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U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, ends constitutional right to abortion

World Jun 26, 2022 12:48AM ET
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2/2 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Police officers walk outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, U.S., May 3, 2022. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/File Photo 2/2

By Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that recognized women's constitutional right to abortion, a decision condemned by President Joe Biden that will dramatically change life for millions of women in America and exacerbate growing tensions in a deeply polarized country.

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 reverberations of the ruling will be felt far beyond the court's high-security confines - potentially reshaping the battlefield in November's elections to determine whether Biden's fellow Democrats retain control of Congress and signaling a new openness by the justices to change other long-recognized rights.

The decision will also intensify debate over the legitimacy of the court, once an unassailable cornerstone of the American democratic system but increasingly under scrutiny for its more aggressively conservative decisions on a range of issues.

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 Roe overturned. (For related graphic click https://tmsnrt.rs/3Njv3Cw)

In a concurring opinion that raised concerns the justices might roll back other rights, 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.

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.

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.

Kavanaugh 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.

'SAD DAY'

Biden condemned the ruling as taking an "extreme and dangerous path."

"It's a sad day for the court and for the country," Biden said at the White House. "The court has done what it has never done before: expressly take away a constitutional right that is so fundamental to so many Americans."

Empowering states to ban abortion makes the United States an outlier among developed nations on protecting reproductive rights, the Democratic president added.

Biden urged Congress to pass a law protecting abortion rights, an unlikely proposition given its partisan divisions. Biden said his administration will protect women's access to medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration including pills for contraception and medication abortion, while also combating efforts to restrict women from traveling to other states to obtain abortions.

Britain, France and some other nations called the ruling a step backward, although the Vatican praised it, saying it challenged the world to reflect on life issues.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the decision was "a loss for women everywhere". "Watching the removal of a woman's fundamental right to make decisions over their own body is incredibly upsetting," she said in a statement.

U.S. companies including Walt Disney Co, AT&T (N:T) and Facebook (NASDAQ:META) parent Meta Platforms Inc said they will cover employees' expenses if they now have to travel for abortion services.

'DAMAGING CONSEQUENCES'

A draft version of Alito's ruling indicating the court was ready to overturn Roe was leaked in May, igniting a political firestorm. Friday's ruling largely tracked this leaked draft.

"The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision," Alito wrote in the ruling.

Roe v. Wade recognized that the right to personal privacy under the Constitution protects a woman's ability to terminate her pregnancy. The Supreme Court in a 1992 ruling called Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey reaffirmed abortion rights and prohibited laws imposing an "undue burden" on abortion access. Friday's ruling overturned the Casey decision as well.

"Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences. And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division," Alito added.

The court's three liberal justices - Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan - issued a jointly authored dissent.

"Whatever the exact scope of the coming laws, one result of today's decision is certain: the curtailment of women's rights, and of their status as free and equal citizens," they wrote.

As a result of Friday's ruling, "from the very moment of fertilization, a woman has no rights to speak of. A state can force her to bring a pregnancy to term, even at the steepest personal and familial costs," the liberal justices added.

The ruling empowered states to ban abortion just a day after the court's conservative majority issued another decision limiting the ability of states to enact gun restrictions.

The abortion and gun rulings illustrated the polarization in America on a range of issues, also including race and voting rights.

Overturning Roe was long a goal of Christian conservatives and many Republican officeholders, including former President Donald Trump, who as a candidate in 2016 promised to appoint justices to the Supreme Court who would reverse Roe. During his term he named three to the bench, all of whom joined the majority in the ruling.

Asked in a Fox News interview whether he deserved some credit for the ruling, Trump said: "God made the decision."

Crowds gathered outside the courthouse, surrounded by a tall security fence. Anti-abortion activists erupted in cheers after the ruling, while some abortion rights supporters were in tears.

"I'm ecstatic," said Emma Craig, 36, of Pro Life San Francisco. "Abortion is the biggest tragedy of our generation and in 50 years we'll look back at the 50 years we've been under Roe v. Wade with shame."

Hours later, protesters angered by the decision still gathered outside the court, as did crowds in cities from coast to coast including New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles and Seattle.

House of Representatives Speaker Democrat Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, denounced the decision, saying that a "Republican-controlled Supreme Court" has achieved that party's "dark and extreme goal of ripping away women's right to make their own reproductive health decisions."

The number of U.S. abortions increased by 8% during the three years ending in 2020, reversing a 30-year trend of declining numbers, according to data https://www.guttmacher.org/article/2022/06/long-term-decline-us-abortions-reverses-showing-rising-need-abortion-supreme-court released on June 15 by the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.

