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The Supreme Court on Friday overturned Roe v. Wade, effectively ending recognition of a constitutional right to abortion and giving individual states the power to allow, limit or ban the practice altogether.
The majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito claimed abortion was a “profound moral question” that would need to be left to individual states. But the dissenting opinion — written by Supreme Court Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — lamented the decision, saying the ruling will now allow the government to unethically control women’s bodies.
“For half a century, Roe v. Wade […] and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey […] have protected the liberty and equality of women. Roe held, and Casey reaffirmed, that the Constitution safeguards a woman’s right to decide for herself whether to bear a child,” the dissenting opinion reads. “Roe held, and Casey reaffirmed, that in the first stages of pregnancy, the government could not make that choice for women.”
“The government could not control a woman’s body or the course of a woman’s life: It could not determine what the woman’s future would be. See Casey, 505 U. S., at 853; Gonzales v. Carhart, 550 U. S. 124, 171–172 (2007) (Ginsburg, J., dissenting). Respecting a woman as an autonomous being, and granting her full equality, meant giving her substantial choice over this most personal and most consequential of all life decisions.”
Democratic campaign arms have already signaled that abortion will be a key issue heading into the midterms and will galvanize their base. Republicans are largely convinced that “sanctity of life” issues will spark renewed enthusiasm for conservative candidates in state-level elections.
“It held that the State could prohibit abortions after fetal viability, so long as the ban contained exceptions to safeguard a woman’s life or health. It held that even before viability, the State could regulate the abortion procedure in multiple and meaningful ways. 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.”
The court’s Friday ruling gives states the power to set their own abortion laws. The Roe ruling had for nearly half a century permitted abortions in the first two trimesters of pregnancy.
“Enforcement of all these draconian restrictions will also be left largely to the States’ devices. A State can of course impose criminal penalties on abortion providers, including lengthy prison sentences. But some States will not stop there. Perhaps, in the wake of today’s decision, a state law will criminalize the woman’s conduct too, incarcerating or fining her for daring to seek or obtain an abortion,” the dissenting opinion continued.
When Americans were asked in a recent Fox News poll about how they would feel if a law banning abortions after 15 weeks were passed in their state, just over half of voters favor it (54%) while 41% are opposed.
The justices lauded their predecessors who ruled in Roe v. Wade, saying that the court was composed of justices who were not known for their “ideological purity.”
The dissenting justices continued, “The Justices who wrote those words—O’Connor, Kennedy, and Souter—they were judges of wisdom. They would not have won any contests for the kind of ideological purity some court watchers want Justices to deliver. But if there were awards for Justices who left this Court better than they found it? And who for that reason left this country better? And the rule of law stronger? Sign those Justices up.”
“With sorrow—for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection—we dissent,” the opinion concluded.
Fox News’ Kelly Laco and Brooke Singman contributed to this report.