US Supreme Court overturns Roe vs Wade abortion rights landmark

The US Supreme Court on Friday took the dramatic step of overturning the landmark 1973 Roe vs Wade ruling that recognised a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion and legalised it nationwide, handing a momentous victory to Republicans and religious conservatives who want to limit or ban the procedure.

The court, in a 6-3 ruling powered by its conservative majority, upheld a Republican-backed Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The vote was 5-4 to overturn Roe, with Chief Justice John Roberts writing separately to say he would have upheld the Mississippi law but not taken the additional step of erasing the Roe precedent altogether.

The justices, in the ruling written by conservative Justice Samuel Alito, held that the Roe decision that allowed abortions performed before a fetus would be viable outside the womb – between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy – was wrongly decided because the US Constitution makes no specific mention of abortion rights.

By erasing abortion as a constitutional right, the ruling restored the ability of states to ban it, fundamentally altering America’s landscape on the issue of reproductive rights. Twenty-six states are either certain or considered likely to ban abortion. Mississippi is among 13 states with so-called trigger laws to ban abortion with Roe overturned.

President Joe Biden condemned the ruling as taking an “extreme and dangerous path.”

“It’s a sad day for the court and for the country,” Biden said at the White House. “… The court has done what it has never done before: expressly take away a constitutional right that is so fundamental to so many Americans.”

Empowering states to ban abortion makes the United States an outlier among developed nations on protecting reproductive rights, the Democratic president added.

Biden urged Congress to pass a law protecting abortion rights, an unlikely proposition given its partisan divisions. Biden said his administration will protect women’s access to medications approved by the US Food and Drug Administration including pills for contraception and medication abortion, while also combating efforts to restrict women from traveling to other states to obtain abortions.

Biden urged protesters to remain peaceful.

A draft version of Alito’s ruling indicating the court was ready to overturn Roe was leaked in May, igniting a political firestorm. Friday’s ruling largely tracked this leaked draft.

“The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision,” Alito wrote in the ruling.

Joe vs Wade recognised that the right to personal privacy under the Constitution protects a woman’s ability to terminate her pregnancy. The Supreme Court in a 1992 ruling called Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania vs Casey reaffirmed abortion rights and prohibited laws imposing an “undue burden” on abortion access. Friday’s ruling overturned the Casey decision as well.

“Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences. And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division,” Alito added.

Overturning Roe was long a goal of Christian conservatives and many Republican officeholders. Opinion polls show a majority of Americans support abortion rights. The ruling illustrated the deep polarization in America on a range of issues, also including guns, race, COVID-19 pandemic-related policies and voting rights.

The court’s three liberal justices – Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan – issued a jointly authored dissent.

“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,” they wrote.

As a result of Friday’s ruling, “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,” the liberal justices added.

Biden urged Congress to pass a law protecting abortion rights, an unlikely proposition given its partisan divisions. Biden said his administration will protect women’s access to medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration including pills for contraception and medication abortion, while also combating efforts to restrict women from traveling to other states to obtain abortions.

Biden urged protesters to remain peaceful.

A draft version of Alito’s ruling indicating the court was ready to overturn Roe was leaked in May, igniting a political firestorm. Friday’s ruling largely tracked this leaked draft.

“The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision,” Alito wrote in the ruling.

‘DAMAGING CONSEQUENCES’

Roe v. Wade recognized that the right to personal privacy under the Constitution protects a woman’s ability to terminate her pregnancy. The Supreme Court in a 1992 ruling called Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey reaffirmed abortion rights and prohibited laws imposing an “undue burden” on abortion access. Friday’s ruling overturned the Casey decision as well.

“Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences. And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division,” Alito added.

Overturning Roe was long a goal of Christian conservatives and many Republican officeholders. Opinion polls show a majority of Americans support abortion rights. The ruling illustrated the deep polarization in America on a range of issues, also including guns, race, COVID-19 pandemic-related policies and voting rights.

The court’s three liberal justices – Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan – issued a jointly authored dissent.

“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,” they wrote.

As a result of Friday’s ruling, “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,” the liberal justices added.

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