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A crowd rallies at the U.S. Supreme Court on May 3, 2022, in protest of a draft decision to limit the reproductive rights of women. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)
U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization
Friday, June 24, 2022

The U.S. Supreme Court has reversed decades of precedent, with a new conservative majority denying women the constitutional right to an abortion.

The majority opinion was written by Justice Samuel Alito. Four of the court’s conservative members joined the decision in which the precedents of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey were explicitly overturned. In the prior cases, the Supreme Court had confirmed the constitutional right to an abortion.

“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” Alito wrote in the decision. “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.”

The 6 to 3 outcome in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization confirms the draft opinion that was leaked in early May. The lineup and the outcome of the decision were previewed in the unprecedented disclosure.

Joining Alito in overturning the constitutional right to an abortion, in order of seniority, are Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. All were nominated to the Supreme Court by Republican presidents — three of them since 2017, long after Roe and Casey were decided.

With the majority ruling, the Supreme Court is confirming the authority of state governments to determine the manner in which they can regulate a woman’s right to obtain medical services of her choosing.

“It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives,” Alito wrote in the opinion, which runs 79 pages. Two appendices bring the majority document to 108 pages.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., the highest-ranking member, did not join the opinion. But he wrote separately to agree with the judgment, bringing the outcome in Dobbs to six, solidifying the conservative supermajority on the court.

In his 12-page concurrence, Roberts noted that the nation’s highest court was asked to resolve the constitutionality of an abortion law in Mississippi. By concurring only in the judgment, he said his conservative colleagues went too far in their language overturning Roe and Casey.

“The court’s decision to overrule Roe and Casey is a serious jolt to the legal system — regardless of how you view those cases,” Roberts, who also was nominated by a Republican president, wrote. “A narrower decision rejecting the misguided viability line would be markedly less unsettling, and nothing more is needed to decide this case.”

Thomas and Kavanaugh wrote separate concurrences, in addition to joining the majority opinion. Both said the U.S. Constitution cannot be used to support a woman’s right to choose.

Siting in the minority in Dobbs are Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. All were picked for the Supreme Court by Democratic presidents.

The three justices all signed the dissent, in which they stood by the precedents in Roe and Casey and firmly supported a woman’s right to choose. By returning authority to regulate abortion to states, they said the court’s majority has taken a fundamental choice away from a wide swath of citizens.

“A state can force her to bring a pregnancy to term, even at the steepest personal and familial costs,” the liberal justices wrote. “An abor­tion restriction, the majority holds, is permissible whenever rational, the lowest level of scrutiny known to the law. And because, as the court has often stated, protecting fetal life is rational, states will feel free to enact all manner of re­strictions.”

Breyer, who is retiring at the end of the court’s current term, Sotomayor and Kagan also said the conservative majority won’t stop with just overturning Roe and Casey. They predicted other precedents, affecting the right to obtain contraception and even the right to marry, are in danger.

“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 three justices said. “To the contrary, the court has linked it for decades to other settled freedoms involving bodily integrity, familial relationships, and procreation. Most obviously, the right to terminate a pregnancy arose straight out of the right to purchase and use contraception. In turn, those rights led, more recently, to rights of same-­sex intimacy and marriage.”

U.S. Supreme Court Decision – Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization
Syllabus | Opinion [Alito] | Concurrence [Thomas] | Concurrence [Kavanaugh] | Concurrence [Roberts] | Dissent [Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan] | Complete Document

Syllabus – Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization

Opinion [Alito] – Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization

Concurrence [Roberts] – Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization

Concurrence [Thomas] – Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization

Concurrence [Kavanaugh] – Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization

Dissent [Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan] – Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization

Full Document – Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization