WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Friday overturned Roe v. Wade, eliminating the constitutional right to abortion after nearly 50 years in a decision that will transform American life, reshape the country’s politics and lead to outright bans on the procedure in about half of the states.
The ruling will test the court’s legitimacy and vindicate a decades-long Republican project to install conservative justices willing to overturn precedent, which had been repeatedly reaffirmed by previous courts. It will also be one of the reported legacies of President Donald J. Trump, who vowed to appoint judges who would overrule Roe. The three people he named were in the majority in the 6-3 decision.
The decision, which echoes a leaked draft notice published by Politico in early May, will result in a sharply divided country in which abortion is severely restricted or banned in many red states but remains freely available in most states. blue.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. voted with the majority, but said he would have taken “a more measured course,” stopping short of nullifying Roe outright. The three liberal members of the tribunal expressed their dissent.
The case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, No. 19-1392, concerned a law enacted in 2018 by the Republican-dominated Mississippi Legislature that prohibited abortions if the “probable gestational age of the unborn human” was determined to be older. of 15 weeks. The law, a calculated challenge for Roe, included narrow exceptions for medical emergencies or “a serious fetal abnormality.”
Mississippi’s only abortion clinic sued, saying the law violated Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 ruling that upheld Roe’s primary action.
Lower courts ruled for the clinic, saying the law was clearly unconstitutional under Roe, which prohibited states from banning abortions before fetal viability — the time when fetuses can live outside the womb, currently about 23 weeks.
Federal District Court Judge Carlton W. Reeves in Jackson, Mississippi, blocked the law in 2018, saying the legal issue was simple and questioning the motives of state lawmakers.
“The state chose to pass a law it knew was unconstitutional to endorse a decades-long campaign, fueled by national interest groups, to ask the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade,” wrote Judge Reeves. “This court is following the orders of the Supreme Court and the precepts of the United States Constitution, rather than the fallacious calculations of the Mississippi Legislature.”
“With recent changes in the makeup of the Supreme Court, the state may believe that divine providence covered the Capitol when it passed this legislation,” he wrote. “Time will tell. If Roe’s nullification is the state’s desired outcome, the state will have to seek that remedy in a higher court. At this time, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled .
A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans upheld Judge Reeves’ decision. “In an unbroken line dating back to Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s abortion cases have established (and affirmed and reaffirmed) a woman’s right to choose an abortion before viability,” Justice Patrick E wrote. Higginbotham for the majority.
In ruling on behalf of the state, the Supreme Court did more than just uphold Mississippi law, leaving questions about stricter limits for another day. Instead, he canceled Roe outright.
When the court decided Roe in 1973, it established a framework to govern the regulation of abortion based on trimesters of pregnancy. In the first quarter, it allowed almost no regulation. In the second, it authorized regulations to protect women’s health. In the third, it allowed states to ban abortions as long as exceptions were made to protect the life and health of the mother.
The court rejected the trimester framework in 1992 in the Casey decision, but upheld what it called Roe’s “essential detention” – that women have a constitutional right to terminate their pregnancies until viability fetal.
Two years ago, in June 2020, the Supreme Court struck down a restrictive Louisiana abortion law by a 5-4 margin, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. providing the deciding vote. His concurring opinion, which expressed respect for precedent but offered a relatively lenient standard for assessing restrictions, signaled a step-by-step approach to reducing the right to abortion.
But that was before Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died in September. His replacement with Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative who spoke out against “abortion on demand,” changed the dynamic in court, diminishing the power of the chief justice to guide the pace of change.