U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, ends constitutional right to abortion
 

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Comments (69)
John Lakran
John Lakran Jun 26, 2022 6:23PM ET
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Blows my mind how the left has no issue violating an actual constitutional right with guns but blows their top when a non- constitution provided political motivated case gets overturned. Make it a law is all they said as the court doesn't make laws they on interpret them. Easy and they way it should have been done decades ago.
First Last
First Last Jun 26, 2022 6:23PM ET
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The right has been saying the vaccine & mask mandates violate the Constitution.
John Lakran
John Lakran Jun 26, 2022 6:23PM ET
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They tried and failed maybe still even arguable but you know what isn't but the left still violates is the right to bear arms shall not be infringed. Doesn't say right to abort shall not be infringed.
Patron Silver
Patron Silver Jun 26, 2022 3:00PM ET
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Congress now must pass a law banning states from making garbage anti ******laws
Ken Roth
Ken Roth Jun 26, 2022 2:17PM ET
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The Roman Empire and Rome itself was the center of the world and great in technology, infrastructure, philosophy, military, democracy but as all empires they die due to internal division and outside pressure. USA is next with a sour dialog where nobody listens to echother and hatred is emerging. Too bad USA has been a beacon for many democracies in the world but not anymore
Alpha Omega
Alpha Omega Jun 26, 2022 11:04AM ET
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G O D  IS ALL !!!! Should G O D grace us with favors? Live your time on Earth as if every day is your last day....I Didn't Say It...
First Last
First Last Jun 26, 2022 11:04AM ET
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Liar.  You did say it.
Michael McNally
Michael McNally Jun 26, 2022 8:50AM ET
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The headline is complete lie. Nowhere in the U.S. Constitution does it say a woman has a right to have an ****** Left wing states that are controlled by Democrats will still be able to allow abortions.
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taylor jason
taylor jason Jun 26, 2022 8:50AM ET
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obviously the constitution doesn't say any about abortions since those weren't a thing back then. a
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Jun 26, 2022 8:50AM ET
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They were, actually. Legal too.
First Last
First Last Jun 26, 2022 8:50AM ET
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Retrumplicans have been claiming the vaccine & mask mandates are un-Constitutional.  Mandating a girl to give birth is much more intrusive than mandating a person to wear a mask.
First Last
First Last Jun 26, 2022 8:50AM ET
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taylor jason  "In colonial America and the early days of the republic, there were no abortion laws at all." ... “abortion in the first trimester would have been very, very common.” ... "in an era long before reliable pregnancy tests, abortion was generally not prosecuted or condemned up to the point of quickening ...  That’s when the fetus was generally recognized as a baby or person." ... "What we would now identify as an early induced abortion was not called an ‘abortion’ at all." -- www.nationalgeographic.com/history/article/the-complex-early-history-of-abortion-in-the-united-states
First Last
First Last Jun 26, 2022 8:50AM ET
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This means being pro-choice IS just being pro the way things were, IS being conservative rather than progressive.
Nils Hullmann
Nils Hullmann Jun 26, 2022 3:19AM ET
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a deserved victory for the pro life movement
Ken Roth
Ken Roth Jun 26, 2022 3:19AM ET
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Piss off russian bot nils is a russian with only purpose to divide us
First Last
First Last Jun 26, 2022 3:19AM ET
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Not pro the girls'/women's lives
Chris Morey
Chris Morey Jun 26, 2022 2:20AM ET
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Let's see- if the majority of Americans really support late ****** the Democrats should walk the 2022 elections. Likewise, if the majority in a conservative state do so, they can kick out their representatives.  The ruling takes power from the Washington Establishment and gives it back to the people. It's called democracy. In a democracy, if you don't like a decision, you vote against it. If the vote goes against you, you hone your arguments and try again. Americans, and others around the world, have lost sight of that principle lately.
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Jun 26, 2022 2:20AM ET
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... Until it comes to guns.
Ronald Warren
Ronald Warren Jun 26, 2022 2:20AM ET
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The Socialistic Venezuelan government confiscated their citizens guns, then redistributed them to the citizens who supported the party in power.
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Jun 26, 2022 2:20AM ET
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Congratulations! You completely missed the point.
First Last
First Last Jun 26, 2022 2:20AM ET
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This Court decision doesn't really differentiate between late & early abort ions, nor between consensual & non-consensual pregnancies.  If we allow majority of a state to make decision for a minority, blacks will still be slaves or 3/5 persons.
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Jun 26, 2022 2:20AM ET
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First Last I hadn't thought about it, but you are right. By overturning Roe, the SCOTUS threw out the rationale of limiting abortions beyond viability. This opens a new door for states to legalize abortion right up to delivery, if desired.
Kerry Ditto
Kerry Ditto Jun 26, 2022 1:52AM ET
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This is like a manufactured pandemic crisis on stock market. Without some sort of Fed intervention , which is unlikely, stock market goes down big.
Murali Krishna
Murali Krishna Jun 26, 2022 1:39AM ET
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Abortions are bearish.
Kerry Ditto
Kerry Ditto Jun 26, 2022 1:38AM ET
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Because of this unexpected downside shock, stock market is likely falling about 7% this coming week.
 
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