In a devastating decision that will reverberate for generations, the U.S. Supreme Court has abandoned its duty to protect fundamental rights and overturned Roe v. Wade, ruling there is no constitutional right to abortion. The ruling—issued June 24, 2022, abandons nearly 50 years of precedent and marks the first time in history that the Supreme Court has taken away a fundamental right.
The Court’s decision will likely lead to half of U.S. states immediately taking action to ban abortion outright, forcing people to travel hundreds and thousands of miles to access abortion care or to carry pregnancies against their will, a grave violation of their human rights.
From the dissent by Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan:
“Whatever the exact scope of the coming laws, one result of today’s decision is certain: the curtailment of women’s rights, and of their status as free and equal citizens.”
“After today, young women will come of age with fewer rights than their mothers and grandmothers had. The majority accomplishes that result without so much as considering how women have relied on the right to choose or what it means to take that right away.”
“Most threatening of all, no language in today’s decision stops the Federal Government from prohibiting abortions nationwide, once again from the moment of conception and without exceptions for rape or incest.”
“And no one should be confident that this majority is done with its work. The right Roe and Casey recognized does not stand alone.”
“The Court’s opinion delivers a wrecking ball to the constitutional right to abortion, destroying the protections of Roe v. Wade, and utterly disregarding the one in four women in America who make the decision to end a pregnancy,” said Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights in a statement. “While public support for access to abortion is at an all-time high, the Court has hit a new low by taking away – for the first time ever – a constitutionally guaranteed personal liberty.”
The decision came in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case challenging Mississippi’s ban on abortion, brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights and its partners on behalf of Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the only remaining abortion clinic in the state. Mississippi appealed to the Supreme Court after the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a federal district court ruling that granted a permanent injunction against the ban.
With this ruling, the Court’s majority upholds the state’s ban and abandons the constitutional right to abortion. The decision not only allows Mississippi’s ban to take effect but paves the way for half the states across the country to try to ban abortion entirely in the days and weeks to come.
Supreme Court Decision Will Profoundly Harm Millions of People
People will still need abortion care but the Supreme Court’s decision means millions across the country will no longer have access to it.
Under Roe’s core holding that prohibited states from banning abortion before viability, courts have blocked numerous attempts by states to ban abortion outright. By explicitly overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court has removed the federal abortion protections that people have relied on for generations
This rush to ban abortion will lead to extreme chaos across the country as people, providers, clinics, and abortion funds struggle to deal with new and extreme preexisting bans—and clinics in surrounding states attempt to absorb a huge influx of patients.
The impacts of these bans will fall particularly hard on people who already face discriminatory obstacles when accessing health care, in particular people of color, those having difficulty making ends meet, members of the LGBTQ+ community, young people, people in rural communities, and undocumented people.
Court’s Decision Undermines Rule of Law and Institutional Integrity
For 50 years, the Supreme Court has consistently and repeatedly affirmed that abortion is a right protected by the U.S. Constitution. Nothing has changed in these 50 years that justifies the sudden overturning of an established precedent that protects the right to abortion.
Today’s ruling is one in a recent run of Supreme Court decisions that have undermined rights, including the right to vote. It also raises grave concerns for the other constitutional rights interwoven in the Court’s Roe decision—including the right to make decisions about our intimate partners, how we raise our children, whom we marry, and whether to use contraception.
The Court’s decision is also out of step with the majority of Americans who support the right to abortion: More than two-thirds of voters (64%) believe the decision to have an abortion, including the reasons and situations for having an abortion, should not be regulated by law but left to the individual.
What’s Next? The Path Forward in a Post-Roe World
This decision is a devastating setback, but the work is far from over. The Center will continue to advocate in all ways to advance stronger legal protections for abortion in the future. In addition to working to advance the Women’s Health Protection Act in the U.S. Congress, the Center will work to build stronger legal protections in state constitutions and state laws, and defend against further regression in the courts—working toward a future where every person has access to the abortion care they need.