Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, eliminating constitutional right to abortion

By John Fritze | USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court ruled Friday that Americans no longer have a constitutional right to abortion, a watershed decision that overturned Roe v. Wade and erased a reproductive right that had been in place for nearly five decades.

In the court’s most closely watched and controversial case in years, a majority of the justices – all of whom were appointed by Republican presidents – held that the right to end a pregnancy was not found in the text of the Constitution nor the nation’s history.

Associate Justice Samuel Alito wrote the opinion for a 6-3 majority, with the court’s liberal justices in dissent. 

“Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” Alito wrote for the majority. “Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences.”

“It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives,” Alito wrote. 

The decision instantly shifts the focus of one of the nation’s most divisive issues to state capitals: Republican lawmakers are set to ban abortion in about half the states while Democratic-led states are likely to reinforce protections for the procedure. Access to abortion, in other words, will depend almost entirely on where a person lives. 

“After today, young women will come of age with fewer rights than their mothers and grandmothers had,” Associate Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in a dissent joined by the court’s two other liberal justices. “The majority accomplishes that result without so much as considering how women have relied on the right to choose or what it means to take that right away.”

Though not unexpected, the court’s decision hit like a political and cultural earthquake, reshaping the relationship between millions of Americans and the government. While the opinion will be celebrated by conservatives, it will almost certainly lead to protests, new lawsuits and charges from the left that the nation’s highest court – ostensibly above the partisan fray – is just as political as the other branches of the federal government.

That’s exactly what happened when a draft opinion in Mississippi’s challenge to Roe leaked May 2. The unprecedented breach of Supreme Court protocol, which showed how the conservative justices might overturn Roe, led to protests across the country. The opinion Friday appeared to closely track with the earlier leaked draft.

Anti-abortion groups, which had pushed for Friday’s outcome for decades, applauded the decision. 

“Today marks an historic human rights victory for unborn children and their mothers and a bright pro-life future for our nation,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony SBA Pro-Life America. “Every legislature in the land, in every single state and Congress, is now free to allow the will of the people to make its way into the law through our elected representatives.”

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Experts say the decision may set off challenges to other rights that, like abortion, have been grounded in the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of due process. Many of those have been taken for granted for years, such as the right to same-sex marriage, the right to interracial marriage and the right to access contraception. 

Democrats and groups that support abortion rights decried the decision.

“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,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement. “Because of Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, the Republican Party and their supermajority on the Supreme Court, American women today have less freedom than their mothers.”

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