06.24.22 (PRESS RELEASE) – Today, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the landmark 1973 abortion rights decision Roe v. Wade, ruling that people in the U.S. no longer have a constitutional right to abortion. In its ruling, the Court upheld a Mississippi ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy and said states can ban abortion at any point in pregnancy. The case—Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization—was filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of the last abortion clinic in Mississippi. This radical roll back of reproductive freedom reverses 50 years of the Court’s precedent and will likely result in half the states further restricting or banning abortion.
The three dissenting Justices lambasted the decision to discard nearly 50 years of constitutional protections for abortion rights, writing: “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. The majority’s refusal even to consider the life-altering consequences of reversing Roe and Casey is a stunning indictment of its decision…With sorrow—for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection—we dissent.”
Mississippi’s 15-week ban will take effect in a few weeks, and their trigger ban is designed to take effect in ten days, banning abortion entirely. Florida, Arizona, and Kentucky passed 15-week bans earlier this year in anticipation that the Court would rule as it has today. Florida’s ban is set to take effect next week on July 1, and Arizona’s law will take effect by September. Kentucky’s 15-week ban is temporarily blocked.
Roe v. Wade recognized the constitutional right to abortion and determined that every person has the right to end a pregnancy before viability—typically around 24 weeks. The Supreme Court has reaffirmed abortion as a constitutional right many times since then, including just two years ago in June Medical Services v. Russo. Polling consistently shows that the majority of Americans support keeping Roe v. Wade in place.
STATEMENT from Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, on the ruling:
“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. 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.
Today’s decision will ignite a public health emergency. Utter chaos lies ahead, as some states race to the bottom with criminal abortion bans, forcing people to travel across multiple state lines and, for those without means to travel, carry their pregnancies to term — dictating their health, lives, and futures. One day, the regressive and cruel Dobbs decision will be reversed for its brazen disregard for the rights of women and the rule of law. Until then, we will use every legal lever to ensure that every person’s right to make decisions about their body and their lives is realized, and that they have access to the full range of reproductive healthcare.”
Statement from Vangela M. Wade, president and CEO of the Mississippi Center for Justice, which is co-counsel on Dobbs v. Jackson:
“It’s the day we all feared. Today, the Supreme Court has ruled that the government gets to decide whether and when a woman has a child. It’s abusive, dangerous, and unconstitutional. Make no mistake: The right to choose is absolutely essential. Only the woman knows her physical and mental health, her job, her income, and how much more she can or cannot bear. She is also the only person who knows whether her partner will be supportive, will abandon her, or will abuse her and her child. She, not a politician, needs the autonomy to decide whether to move forward with a pregnancy.”
In May, a leaked draft opinion indicated that the Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade as it has today. With Roe overturned, half of the states in the country could take immediate action to ban abortion entirely. Thirteen states, including Mississippi, have “trigger bans” in place, designed to ban abortion if Roe falls. Those states are expected to act quickly to trigger those bans. Millions of people will lose access to abortion, particularly across large swaths of the South and Midwest. The impact will fall hardest on marginalized communities including Black and brown communities and those living on a low income who already face obstacles in accessing health care. In Mississippi, it is 75 times more dangerous to carry a pregnancy to term than to have an abortion. Black people disproportionately face the life-threatening risks of pregnancy and childbirth. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), maternal mortality among Black women has spiked in recent years.
In order to access essential abortion care, people in some states will be forced to travel more than 1,000 miles round trip. Those without the means to travel long distances will be forced to continue their pregnancies against their will or will seek to end their pregnancies themselves.
Today’s decision comes after the Supreme Court repeatedly refused to block a six-week abortion ban in Texas (S.B. 8), which has now been in effect for ten months and has decimated abortion access in the region Texas patients had been fleeing to surrounding states for abortion care, including Oklahoma, until the Oklahoma governor signed a similar ban last month. That ban—which goes even further in that it bans abortion entirely—is currently in effect. Now, patients are forced to travel even further to reach clinics that are already inundated and seeing long waits for care. Idaho also passed a law modeled after S.B. 8, which is currently blocked by a court.
Mississippi’s ban was previously struck down by both a federal trial court and a federal appellate court. Mississippi then asked the Supreme Court to review the case and overturn Roe. The state also passed a six-week ban, which has been blocked since 2019.
The Guttmacher Institute recently released startling data showing how far people in each state will need to travel for abortion care without Roe. Mississippi residents will be forced to drive approximately 990 miles roundtrip to access essential health care.
The plaintiffs in this case—Jackson Women’s Health Organization and Sacheen Carr-Ellis, M.D., M.P.H.—are represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights, along with law firms Paul Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, O’Melveny and Myers, and the Mississippi Center for Justice as co-counsel.
You can find more background and history on this case here.
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