The US Supreme Court has officially overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that established a constitutional right to an abortion. Now the matter will be settled on a state-by-state basis, with 22 states likely to quickly ban all or nearly all abortions.
The road to the 6-3 decision began when the state of Mississippi banned nearly all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The state’s law violated the Court’s decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) that pregnant people have a right to terminate their pregnancy up until the point when the fetus is “viable.” But Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturns that standard and Roe.
“The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion; Roe and Casey are overruled; and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives,” the decision reads.
The six Republican appointees voted to upend nearly 50 years of precedent, with the Court’s three liberals dissenting. (Chief Justice John Roberts voted with the majority but wrote a concurring opinion saying he would not have overturned Roe outright and preferred “a more measured” approach.) As Vox’s Anna North explained in 2020 when the newest conservative justice joined the Court, the end of Roe likely won’t mean the end of abortion in states that ban it — just legal abortion. And, North wrote, that will have “devastating consequences for many people, especially low-income Americans and people of color in red states.”
Alito’s opinion is similar to a draft opinion obtained and published by Politico in May — a largely unprecedented leak that rattled the Court and the nation. But even before the leak, the conservative supermajority on the Court had repeatedly signaled they were willing to overturn Roe and allow states to ban abortions.