On Friday, the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the historic 1973 case where the court decided that abortion was a constitutional right in the US.
By a 6-3 decision, the court overturned the ruling, leaving decisions regarding access to abortion up to individual states.
The ruling did not just afford women the right to abortion. Its ruling on Americans’ right to privacy has also been used to protect access to contraception as well as to give gay people the right to marry.
The 1992 case Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which affirmed the right to abortion that was decided in the Roe v. Wade case, was also overturned on Friday.
Since 1973, women in the US have had the right to receive an abortion during the first two trimesters of pregnancy before the fetus could survive outside of the womb.
Now, at least half of the US states are expected to enact laws restricting abortion either completely or severely.
Roe v Wade overturned
Conservative Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority opinion, and five other conservative Justices on the Court joined the opinion. The Court’s three liberal justices opposed the ruling.
“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, including the one on which the defenders of Roe and Casey now chiefly rely—the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment,” Alito wrote.
In response, the three dissenting justices wrote:
“The majority has overruled Roe and Casey for one and only one reason: because it has always despised them, and now it has the votes to discard them. The majority thereby substitutes a rule by judges for the rule of law…The majority would allow States to ban abortion from conception onward because it does not think forced childbirth at all implicates a woman’s rights to equality and freedom.”
“Today’s Court, that is, does not think there is anything of constitutional significance attached to a woman’s control of her body and the path of her life…A State can force her to bring a pregnancy to term, even at the steepest personal and familial costs,” it wrote.
Leaked decision caused uproar
In early May, a 98-page draft opinion overturning the ruling was leaked to Politico. In the opinion, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion across the US is “egregiously wrong.”
The leaked document quotes Justice Alito as saying: “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences.”
Justice Alito added that “far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division.”
Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer—both Democrats—issued a joint statement at the time saying that if the report was accurate, the “Supreme Court is poised to inflict the greatest restriction of rights in the past 50 years.”
“If the report is accurate, the Supreme Court is poised to inflict the greatest restriction of rights in the past 50 years—not just on women but on all Americans,” said the statement.
“The Republican-appointed Justices’ reported votes to overturn Roe v. Wade would go down as an abomination, one of the worst and most damaging decisions in modern history.”