An extremist, far-right wing bloc on the United States Supreme Court today overturned one of the most important legal holdings in U.S. history, decreeing that Americans lack the freedom to make their own reproductive healthcare decisions and that states can criminalize abortion care.
Authored by Samuel Alito, the majority opinion overturning Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey was joined by Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch, and Amy Coney Barrett, Donald Trump’s appointees. Clarence Thomas and John Roberts filed concurring opinions, with Thomas making it clear he’d like to see other precedents, like Obergefell, overturned next. Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, and Elena Kagan (the remaining liberal justices) all dissented.
“The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion,” Alito asserts in the concluding passage of his opinion’s syllabus. “Roe and Casey arrogated that authority. The Court overrules those decisions and returns that authority to the people and their elected representatives.”
“The majority tries to hide the geographically expansive effects of its holding,” Sotomayor, Breyer, and Kagan said in reply.
“Today’s decision, the majority says, permits ‘each State’ to address abortion as it pleases. That is cold comfort, of course, for the poor woman who cannot get the money to fly to a distant State for a procedure. Above all others, women lacking financial resources will suffer from today’s decision.”
“In any event, interstate restrictions will also soon be in the offing. After this decision, some States may block women from traveling out of State to obtain abortions, or even from receiving abortion medications from out of State.”
“Some may criminalize efforts, including the provision of information or funding, to help women gain access to other States’ abortion services.”
“Most threatening of all, no language in today’s decision stops the Federal Government from prohibiting abortions nationwide, once again from the moment of conception and without exceptions for rape or incest. If that happens, ‘the views of [an individual State’s] citizens’ will not matter.”
“It’s a sad day for the court and the country,” President Joe Biden said in remarks at the White House after the decision was released on the Supreme Court’s website. “I believe Roe v. Wade was the correct decision as a matter of constitutional law and application of a fundamental right to privacy and liberty in matters of family and personal autonomy.”
But after nearly fifty years, Roe is gone. It’s the first time in at least the modern history of the United States that a major right previously recognized and protected by the Court has been taken away. And the Court’s right wing bloc clearly intends to go much further and overturn more precedents in the months and years to come. Clarence Thomas is giddy: he can hardly wait.
“Today’s Supreme Court decision is the culmination of a coordinated Republican effort to roll back reproductive rights,” said Democratic leaders in a joint statement, including DNC Chair Jaime Harrison.
“The 2022 election will now determine whether new, cruel, and punishing restrictions will be imposed on women and families.”
“With Republicans in power, states could make abortion illegal without exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother.”
“Women and doctors could be charged criminally. Other previously settled rights, like the right to contraception and marriage equality, could be threatened.”
“The American people don’t want any of this.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi echoed those sentiments, declaring: “This cruel ruling is outrageous and heart-wrenching. But make no mistake: the rights of women and all Americans are on the ballot this November.”
“This is a sad and tragic day in America,” said Senator Maria Cantwell.
“Millions of Americans are losing their rights to control their own bodies and their own healthcare. Despite decades of Republican Supreme Court nominees coming before the Judiciary Committee and saying that they believe Roe v. Wade is settled law, they have taken a sledgehammer to the right to privacy.”
“Today, Republicans dragged this country backwards by half a century,” said Senator Patty Murray. “Republicans ripped away our rights and made this generation the first generation of American women with fewer rights than their mothers. Republicans are forcing women to stay pregnant and give birth when they don’t want to — no matter the circumstances. Republicans are even passing laws to jail women who get abortions and the doctors who provide them.”
“And right here in the Senate, it was Republicans who stacked our Supreme Court with anti-abortion justices, who blocked Democrats’ efforts to protect abortion rights, and who right now are pushing for a federal abortion ban.”
“We knew this decision was coming, but that doesn’t make it any less horrifying,” said Senator Ron Wyden.
“The Court has betrayed and defied the American people, who are rightfully terrified that the most powerful people in the country are clearly eager to violate their privacy and the basic human right to control their own bodies.”
“When you have to make the most intimate, personal decisions that will impact your life and your health and body, I don’t know anyone who wants some politician in the room,” said Senator Jeff Merkley.
“Yet, that is exactly the impact of this Supreme Court opinion for millions and millions of Americans, who suddenly find an overbearing government dictating their path. This assault on Americans’ rights and freedom is shocking.”
“After today, we will see the very real and dangerous consequences across the country of taking away the right to safe and legal abortions. It’s on all of us – Members of Congress, medical professionals, advocates, and voters – to stand up against this nightmare vision of people forced to carry pregnancies to term against their will. Each one of us should have the freedom to live our lives without politicians forcing their way into our bedrooms and exam rooms.”
Abortion remains legal in Washington and Oregon… for now.
Idaho, meanwhile, already has a law in place set to go into effect criminalizing the exercise of reproductive rights. Idahoans will need to travel to Washington or Oregon in the months and years to come obtain abortion care through a clinic.
As noted by Speaker Pelosi, Senator Murray, and others in their statements today, Republicans like Mike Pence are openly pushing for a nationwide ban on abortion and will not be content with the Supreme Court’s action today.
This isn’t about allowing states to make their own laws. It’s the first step in creating a dystopian future where nobody has the right to make their own reproductive decisions. It is no exaggeration to say that extremist Republicans want control over the uterus of every American capable of bearing a child. They’ll keep pushing forward until they get what they want… unless they’re stopped.
We at the Northwest Progressive Institute are committed to stopping that horrific future and reversing the harmful actions of the Alito court. We agree with George Lakoff and other thinkers that freedom doesn’t stand still. If we do not expand freedom, it will be contracted by radical right wingers, as we saw today.
It is up to us — all of us — who believe in the right to privacy, the right to bodily autonomy, and the right to freely choose when and whether to reproduce to work together to establish explicit constitutional protections for these rights. That won’t be achievable overnight, but it’s a long term goal we must commit ourselves to. And in the short term, we must expand the Supreme Court to end the dark era to right wing judicial activism that is threatening the future of our country.