WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years in a decision by its conservative majority to overturn Roe v. Wade. Friday’s outcome is expected to lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states.
The decision, unthinkable just a few years ago, was the culmination of decades of efforts by abortion opponents, made possible by an emboldened right side of the court that has been fortified by three appointees of former President Donald Trump.
The ruling came more than a month after the stunning leak of a draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito indicating the court was prepared to take this momentous step.
It puts the court at odds with a majority of Americans who favored preserving Roe, according to opinion polls.
Alito, in the final opinion issued Friday, wrote that Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 decision that reaffirmed the right to abortion, were wrong the day they were decided and must be overturned.
“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,” Alito wrote.
Authority to regulate abortion rests with the political branches, not the courts, Alito wrote.
Joining Alito were Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. The latter three justices are Trump appointees. Thomas first voted to overrule Roe 30 years ago.
Chief Justice John Roberts would have stopped short of ending the abortion right, noting that he would have upheld the Mississippi law at the heart of the case, a ban on abortion after 15 weeks, and said no more.
Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — the diminished liberal wing of the court — were in dissent.
“With sorrow—for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection—we dissent,” they wrote.
The ruling is expected to disproportionately affect minority women who already face limited access to health care, according to statistics analyzed by The Associated Press.
Thirteen states, mainly in the South and Midwest, already have laws on the books that ban abortion in the event Roe is overturned. Another half-dozen states have near-total bans or prohibitions after 6 weeks of pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant.
In roughly a half-dozen other states, the fight will be over dormant abortion bans that were enacted before Roe was decided in 1973 or new proposals to sharply limit when abortions can be performed, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.
Iowa and Illinois reactions
Iowa Gov. Reynolds released the following statement today in response to the ruling in the Dobbs case:
“The Supreme Court’s greatest moments have come when it allows America to embody more perfectly the enduring truth on which it was founded: that all human beings, without exception, are created equal. By that measure, today’s historic decision is clearly one such moment. But the fight for life is not over. As Governor, I won’t rest until every unborn Iowan is protected and respected.”
Below is a statement from Iowa Democratic Party Chair Ross Wilburn and Iowa Democratic Party First Vice Chair June Owens following the news from the U.S. Supreme Court regarding Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization:
“It is a dark day for freedom in our nation as we reckon with the consequences of a 50-years-long vendetta against the freedoms protected by Roe v. Wade.”
“Iowa Democrats will continue to fight for every Iowan’s right to decide for themselves if, when, and with whom they want to have a family. And this decision has only strengthened our resolve to see these personal freedoms restored.”
“The majority of Iowans and Americans believe that abortion should be legal. Democrats in the U.S. House have voted multiple times to write the protections of Roe into law, but Republicans in the Senate block it every time.”
“We must elect Iowa Democrats at every level of government in order to protect abortion rights. Kim Reynolds and Iowa Republicans will do everything in their power to outlaw abortion in our state.”
“This fight is not over – and I’m proud to stand alongside the Iowans organizing for a future where our personal freedoms are protected.”
U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill..), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today released the following statement on the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Durbin also announced that the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on July 12 that will examine a post-Roe America.
“Today’s decision eliminates a federally protected constitutional right that has been the law for nearly half a century. As a result, millions of Americans are waking up in a country where they have fewer rights than their parents and grandparents.
“The bottom line: on critical, personal choices involving a woman’s right to make reproductive decisions about her own body, do you trust her or the government? The Supreme Court now says a woman’s right to privacy does not extend to the most personal, private choice she will ever face.
“The Senate Judiciary Committee will explore the grim reality of a post-Roe America in a hearing next month. The Court’s decision to erase the right to access an abortion will not only lead to the denial of critical health care services, but also criminal consequences for women and health care providers in states eager to embrace draconian restrictions. I will keep fighting to enshrine into law a woman’s right to make her own reproductive choices. We cannot let our children inherit a nation that is less free and more dangerous than the one their parents grew up in.”
U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) issued this statement Friday morning:
“Today’s decision recognized that the weak legal reasoning in Roe v. Wade has done more to provoke conflict than to resolve it, as the late Justice Ginsburg observed. In a meticulous and well-reasoned opinion, the court dispensed with a flawed precedent, as it has rightly done in landmark decisions throughout history.
