigate who passed the draft to the media. The investigation is ongoing. Court law clerks have since been asked to hand over their personal cell phone data.