Washington, Jun 24 (EFE).- The United States Supreme Court on Friday overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, eliminating the constitutional right to an abortion that had stood for nearly five decades and leaving it up to the states to decide what restrictions – if any – to impose on that medical procedure.
The ruling by the conservative-majority high court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization upheld a 2018 Mississippi state law that banned most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 to reverse lower-court rulings that had prevented enforcement of the Mississippi law and 5-4 to overturn Roe and the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision that upheld the constitutional right to abortion.
“Abortion presents a profound moral question. The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion,” reads the 79-page decision written by Associate Justice Samuel Alito and backed by fellow Associate Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.
“Roe and Casey arrogated that authority. The Court overrules those decisions and returns that authority to the people and their elected representatives.”
Thomas and Kavanaugh wrote separate opinions explaining why they think Roe should be overruled.
The ruling was widely anticipated after a highly unusual leak of an early draft majority opinion by Alito in the Dobbs case – published by online news outlet Politico in May – indicated the court was poised to overturn Roe.
That opinion sparked outrage among Democratic politicians and pro-choice activists, thousands of whom have taken part in protests across the US in recent weeks.
Among other things, Friday’s ruling found that the right to abortion is not deeply rooted in US history and tradition.
It recalled that until a few years before Roe, no federal or state court had recognized such a right and that abortion had long been a crime in every state.
In 1973, when the Supreme Court nation’s highest court found in favor of Norma McCorvey (“Jane Roe”) in her suit against the state of Texas for prohibiting her from having an abortion, the procedure was only legal in 17 of the 50 states and illegal abortions were common.
But the court’s three liberal justices – Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer – wrote a dissenting opinion in which they argued that the Roe and Casey rulings had struck a reasonable balance that has now been cast aside by the Dobbs decision.
The earlier rulings “held that the state could prohibit abortions after fetal viability (established to be around 28 weeks at the time of the Roe decision but now, due to medical advancements, estimated to be about 23 or 24 weeks), so long as the ban contained exceptions to safeguard a woman’s life or health,” they wrote.
“But until the viability line was crossed, the Court held, a State could not impose a ‘substantial obstacle’ on a woman’s ‘right to elect the procedure’ as she (not the government) thought proper, in light of all the circumstances and complexities of her own 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. “With sorrow – for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection- we dissent.”
Roberts, for his part, wrote in a concurrence that he backed the decision to uphold the Mississippi law, stating that “he agrees that the viability line established by Roe and Casey … never made any sense.”
But he said the court had gone too far in eliminating the constitutional right to an abortion.
“The Court’s decision to overrule Roe and Casey is a serious jolt to the legal system – regardless of how you view those cases. A narrower decision rejecting the misguided viability line would be markedly less unsettling, and nothing more is needed to decide this case.”
President Joe Biden and other prominent Democrats slammed the high court’s ruling.
“The health and life of women of our nation are now at risk,” the president said. “Make no mistake. This decision is the culmination of a deliberate effort over decades to upset the balance of our law.”