“For many Americans, including myself, this decision is about far more than correcting a flawed legal analysis in Roe; it means that the rights of the unborn are no longer in jeopardy by our federal government,” Grassley said. “Our nation was founded on the fundamental principle we are endowed by our creator with the unalienable right to life – a right that must be protected.
“This ruling does not ban the practice of abortion but instead empowers the people, through their accountable elected representatives to make common-sense policy decisions. It takes policymaking out of the hands of unelected judges,” he said. “Regardless of your views on this issue, or any other issue for that matter, we all should respect the role of our impartial judiciary and the decisions that it renders.
“We’re blessed to live in a country where the people play a leading role in how we are governed. The people can advocate for policy priorities in the public square, the halls of Congress and at the ballot box, as so many pro-life Americans have done throughout the past five decades,” Grassley said. “Seeking to intimidate or attack the court or undermine its credibility because of an outcome that you don’t support is not the answer.”
Most abortions in first 13 weeks
More than 90% of abortions take place in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy, and more than half are now done with pills, not surgery, according to data compiled by Guttmacher.
The decision came against a backdrop of public opinion surveys that find a majority of Americans oppose overturning Roe and handing the question of whether to permit abortion entirely to the states. Polls conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and others also have consistently shown about 1 in 10 Americans want abortion to be illegal in all cases.
A majority are in favor of abortion being legal in all or most circumstances, but polls indicate many also support restrictions especially later in pregnancy.
“In the face of a devastating decision that puts millions of women at risk across the nation, Illinois remains unwavering in our support for women’s bodily autonomy and their most fundamental freedoms,” said Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker.
“So long as I am governor, Illinois will be an island for reproductive rights for every American who has been abandoned by a Supreme Court beholden to the extremist Republican party,” he said. “Today, pro-choice Democratic governors are the last line of defense for reproductive freedom, and we stand ready to fight like hell for women’s rights, as generations before us did.”
“In Illinois, we trust women. Despite the action of the Supreme Court today overturning Roe v. Wade, the right to safe, accessible reproductive health care is in full force in Illinois – and will remain so,” Pritzker said Friday.
“In Illinois, we’ve planned for this terrible day, an enormous step backward and a shattering loss of rights. We passed the Reproductive Health Act, enshrining choice as the law of the land in Illinois,” he said. “We removed the trigger law that would have prohibited abortion in Illinois with the overturning of Roe v Wade. We expanded health care so that finances are not a barrier to receiving reproductive care.
“In Illinois, we are a state committed to expanding access to reproductive health care including abortion care, contraception access, fertility treatment and gender affirming care. We’ve made it clear that we trust people to make the best decisions for themselves about their own reproductive health.”
“The day has finally arrived—far-right extremists on the U.S. Supreme Court have achieved their decades-long goal of overturning Roe v. Wade, setting back the struggle for reproductive justice and placing millions of women in harm’s way,” said Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton.
“Although Illinois remains the most pro-choice state in the country, one election can change everything. That’s why Illinoisans in every corner of the state must turn out and vote for pro-choice Democratic leaders at every level of government if we are to preserve the progress we’ve made for our residents and provide a helping hand to the women who will seek out Illinois for access to safe, legal abortions.”
Decision will “harm millions”
“The U.S. Supreme Court decision is wrong and will harm millions of people,” said Sarah Stoesz, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood North Central States. “This decision is an unconscionable rollback of fundamental rights for all people in the United States. Because people’s right to access abortion is no longer guaranteed by federal law, it now depends on where you live and how much money you have to travel out of state for abortion care. Forced pregnancy is a grave violation of human rights and dignity.
“We have been preparing for months to be able to best serve patients across our region. Our doors are open and Planned Parenthood is committed to providing abortion care where it remains legal.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us,” Stoesz said. “We are now living through an unmatched moment where our rights to bodily autonomy are being decimated and, therefore, our democracy is being threatened. Now is the time for every person who supports abortion rights to stand up and act.”
Anyone who needs an appointment or has questions, should visit ppncs.org/abortion.
