The US Supreme Court ruled Friday in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that there is no constitutional right to abortion, overturning the landmark decisions in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
The decision comes in a case involving a Mississippi law banning all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act, passed in 2018, outlaws abortions after 15 weeks with only a few exceptions, such as when the mother’s life is endangered.
Jackson Women’s Health Organization—the only abortion provider in the state—challenged the law. The trial court granted summary judgment for the plaintiffs, blocking the law. Thomas Dobbs, the State Health Officer for the Mississippi Department of Health, then appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The appeals court concluded that the law was unconstitutional. Dobbs then appealed the case to the Supreme Court, which agreed to take up the case last May.
In an opinion by Justice Samuel Alito, the court upheld Mississippi’s law and found that the US Constitution does not protect a right to abortion:
We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled. The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision, including the one on which the defenders of Roe and Casey now chiefly rely—the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. That provision has been held to guarantee some rights that are not mentioned in the Constitution, but any such right must be “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition” and “implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.” The right to abortion does not fall within this category.
Alito also compared the decision in Roe to Plessy v. Ferguson, the 1896 case that upheld racial segregation.
Justice Clarence Thomas filed a concurring opinion to emphasize his view that substantive due process should be “elimate[d] … from our jurisprudence at the earliest opportunity.” He called on the court to reconsider decisions in Griswold v. Connecticut, which protects the right to contraception, Lawrence v. Texas, the right to same-sex intimacy, and Obergefell v. Hodges, the right to same-sex marriage.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh filed a concurring opinion “to explain [his] additional views about why Roe was wrongly decided, why Roe should be overruled at this time, and the future implications of today’s decision.”
Chief Justice John Roberts also filed a concurring opinion. He would have upheld Mississippi’s abortion restriction but would not have gone so far as to overturn Roe, as it was not necessary to decide this case.
Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan filed a strongly worded dissent. They concluded, “With sorrow—for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection—we dissent.”
With this decision, abortion regulation will now be left up to individual states. While some states have recently passed measures enshrining abortion protections into law, many others will now seek to ban abortion entirely.