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US Supreme Court overturns landmark ruling of constitutional right to an abortion


Abortion rights activists rally at the Texas State Capitol on Sep. 11, 2021 in Austin, Texas.Jordan Vonderhaar / Getty Images

NBC News - The Supreme Court on Friday overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that guaranteed a constitutional right to an abortion, a momentous break from a half-century of rulings on one of the nation’s most controversial issues. About half the states have already indicated they would move to ban the procedure.


Supporters of abortion rights were bracing for the loss after an early draft of the opinion was leaked in May, touching off several days of demonstrations in more than two dozen cities. Protesters even showed up outside the homes of some members of the court.


Alarmed by the prospect that Roe would be overturned, Democrats in Congress responded to the leak by holding a Senate vote to advance legislation that would guarantee access to abortion nationwide. The bill was blocked, however, in a largely party-line vote.


The court ruled 6-3 to uphold the Mississippi law and 5-4 to overturn Roe. In the majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that the court’s decision in Roe “sparked a national controversy that has embittered our political culture for a half century.”


"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," Alito wrote in the majority opinion, which was backed by Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.


"It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives," he wrote.


In a concurring opinion, Kavanaugh noted that states retained the power to limit or grant the right to an abortion.


"After today’s decision, all of the States may evaluate the competing interests and decide how to address this consequential issue," he wrote.


Thomas, meanwhile, called on the court to revisit other past decisions, including on contraception and same-sex marriage, in his opinion concurring with the majority ruling.


He wrote that he would do away with the doctrine of "substantive due process" and explicitly called on the court to overrule the rulings in Griswold v. Connecticut, on the right to contraception; Lawrence v. Texas, on the right to same-sex intimacy; and Obergefell v. Hodges, on the right to same-sex marriage.


“As I have previously explained, ‘substantive due process’ is an oxymoron that ‘lack[s] any basis in the Constitution,” he wrote.


Chief Justice John Roberts joined the other conservative justices in the decision to uphold the underlying Mississippi law that was being challenged in the case, but he urged in a concurring opinion against going further.


"Surely we should adhere closely to principles of judicial restraint here, where the broader path the Court chooses entails repudiating a constitutional right we have not only previously recognized, but also expressly reaffirmed applying the doctrine of stare decisis," Roberts wrote.


In a dissent, liberal Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor said the court "reverses course today for one reason and one reason only: because the composition of this Court has changed."


"Today, the proclivities of individuals rule," they added. "The Court departs from its obligation to faithfully and impartially apply the law."


"With sorrow — for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection — we dissent," they concluded.


The court's ruling does not make abortion illegal, but with access to the procedure no longer deemed a constitutional right, states can now move to ban it.


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called the ruling "outrageous and heart-wrenching."


“Today, the Republican-controlled Supreme Court has achieved the GOP’s dark and extreme goal of ripping away women’s right to make their own reproductive health decisions. Because of Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, the Republican Party and their supermajority on the Supreme Court, American women today have less freedom than their mothers," Pelosi said.


Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said, “Today is one of the darkest days our country has ever seen. Millions upon millions of American women are having their rights taken from them by five unelected Justices on the extremist MAGA court."


Former President Donald Trump, who nominated three of the judges who voted to overturn Roe, told Fox News, “This is following the Constitution, and giving rights back when they should have been given long ago.”

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