Progress Iowa executive director Matt Sinovic issued this statement on the court ruling:
“No matter your income or where you live, everyone should be able to get the healthcare they need — including abortion. A majority of Americans and a majority of Iowans support access to safe and legal abortions.
“Today’s court ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade not only strips pregnant people of their fundamental rights, but puts them in danger and puts their lives at risk. The impacts of this decision will fall hardest on people who already face discriminatory obstacles to health care — particularly people of color, people with disabilities, people in rural areas, young people, undocumented people, and those having difficulty making ends meet.
“People across the U.S. still need abortion care — but the Supreme Court’s decision is going to embolden anti-abortion politicians to push for the nationwide ban on abortion without exceptions that they’ve wanted all along. This ruling will also have unforeseen and disastrous consequences on our right to privacy.
“Let’s be clear. Abortion has always existed and will continue to exist,” Sinovic said. “It is pivotal healthcare that cannot be denied. It must not exist only in the shadows. We are calling on our lawmakers to codify Roe v. Wade into law to make sure abortion is safe, legal, and accessible to all.”
“Outraged and horrified”
U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) released this statement on the decision:
“I am outraged and horrified—this outcome is a nightmare that robs women of their right to make their own choices about their healthcare and their bodies, and it paves the way for a nationwide abortion ban that Republicans have been seeking for decades. Millions of American families—including my own—have relied on Roe v. Wade for almost 50 years, and 70% of Americans believe it should remain the law of the land. The Supreme Court of the United States and the Justices who claimed Roe was ‘settled law,’ but then turned around and ruled otherwise, will—as Justice Sotomayor said—’struggle to survive the stench’ of this extreme decision.
“In a nation with a growing maternal mortality crisis and often inaccessible healthcare, without affordable child care or universal paid leave, forcing births on anyone—even when the mother’s life could be at risk—is not only cruel, it will also be deadly,” she said.
“Doctors working in states where abortion, or even management of a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy, is outlawed could even be threatened with prison for daring to save a patient’s life. Victims of rape could be forced to relive their trauma every day.
“I refuse to let my daughters grow up in a world with fewer rights than I had. As Republicans continue their march toward a nationwide abortion ban, I will do everything in my power to ensure that Illinois remains a safe haven for all women seeking reproductive care,” Duckworth said. “It is as important as ever that the Senate acts to codify Roe v. Wade into law so that every American in every state has equal access to basic, necessary healthcare—regardless of their skin color, zip code or income.”
Duckworth has made protecting and expanding access to essential women’s healthcare a top priority. She spoke out on the Senate floor in support of Americans’ reproductive rights and issued a statement after the leaked draft opinion from the Supreme Court showed that a small group of far-right Justices could overturn Roe v. Wade in the coming weeks.
Last year, she helped introduce the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA) to codify Roe into law and was outraged when Republicans blocked this critical legislation earlier this year. Additionally, Duckworth is the lead sponsor of the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Healthcare (EACH) Act, which would end the Hyde Amendment and lift unjust abortion coverage restrictions for those who depend on Medicaid and other government-sponsored plans.
Catholic Diocese reaction
The Catholic Diocese of Peoria issued this statement from Bishop Louis Tylka:
“This ruling has a significant impact on the issue of abortion, which was legalized in the Roe v. Wade decision
some 50 years ago. Today’s decision overturns what was previously a federal legalization of abortion and has returned the issue to individual states to decide the matter for themselves. Clearly, there is much more work to be done.
“Life is a gift from God. From the very beginning, the Church has clearly proclaimed the sanctity of human life – from conception until natural death. As Catholics and as Americans, we must continue to be a voice that defends life – in all its stages and from all its threats – so that we can truly build a culture of life in our country and in the world.
“As the Bishop of Peoria, I call upon all people of goodwill to support the efforts that uphold the dignity of human life, especially those efforts that offer material, emotional, and spiritual support to families and to women with unplanned pregnancies, as well as the efforts to offer ongoing support and care for children.
“Today’s decision is not the last word in this matter. It is, however, a significant moment in the efforts to work toward a greater respect for life and it is a reason to give thanks to God. May the Holy Spirit instill in all of us an ever-greater respect for the sanctity of every human life, especially the lives of unborn children.”