Roe v. Wade overturned: Is SCOTUS right?
- Abortion was legalized nationwide following the 1973 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions. Based on reports from Guttmacher Institute and estimates of undercounts, there have been an approximate 63 million abortions since 1973.
- On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson case to overturn Roe and Casey. The court held that “the Constitution does not confer a right to abortion [...] and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives.” According to the Guttmacher Institute, approximately 22 states have “trigger laws” in place to restrict abortions while 16 states and DC have laws allowing abortion access.
- POLITICO released an initial 98-page draft written by Alito noting the majority of the Supreme Court had voted down Roe v. Wade in May 2022 with a statement, “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences”
- A NPR/PBS NewHour/Marist National poll in May 2022 found that two in three Americans opposed overturning Roe v. Wade. A majority (68%) believe abortion should have some restrictions.
The United States government consists of three separate branches: judicial, legislative, and executive. The responsibility of the judicial branch, to which the Supreme Court belongs, is to interpret laws according to the Constitution, not to legislate national policies, as we've seen in issues concerning abortion, gay marriage, and health care. While federally legal abortion has been precedented in American culture for decades, this does not indicate that Roe v. Wade was a legally correct or moral ruling.
Overturning unconstitutional laws, such as Roe, is not unique. The Supreme Court has overturned more than 300 prior rulings since its establishment. Decisions such as Dred Scott, which upheld a law declaring Blacks were not citizens, were overruled by the 13th and 14th amendments. Plessy vs. Ferguson, which justified segregation, was later overturned by Brown vs. Board of Education SCOTUS ruling, and so on.
What remains an undisputed fact is there is no mention of the right to abortion anywhere within the US Constitution, its amendments, or any law passed by Congress. Because of this, the 'right' to abortion was derived solely from the decision of the Supreme Court in 1973. In effect, with its Roe decision, the Supreme Court wrongfully determined it was able to create law rather than staying in line with its intended purpose, to interpret law. Beyond this, overturning Roe does not outright ban abortion but rather returns the responsibility where it belongs: to the legislative branch, which is Congress or the states' legislatures. Due to Roe being a judicial overstep according to the bounds set up by the constitution, and the right to abortion not residing anywhere within the US Constitution or federal legislation, SCOTUS is right overturning Roe and thus returning the issue to where it belongs, to Congress and the states.
The 1973 Roe v. Wade case recognized and established abortion before fetal viability—23-24 weeks into pregnancy—as a constitutional right. The ruling was a landmark achievement in women's reproductive rights and women's rights in general.
Half a century later, the Court voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, leaving the decision to ban abortion up to individual states. As a result, women in the states that have now outright banned abortion will no longer have easy access to clinics and treatment centers. The WHO considers 'unsafe abortion' as the leading preventable cause of maternal deaths and morbidities worldwide, also causing physical and mental trauma amongst survivors. Likewise, abortion bans disproportionately affect minorities and women of lower economic status who lack access to transportation and healthcare or cannot afford to raise a child.
Abortion became legal on account of the due process clause of the 14th Amendment, which states in part that no state should 'deprive any person of life, liberty, or property.' Unfortunately, the abortion ban robs many women of their liberty and jeopardizes their physical wellbeing. In his concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas says that all of the Court's 'substantive due process precedents' may be reexamined. He directly cites Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell. Also protected under the 14th Amendment, these three cases legalized contraceptives, same-sex sexual relations, and same-sex marriage. Overturning Roe v. Wade endangers the liberty and equality of all Americans, as the Supreme Court could overturn one of these other due process cases next.
Ultimately, the Supreme Court's decision to ban abortion endangers the lives of millions of women across the country and sets a dangerous precedent for the future of all rights guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.