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The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday overturned the landmark Roe V. Wade ruling that had stood in the country for nearly 50 years.
The 1973 decision had provided a constitutional right to abortion, and the bombshell vote won the support of five of the court’s six conservative justices.
Associate Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority opinion, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.
Thomas first voted to overrule Roe V. Wade three decades ago.
Alito said in the majority ruling that Roe was “egregiously wrong from the start,” with its reasoning “exceptionally weak.”
He said the decision has had “damaging consequences.”
“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, including the one on which the defenders of Roe and Casey now chiefly rely — the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment,” he said. “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,” Alito said.
The vote was 6-3 to uphold the Mississippi law, but Chief Justice John Roberts didn’t join his conservative colleagues in overturning Roe V. Wade. He said he would “take a more measured course.”
Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan 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, warning that abortion opponents now could pursue a nationwide ban “from the moment of conception and without exceptions for rape or incest.”
“If that happens, ‘the views of [an individual State’s] citizens’ will not matter…. The challenge for a woman will be to finance a trip not to ‘New York [or] California’ but to Toronto,” they said.
The liberals accused the majority of discarding the balance precedents struck between a woman’s interest and that of the state in protecting “potential life.”
“Today, the Court discards that balance. It says that from the very moment of fertilization, a woman has no rights to speak of,” they wrote.
The court’s actions give individual states the power to allow, limit, or ban the practice altogether, and several states have already moved to do so.
The ruling came in the Supreme Court’s opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which centered on a Mississippi law that banned abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The Republican-led state of Mississippi asked the Supreme Court to strike down a lower court ruling that stopped the 15-week abortion ban from taking place.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.