Supreme Court Overturns Roe v. Wade

The Supreme Court issued its ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization on Friday, expressly overturning the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade. The landmark decision ends judicial recognition of a right to abortion under the Constitution and returns the decision on allowing, regulating, or banning abortion to each state in the union.

The Dobbs ruling dealt directly with a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Mississippi and a broad coalition of pro-life states and organizations asked the Supreme Court to take the opportunity to overturn Roe and the cases that have followed it construing a constitutional right to abortion.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority opinion for the court, as was expected following the leak of a draft opinion he authored several weeks ago. He was joined in the majority by Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett. Justices Thomas and Kavanaugh wrote concurring opinions.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote separately to concur in the judgment, although he said he would have stopped short of expressly overturning Roe.

Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan filed a dissenting opinion which all three signed.

Justice Alito wrote in the majority opinion:

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. 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.”

The opinion acknowledged that some rights have been found to be guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment without being specifically described in the Constitution, but abortion is not one of those “deeply rooted” rights. Alito added that the failure of the dissenting opinion to “engage with this long tradition is devestative to its position.”

Justice Thomas wrote in his concurring opinion that he would have gone beyond reversing Roe by also ending the use of “substantive due process” to judicially create other rights, including gay marriage and a constitutional right to contraception.

In his concurring opinion, Justice Kavanaugh wrote:

The Constitution does not grant the nine unelected Members of this Court the unilateral authority to rewrite the Constitution to create new rights and liberties based on our own moral or policy views. As Justice Rehnquist stated, this Court has not “been granted a roving commission, either by the Founding Fathers or by the framers of the Fourteenth Amendment, to strike down laws that are based upon notions of policy or morality suddenly found unacceptable by a majority of this Court.”

A number of states have already passed “trigger laws” in anticipation of Roe being overturned, and their statutes restricting or prohibiting abortion will now presumably go into effect.