WASHINGTON — The US Supreme Court on Friday ended abortion rights in a seismic ruling that overturned a half-century of constitutional protections on one of life’s most contentious and hotly contested issues in American politics.
The conservative-dominated court overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that enshrined a woman’s right to an abortion, saying individual states can now authorize or restrict the procedure on their own.
“The Constitution does not give the right to abortion; Roe and Casey will be quashed and the power to regulate abortion will be returned to the people and their elected representatives,” the court said.
In the majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito said, “Abortion presents a profound moral issue about which Americans have widely differing views.
“The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of the state from regulating or prohibiting abortion,” he said.
Nevertheless, the three Liberals were in court.
The decision is likely to trigger a cavalcade of new laws in about half of the 50 states that will severely limit or outlaw abortion and criminalize it, forcing women to travel long distances to states that still allow the procedure.
Opinion shredded the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling from the highest court in the land, which declared that women have the right to an abortion based on the constitutional right to privacy over their own bodies.
Alito’s opinion largely mirrors his draft opinion, which was the subject of an extraordinary leak in early May that sparked protests across the country and heightened security at the central courthouse in Washington.
Barricades were erected around the courthouse to hold back protesters who had gathered outside – after a gunman was arrested near the home of conservative judge Brett Kavanaugh on June 8.
The court’s decision goes against an international trend to relax abortion laws, including in countries such as Ireland, Argentina, Mexico and Colombia, where the Catholic Church continues to wield considerable influence.
VICTORY FOR RELIGIOUS RIGHTS
It marks a victory in the religious right’s 50-year fight against abortion, but the anti-abortion camp should continue to push for a nationwide outright ban.
The decision was made possible by former Republican President Donald Trump‘s appointment of three conservative judges to the court – Neil Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.
The case in court was a Mississippi law that would limit abortion to 15 weeks, but at the December hearing on the case, several judges said they were willing to go further.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, 13 states passed “trigger laws” banning abortion following the Supreme Court ruling.
Ten others have pre-1973 laws that could come into effect, or laws banning abortions after six weeks, before many women even know they are pregnant.
Women living in states with strict anti-abortion laws must either continue their pregnancy, have a clandestine abortion or be given abortion pills, or travel to another state where the procedure remains legal.
Several democratically governed states have taken steps to facilitate abortions in anticipation of an influx, and clinics have also shifted their resources.
But travel is expensive, and abortion rights groups say abortion restrictions will hit poor women, many of whom are black or Hispanic, hard.
- Editor/ additional report by AFP