On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court took the unprecedented step of overturning the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that recognised a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion and legalised it nationwide, handing a monumental victory to Republicans and religious conservatives who want to restrict or ban the procedure.
In a judgement of 6-3, the conservative majority of the court maintained a Republican-backed Mississippi legislation prohibiting abortions after 15 weeks. Roe was overturned by a vote of 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John Roberts writing separately that he would have sustained the Mississippi statute but not taken the additional step of eliminating the precedent.
The judges ruled that the Roe v. Wade ruling allowing abortions between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy, before a foetus is viable outside the womb, was erroneous because the U.S. Constitution makes no mention of abortion rights.
In May, a draught of the judgement that indicated the court was likely to overrule Roe was leaked, sparking a political firestorm.
Lower courts had blocked the Mississippi statute as a violation of Supreme Court precedent on abortion rights.
By eliminating abortion as a fundamental right, the decision restores the freedom of states to establish laws restricting abortion. Currently, twenty-six states are considered either certain or likely to outlaw abortion. Mississippi is one of 13 states with so-called “trigger” legislation that would restrict abortion if Roe v. Wade were overturned.
It is likely that abortion will remain legal in liberal states. More than a dozen states now guarantee abortion rights with legislation. In recent years, numerous states governed by Republicans have imposed various abortion restrictions in defiance of the Roe judgement.
Prior to the Roe v. Wade ruling, many states prohibited abortion, leaving women who desired to terminate a pregnancy with limited options. As a result of Friday’s decision, women with undesired pregnancies in vast swaths of the United States may be forced to fly to a state where the procedure remains legal and accessible, purchase abortion drugs online, or undergo a possibly deadly illegal abortion.
Roe v. Wade’s overturning has long been an aim of Christian conservatives and many Republican elected officials.
As a 2016 candidate, former Republican President Donald Trump pledged to nominate Supreme Court judges who will overturn Roe. During his four years in office, he was able to nominate three conservative justices, or one-third of the total, shifting the court to the right and establishing a 6-3 conservative majority. In Friday’s verdict, all three Trump appointees, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett, were in the majority.
Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the sole remaining abortion facility in Mississippi, fought the 2018 law with help from the administration of Democratic President Joe Biden. The law permits abortions in cases of “medical urgency” or “severe foetal abnormalities,” but there is no exception for pregnancies caused by rape or incest.
In 2018, a federal judge invalidated the statute, citing the Roe precedent. In 2019, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans reached the same result.
Roe v. Wade acknowledged that a woman’s ability to terminate a pregnancy is protected by the U.S. Constitution’s right to privacy. In a 1992 decision titled Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, the Supreme Court reaffirmed abortion rights and rejected “undue hardship” regulations on abortion access.
Roberts condemned the release of Justice Samuel Alito’s draught ruling on the case on May 2 and announced an investigation to find the leaker. Extremely few Supreme Court leaks concern internal deliberations prior to the issuance of a judgement. Following the disclosure, Vice President Biden decried the overturning of Roe v. Wade as a “radical” action and asked Congress to establish laws preserving abortion access nationwide.
After the disclosure, thousands of people protested for abortion rights in Washington and other places, including at the homes of prominent conservative justices. A California man armed with a revolver, ammo, a crow bar, and pepper spray was arrested and charged with attempted murder on June 8 near Brett Kavanaugh’s house in Maryland.
In 2016, the Supreme Court invalidated a Texas legislation that imposed stringent limitations on abortion facilities and doctors. In 2020, the Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana statute that similarly restricted abortion providers. In recent years, however, the court has become more conservative as a result of three appointments appointed by former President Donald Trump.
Since 2018, the Supreme Court has lost two advocates for abortion rights. In 2020, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal justice, will pass away and be succeeded by Barrett, who as a scholar before joining the judiciary indicated support for reversing Roe.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, a conservative who occasionally sided with liberal judges on social issues like abortion and LGBT rights, retired in 2018 and was succeeded by Brett Kavanaugh. Kennedy was a member of the majority in the 1992 judgement and voted in 2016 to overturn the Texas abortion limitation.
In 2017, Gorsuch replaced the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, an opponent of abortion.
The majority of Americans support abortion rights, according to opinion polls. The overturning of Roe, however, has been a goal of anti-abortion activists and Christian conservatives for decades, as seen by annual marches in Washington, including one in January of this year.
The number of abortions in the United States surged by 8 percent during the three years ending in 2020, reversing a 30-year downward trend, according to figures released on June 15 by the pro-abortion rights Guttmacher Institute.
In 1980, seven years after the Roe v. Wade decision, the U.S. abortion rate peaked at 29.3 abortions per 1,000 women of childbearing age (15-44) before decreasing to 13.5 per 1,000 in 2017 and rising to 14.4 per 1,000 women by 2020. In 2020, there were 930,160 abortions in the United States, and 20,6% of pregnancies ended in abortion, up from 18,4% in 2017. From 2017 to 2020, there were 40 percent more abortions conducted in Mississippi.
In general, abortion rights have been expanding globally. According to the World Health Organization of the United Nations, around 73 million abortions are performed annually, or 29 percent of all pregnancies.