WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court has officially overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that recognized women’s constitutional right to abortion.
The court, in a 6-3 ruling powered by its conservative majority, upheld a Republican-backed Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
The vote was 5-4 to overturn Roe, with conservative Chief Justice John Roberts writing separately to say he would have upheld the Mississippi law without taking the additional step of erasing the Roe precedent altogether.
The ruling restored the ability of states to ban abortion. Twenty-six states are either certain or considered likely to ban abortion. Mississippi is among 13 states with so-called trigger laws to ban abortion with the law overturned.
Outside the Court on Friday, crowds gathered, surrounded by a tall security fence. Anti-abortion activists erupted in cheers after the ruling, while some abortion rights supporters were in tears, Reuters reported.
Conservative Justice Clarence Thomas urged the court to reconsider past rulings protecting the right to contraception, legalizing gay marriage nationwide and invalidating state laws banning gay sex.
The justices, in the ruling written by conservative Justice Samuel Alito, held that the Roe decision that allowed abortions performed before a fetus would be viable outside the womb — which occurs between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy — was wrongly decided because the U.S. Constitution makes no specific mention of abortion rights.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh, in a concurring opinion, appeared to nix an idea advocated by some anti-abortion advocates that the next step is for the court to declare that the Constitution outlaws abortion. “The Constitution neither outlaws abortion nor legalizes abortion,” Kavanaugh wrote. He also said that the ruling does not let states bar residents from traveling to another state to obtain an abortion or retroactively punish people for prior abortions.
Women with unwanted pregnancies in large swathes of America now may face the choice of traveling to another state where the procedure remains legal and available, buying abortion pills online or having a potentially dangerous illegal abortion.
In Michigan, Governor Whitmer filed a motion urging the Michigan Supreme Court to immediately consider her earlier lawsuit asking the court to decide if Michigan’s state constitution protects the right to an abortion.
The lawsuit asks the Court to recognize a constitutional right to an abortion under the Due Process Clause of the Michigan Constitution. It also asks the court to stop enforcement of the 1931 Michigan abortion ban. It says the old abortion ban violates Michigan’s due process clause, which provides a right to privacy and bodily autonomy that is violated by the state’s near-total criminal ban of abortion.
Since the decision was leaked weeks ago, local prosecutors, like the state’s Attorney General Dana Nessel, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy and others have already pledged they will not enforce abortion violations on women and health care professionals providing abortion care.
Here are some reactions from Michigan officials to the unprecedented ruling:
Governor Whitmer: “With today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision, Michigan’s extreme 1931 law banning abortion without exceptions for rape or incest and criminalizing doctors and nurses who provide reproductive care is poised to take effect. If the 1931 law goes into effect, it will punish women and strip away their right to make decisions about their own bodies. That is why I filed a lawsuit in April and used my executive authority to urge the Michigan Supreme Court to immediately resolve whether Michigan’s state constitution protects the right to abortion. I will fight like hell to protect the rights of Michigan women.”
State’s Chief Medical Executive Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian: “As a physician, I know that the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States to overturn nearly half a century of precedent protecting safe, legal abortion violates the trusted relationship between a patient and their doctor. This ruling completely supersedes and overrides a woman’s ability to dictate her health care in consultation with her physician.”
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy: “My three daughters had rights when I woke up this morning. It is very sobering and upsetting that my daughters now have less rights over their own bodies than me or my mother before them. They are now chattel. And what do we tell the girl that is raped at 12-years-old who now must have the baby of her rapist? No wonder only 25 percent of Americans have faith in the United States Supreme Court.”
U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit): “This decision is the culmination of decades of unhinged far-right campaigning completely out of step with the democratic will of the people – and it will not be the end. Voting rights were stripped away last year. Gun control laws were ruled unconstitutional yesterday and today, the right to an abortion was taken away. Tomorrow, it will be contraception, same-sex marriage and the right to be with the person you choose. This illegitimate supermajority has signaled its intent to strip away the rights you hold dear, cynically rewarding its political supporters and cruelly punishing its political enemies.”
Michigan Department of Civil Rights Executive Director John E. Johnson, Jr.: “The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade is a direct affront to the civil rights of women, creating a devastating disparate impact between their reproductive health options and reproductive health care for men. Let me be clear: This decision will not end abortion, but it will make it nearly impossible for anyone without significant resources to get one. That means many of the people whose civil rights we are mandated to protect will be the most impacted by this decision.”
Episcopal Diocese of Michigan’s Bishop Bonnie A. Perry: “I am a Christian. I am the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan. I oversee 74 congregations and communities of faith in southeast and south-central Michigan: Some 17,000 people. I am pro-choice. I support a woman’s right to choose what happens to her body. The teaching in the Episcopal Church since 1967 — explicitly supports a woman’s right to determine if and when she will decide to have a child. As a pastor of more than 30 years I have sat with women and with couples who have grappled with the decision to have an abortion. One couple stands out to me. They arrived unexpectantly in my office, sobbing, having just received the news of a devastating fetal anomaly. Their ultimate decision to have an abortion and end her pregnancy was not done unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently and prayerfully. I bore witness to their decision-making process and cried and prayed with them. I have the deepest compassion and care for women and couples who make this decision. I believe abortion should be safe, accessible and rare. I believe it should be medically informed and not legislatively dictated, or judicially restricted. I write this as a person of deep faith and love for Jesus Christ.”
— Wire and staff report