by Sharon Rondeau
The ruling was immediately celebrated by pro-life organizations but condemned by Joe Biden and “pro-choice” advocates who now say women’s lives will be placed “in danger” resulting from restricted abortion access.
Those concurring with the opinion are Chief Justice John G. Roberts and Associate Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Amy Coney Barrett, Brett M. Kavanaugh, and Neil Gorsuch, the latter three of whom were nominated by 45th President Donald J. Trump.
The dissenting opinion (beginning on p. 148) was written by Associate Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan.
The case which rendered the decision, DOBBS, STATE HEALTH OFFICER OF THE MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, ET AL. v. JACKSON WOMEN’S HEALTH ORGANIZATION ET AL, was argued December 1, 2021. Jackson Women’s Health, citing Roe, claimed a newly-enacted Mississippi law violated a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion by restricting the procedure to the first 15 weeks of gestation.
At both the district- and appellate-court levels, Jackson prevailed, with Dobbs challenging the rulings to the high court.
The 1992 Supreme Court ruling in the Pennsylvania case, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, upheld the tenets of Roe, although replacing Roe‘s recognition of viability as it relates to the three trimesters of pregnancy with the “undue burden” standard.
On May 2, a draft opinion in Dobbs indicating the court intended to overturn Roe in support of the Mississippi law was leaked to Politico, generating a rash of attacks on pro-life pregnancy centers and Catholic churches, picketing outside several Supreme Court justices’ homes, and a death threat against Kavanaugh.
The following day, Roberts announced the Court would investigate the source of the leak and that a draft opinion does not necessarily reflect a final opinion in any case.
“Before this Court, petitioners defend the Act on the grounds that Roe and Casey were wrongly decided and that the Act is constitutional because it satisfies rational-basis review,” the first page of Friday’s majority opinion states. “The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion; Roe and Casey are overruled; and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives.”
In contrast, the minority wrote, “For half a century, Roe v. Wade, 410 U. S. 113 (1973), and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, 505 U. S. 833 (1992), have protected the liberty and equality of women. Roe held, and Casey reaffirmed, that the Constitution safeguards a woman’s right to decide for herself whether to bear a child. Roe held, and Casey reaffirmed, that in the first stages of pregnancy, the government could not make that choice for women. The government could not control a woman’s body or the course of a woman’s life: It could not determine what the woman’s future would be.” With Roe overturned, they reasoned, “Across a vast array of circumstances, a State will be able to impose its moral choice on a woman and coerce her to give birth to a child.”
Breyer is set to retire at the end of the Supreme Court’s term, expected within days, and will be replaced by Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who was unable or unwilling to define the term “woman” during her confirmation hearings.