US Supreme Court Overturns Federal Abortion Protections
On June 24, 2022, the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey in a 6-3 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, eliminating the federal constitutional right to abortion. Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority opinion, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney.
Chief Justice John Roberts did not join the majority, but wrote a concurring opinion that would have upheld Mississippi’s 15-week ban that was being challenged, without overturning Roe v. Wade or Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan dissented, writing: “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 decision was anticipated, having followed a May 2, 2022, leaked draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito (verified by Politico). The draft indicated the court would overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Alito wrote, “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start…. The inescapable conclusion is that a right to abortion is not deeply rooted in the Nation’s history and traditions.” Justice Alito indicated the decisions to allow, regulate, or ban abortion lies with individual states.
The ruling leaves a complicated landscape of states with abortion bans at varying points of pregnancy, states with legal abortion, and states with trigger bans that may not have gone into effect yet.
A battle about medication abortion has been ignited by the ruling as well. Many states have disallowed telemedicine appointments in which the medication is prescribed, while some are weighing banning the drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol, used for medication abortions, or prosecuting individuals who travel over state lines to obtain an abortion. Attorney General Merrick Garland warned that states may not ban abortion drugs based on a safety disagreement with the FDA, and that travel to other states for abortion and the distribution of information about how to obtain an abortion are protected by the US constitution. Some states with legal abortion codified protections for out-of-state people seeking abortions.
The question of travel for abortion made headlines as several companies vowed to provide travel expenses for employee who reside in states with abortion bans, including Alaska Airlines, Apple, Bumble, Box,com, Citigroup, Comcast-NBC Universal, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Disney, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Kroger, Levi Strauss, Match Group, Meta, Microsoft, Netflix, Nike, Salesforce, Starbucks, Uber, Warner Bros Discovery, Yelp, and Zillow.
Before and since the June 24 ruling, speculation has abounded about whether the decision lays groundwork for other US Supreme Court decisions to be overruled, including gay marriage and contraception access. Some of the conjecture was fueled by Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion, which specifically mentioned revisiting Obergefell v. Hodges, Griswold v. Connecticut, and Lawrence v. Texas. Justice Samuel Alito, however, asserted in the majority opinion that the abortion decision is separate from those cases because abortion deals with the potential for life.
Many have also speculated about setting up abortion clinics on Native American tribal lands, a possibility that is complicated by the fact that tribes receive federal funding for healthcare. Most tribal members getting healthcare from the Indian Health Service, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, which is barred from funding abortions by the Hyde Amendment.
Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have called on President Joe Biden to set up abortion clinics on federal land. Some have asserted that Biden should pack the US Supreme Court to change the political balance, while some have renewed demands to eliminate the Senate’s filibuster in order to codify legal abortion as soon as possible. On the other side of the debate, Vice Mike President Pence and others have called for a federal ban on abortion.
1. Should abortion be legal? Should any restrictions be placed on abortion if legal? Explain your answer(s).
2. Should states or the federal government set abortion laws? Explain your answer(s).
3. Should abortion in states with bans be criminalized? Should those seeking abortions be penalized? Should healthcare providers aiding in the procedure be penalized? Explain your answer(s).
1. Ariane de Vogue, “Supreme Court Overturns Roe v. Wade,” cnn.com, June 24, 2022
2. John Kruzel, “Supreme Court Strikes down Roe v. Wade,” thehill.com, June 24, 2022
3. Greg Stohr, “Supreme Court Overturns Roe v. Wade Abortion-Rights Ruling,” news.bloomberglaw.com, June 24, 2022
4. Josh Gerstein and Alexander Ward, “Supreme Court Has Voted to Overturn Abortion Rights, Draft Opinion Shows,” politico.com, May, 2, 2022
5. Stephen Collinson, “Supreme Court Abortion Bombshell Suggests a Staggering Change in American Life,” cnn.com, May 3, 2022
6. Associated Press, “How US States Have Banned, Limited or Protected Abortion,” abcnews.go.com, June 24, 2022
7. Katie Kindelan and Mary Kekatos, “Where Abortion Stands in Your State: A State-by-State Breakdown of Abortion Laws,” abcnews.go.com, June 24, 2022
8. Ben Leonard, “What’s Next for Virtual Abortions Post-Roe,” politico.com, June 24, 2022
9. Department of Justice, “Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Statement on Supreme Court Ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization,” justice.gov, June 24, 2022
10. Veronica Stracqualursi, “California Legislature Passes Bill to Protect Abortion Providers and Patients from Civil Suits,” cnn.com, June 24, 2022
11. Clare Duffy and Jennifer Korn, “These Us Companies Will Cover Travel Costs for Employees Who Need an Abortion,” cnn.com, June 25, 2022
12. Adam Edelman, “Thomas Wants the Supreme Court to Overturn Landmark Rulings That Legalized Contraception, Same-Sex Marriage,” nbcnews.com, June 24, 2022
13. Brad Dress, “Graham: Alito ‘Set the Right Tone’ in Roe Ruling by Arguing Same-Sex Marriage, Contraception Not in Jeopardy,” thehill.com, June 26, 2022
14. Harmeet Kaur, “Why Tribal Lands Are Unlikely to Become Abortion Sanctuaries,” cnn.com, June 26, 2022
15. David Morgan and David Lawder, “Democratic Women Call on Biden, Congress to Protect Federal Abortion Rights,” reuters.com, June 26, 2022
16. Diana Glebova, “Biden Remains Opposed to Court-Packing Despite Roe Reversal, White House Confirms,” nationalreview.com, June 27, 2022
17. Jake Johnson, “Sanders Says End Filibuster to Combat ‘Outrageous’ Supreme Court Assault on Abortion Rights,” commondreams.org, June 24, 2022
18. Mariana Alfaro, Amy B Wang and Timothy Bella, “Pence Calls for National Abortion Ban, as Trump, GOP Celebrate End of Roe,” washingtonpost.com, June 24, 2022