Supreme Court Overturns Roe vs Wade


On June 24 the Supreme Court in 6-3 decision in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization overturned the Roe vs Wade guaranteeing a woman's right to have an abortion.


In a 6-3 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, the Supreme Court upheld the Mississippi law that banned abortions after 15 weeks. However, the court went much further in its decision and overturned Roe v Wade and 49 years of judicial opinions that had affirmed a women's right to an abortion.

The decision was the culmination of a decades-long effort by abortion opponents to nominate judges who would overturn Roe to the Supreme Court.

When Roe was first decided, it was opposed by many, especially Catholics, who, under their doctrine, life begins at conception. But the Catholic Church also opposed contraception, a widely ignored teaching. However, the Catholic view was embraced by a growing Evangelical movement in the United States over time. That movement in the Sixties and Seventies became involved in politics and, by 2000, had a significant influence on the Republican Party. Its activist who endorsed the view that life began at conception believed that abortion was tantamount to murder.


Over the years, conservatives had been disappointed when Republican Presidents would appoint judges to the Supreme Court only to find that in their ruling, they tended to be more liberal than was expected. As a result, in 1982, the Federalist Society was created, whose goal was to promote a textualist and originalist interpretation of the Constitution. This included a view that Roe v Wade was wrongly decided. Republicans began to select Supreme Court nominees only among judges that the Federalist Society recommended.

President Donald Trump had promised before being elected that he would only appoint judges that would overturn Roe v Wade. Trump was able to nominate his first Justice as soon as he took office. Because Senate Majority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell had refused to hold hearings on President Obama's nominee to the court after he was nominated on March 16, 2016. McConnell's excuse was that it was too close to the election, which would be held in November. Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch. For reasons that have never been clear, Justice Antony Kennedy announced his retirement in 2018. Kennedy was a moderate conservative who had been the critical vote in Obergefell v Hodges the decision that legalized same-sex marriages in the United States in 2015. Justice Brett Kavanaugh replaced Kennedy. Finally, on September 18, 2020, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died. She was a liberal icon on the court. President Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett to replace Ginsburg on September 29, 2020. The Senate, operating at lightning speed, confirmed her own on October 26, 2020, less than two weeks before the Presidential Election that Trump lost.

All three candidates were members of the Federalist Society and were known for their very conservative views, including their opposition to abortion. All three, at their confirmation hearings, claimed that Roe v Wade was settled law and that they believed in Stare decisis, which is the Latin phrase for a foundation stone of the rule of law: that things decided should stay decided unless there is a very good reason for the change.

Mississippi passed a law banning abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy, knowing that its law was not constitutional under the current interpretation of the law. Still, proponents of the law hoped that the newly constituted Supreme Court would uphold their law.

Oral arguments were held on December 1, 2021. On May 3, 2022, a copy of Justice Alito's initial draft of the opinion was leaked. Not only did he uphold the Mississippi law, but he overturned the original Roe v Wade opinion, which provided a guaranteed constitutional right for an Abortion. Alito's justification was a combination of claiming that the implied constitutional right to privacy which Roe and several other rulings are based, does not exist in the Constitution. Alito further explained that the right to an abortion is not rooted in US tradition and history. Thus he claimed that Roe was wrongly decided. Finally, he disposed of the claim that under the doctrine of Stare decisis Roe should not be overturned by referencing decisions such as Plessey that were overturned.

Justice Thomas wrote a concurring opinion adding that based on this logic, other decisions such as Obergefell v Hodges should now be revised.

Chief Justice Roberts, in his concurrence, stated that while he agrees with upholding the Mississippi law, he saw no reason to overturn Roe totally.

The dissenter's Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, And Kagan made several essential points, the first being that nothing had changed other than the court's make-up to justify ignoring Stare decisis. Roe was settled law. The court, they said, had struck a balance between the Rights of the Mother and that of a growing fetus. Now, they said the court had thrown away that balance, and for the first time in its history, it was removing a constitutional right that had existed. They said that this decision will result in "the curtailment of women's rights, and of their status as free and equal citizens."

The dissenters believe that by ignoring precedent, the majority opinion undermined the public trust in the court. They ended their dissent by writing: "With sorrow for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection—we dissent."