Roe v. Wade Is Overturned by the Supreme Court

The erasure of the constitutional right to end a pregnancy will wreak havoc for parents, pregnant people, and anyone who wants to conceive. Here are the details—and what comes next.

The U.S. Supreme Court Issues Opinions
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The Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case that determined abortion is a constitutional right. In a 6-3 decision on Friday, June 24, nearly 50 years of guaranteed federal protection of abortion rights has been erased as a result of the decision to Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, a case related to a Mississippi law that banned nearly all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

The decision comes less than two months after a leaked draft opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito was leaked and published in POLITICO. Although the decision might be expected, it's no less spurring shock and horror among Roe v. Wade supporters including parents, pregnant people, and people who want to get pregnant who depended on Roe for their survival. Black and Latinx pregnant people, who are already more likely to experience barriers to abortion and maternal health care, will suffer the most under the Supreme Court's decision. People in the Midwest and South might be forced to seek unsafe abortions or cross state lines for care based on existing state policy and trigger bills.

As expected, the majority opinion, which has overturned Roe as well as a 1992 Supreme Court decision called Planned Parenthood v. Casey that upheld abortion rights, was written by Justice Samuel Alito. Alito was joined by five other conservatives on the high court, including Chief Justice John Roberts.

"We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled," Alito wrote. "The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision, including the one on which the defenders of Roe and Casey now chiefly rely — the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment."

He continued, "That provision has been held to guarantee some rights that are not mentioned in the Constitution, but any such right must be 'deeply rooted in this Nation's history and tradition' and 'implicit in the concept of ordered liberty. It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people's elected representatives."

And in a concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas writes that the Supreme Court should reconsider Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell—the rulings that now protect contraception, same-sex relationships, and same-sex marriage.

The dissenting opinion to the case was filed by the court's three liberal justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. They called the decision a "cavalier approach to overturning" women's rights, writing, "One result of today's decision is certain: the curtailment of women's rights, and of their status as free and equal citizens."

The trio also pointed out that the ruling will most significantly affect lower-income people who cannot afford to travel between states or overseas for an abortion.

What Happens Next

With Roe overturned, individual states now get to decide their own abortion laws. "Trigger laws" are already in place in 13 states. Donna Crane, an adjunct professor at San José State University with an expertise in women's rights and reproductive rights, defined these laws to the New York Times: "Some states that are very strongly anti-abortion, having been frustrated that they couldn't ban abortion because of Roe v. Wade, decided to pass laws that would be on the books and operative immediately in the future event that the court ever removed the protections of Roe."

All in all, 26 states have laws or constitutional amendments already in place that would make them certain to attempt to ban abortion as quickly as possible, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a leading reproductive rights advocacy group. Combined with the record number of measures restricting abortion access already passed this year, the reproductive health organization says that women and people who can get pregnant, such as nonbinary and transgender folks, in America are facing an "all-out assault" on abortion rights.

Reactions to Roe v. Wade Being Overturned

Reproductive rights and health organizations as well as celebrities, public figures—many of them parents themselves—immediately spoke out about the decision.

Planned Parenthood tweeted, "We know you may be feeling a lot of things right now — hurt, anger, confusion. Whatever you feel is OK. We're here with you — and we'll never stop fighting for you."

Alexis McGill Johnson, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, added, "The Supreme Court has now officially given politicians permission to control what we do with our bodies, deciding that we can no longer be trusted to determine the course for our own lives. But make no mistake—we are a movement that will demand we are treated like equal citizens."

Former First Lady Michelle Obama posted a letter in which she shares that she is "heartbroken for people around this country who just lost the fundamental right to make decisions about their own bodies."

Congresswoman Cori Bush wrote, "Abortion care IS health care. It was so before this. And it will remain so after this.

We don't care what a far-right extremist Supreme Court that is in a crisis of legitimacy says. Your racist, sexist, classist ruling won't stop us from accessing the care we need."

Mom of two and Virginia politician Jennifer Carroll Foy shared, "One of the most important life decisions we will ever make is whether to become a parent. Lawmakers have no place interfering in someone else's decisions about pregnancy or abortion."

Jennifer Lincoln, M.D., IBCLC, a board-certified OB-GYN, TikTok educator, and author said that anyone who has concerns about abortion access should know about their options like emergency contraception and medication abortion pills, which are safe and can be obtained with a mail-order prescription. "Now is the time to fight back by donating to local abortion funds," she added. "Get angry, take a deep breath, and take action. Your action matters now more than ever."

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi wrote, "Today, the Republican-controlled Supreme Court has achieved the GOP's dark and extreme goal of ripping away women's right to make their own reproductive health decisions."

But later, in her weekly press conference held at the U.S. Capitol, Speaker Pelosi had words of encouragement for those left devastated and livid by the decision. She urged people to "know the power of mobilization," which she said, "makes all the difference in the world." The speaker added that it is now time to "make your voices heard to your elected officials."

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