US Supreme Court overturns Roe vs Wade triggering protests

The US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs Wade, the legal decision that has allowed abortion to be legal in the United States since the 1970’s, has triggered a wave of protests across the country.

On Friday the court delivered it’s 5-4 decision to overturn the landmark ruling made in 1973 that established a constitutional right for women to access abortion. The decision had allowed abortion during the first two trimesters of pregnancy.

The decision means that nearly half of the states in the USA will immediately, or in the near future, have laws outlawing the medical treatment. Some states still have legislation on the books that existed prior to the 1973 decision, while others have vowed to quickly bring in new laws.

The court’s decision means it will now be up to individual states to decide how they treat abortion, and it is expected millions of people will be effected by the decision, with many having to travel interstate to access reproductive health care.

The court revisited the 1973 ruling after a new law from Mississippi sought to limit abortion to within the first fifteen weeks of pregnancy.

The majority opinion was written by Justice Samuel Alito, and supported in full by three conservative justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. All three were appointed by former US President Donald Trump. Chief Justice John Roberts also supported the Mississippi law, but not voice support for the complete overturning of Rowe vs Wade.

In handing down the decision the justices supporting the change argued that there was no explicit mention of abortion within the US constitution.

“The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision, including the one on which the defenders of Roe and Casey now chiefly rely — the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment,” Alito wrote in the decision.

“That provision has been held to guarantee some rights that are not mentioned in the Constitution, but any such right must be ‘deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition’ and ’implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.”

“It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”

The dissenting justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan said their colleagues had abandoned the rule of law, handing down a scathing dissenting opinion on the judgement.

“The majority has overruled Roe and Casey for one and only one reason: because it has always despised them, and now it has the votes to discard them. The majority thereby substitutes a rule by judges for the rule of law.”

“The majority would allow States to ban abortion from conception onward because it does not think forced childbirth at all implicates a woman’s rights to equality and freedom,” the three justices wrote.

“Today’s Court, that is, does not think there is anything of constitutional significance attached to a woman’s control of her body and the path of her life.” they said.

In a separate opinion, concurring with the majority decision, Justice Clarence Thomas flagged the court should also look at other historic decisions including laws on birth control, the decriminalisation of homosexuality, and same-sex marriage.

Graeme Watson, image: Protesters outside the Supreme Court in May 2022. 


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