Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that established the constitutional right to an abortion nearly 50 years ago, is no longer the law of the land. The U.S. Supreme Court, in a decision written by Justice Samuel Alito, has overruled that decision today, and millions of people’s lives are already being affected. Carrie, let’s start with the majority decision. What does it say?
There are a couple of lines under the holding written by Justice Alito. It’s really stark and really clear. He says the Constitution does not confer a right to abortion. Roe and its sister case, Casey from 1992, are overruled, and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives. That’s it.
Roe v. Wade decision leads to trigger laws in multiple states
So there are 13 states that had trigger laws on the books – trigger laws that said if Roe’s overturned totally or in part, these laws would go into effect and ban abortion, except in very, very particular cases – for example, a pregnant person’s life being in danger. Three states have immediate trigger laws – Kentucky, Louisiana and South Dakota. And then you have different kinds of trigger laws in other states. You have some states where the trigger law goes into effect after 30 days, and you have other states where there’s some sort of a step required, where a governor or an attorney general, for example, has to certify something.
Now, that has already happened in Missouri, for example. In Missouri, the state AG said, yes, we – this law can now go into effect. But beyond that, there’s also a bunch of states that had pre-Roe laws. Now, those laws could not be enforced while Roe was the law of the land. But now in states like Wisconsin and many others, those laws are now very much in force. So there is a whole mess of new abortion restrictions that are just going to kick into effect or could kick into effect.
South Dakota and Missouri have been bogged down by state laws trying to provide abortions
South Dakota for years had been down to just one clinic and had to fly doctors in to provide abortions. Missouri – also down to just one clinic, which has been barely performing a handful of abortions for the last couple of years because the state laws there were so cumbersome. I mean, patients had to come in and get a pelvic exam and wait three days because of a state waiting period to get an abortion. And most – clinic officials there told me, most would decide just to cross over the state line to Illinois, which is one of the states that’s really becoming and will continue to be kind of a hub for abortion services.
You know, that state has a Democratic governor. The legislature has taken some steps to expand access in the past couple of years and remove hurdles to getting an abortion. Planned Parenthood has a new large clinic in the western part of the state. And so we’re seeing states like that and, of course, some of the ones you would imagine – right? – like California, New York, Oregon – taking steps to increase capacity in various ways, sometimes through funding, sometimes through expanding the types of categories of providers who can offer abortion. But yes, it’s very much a patchwork, has been for a while, and that trend is just going to escalate.
President Biden spoke on the overturning of Roe v. Wade
You know, as with so many other things happening right now, his power here is limited. He cannot stop Republican legislatures from passing new laws. He said a few things – that the federal government would ensure women can cross state lines for abortions and get FDA-approved pills that can end pregnancies in the mail, which is, of course, a federal operation. But Biden’s big message was this is something that needs to be dealt with in the ballot box.
The central thrust of Biden’s message is, Roe’s on the ballot this fall. But this fall, there are so many indications that Democrats will lose seats, not gain seats, in big ways that are really hard to change the political dynamic of, including rampant inflation.
Dept. of Justice Critical of SCOTUS decision
So we heard today in a written statement from Attorney General Merrick Garland, who, by the way, was once a candidate to sit on the Supreme Court, but he never got a hearing. He said that the DOJ strongly disagrees with this decision. He said the court has basically upset stare decisis – which is a key pillar of the rule of law – thrown out a lot of precedent here, and that this decision is going to have a terrible impact on the lives of people around the country, especially shouldered by people of color and people who have limited financial means.
What the DOJ can do is protect entrances to clinics where abortions are performed, along with other reproductive health services and other health services, under a law called the FACE Act, and Garland pledged to do that today. He also said that it’s a bedrock constitutional principle that women who reside in states that have banned access to reproductive care can and must remain free to seek that care in states where it’s legal. It’s not clear what shape that’s going to take, whether the Justice Department is going to file a lawsuit or weigh-in to defend other people in a different kind of lawsuit, but the attorney general has been pretty firm on that, as has the president.
Conservatives have been fighting to overturn Roe v. Wade for decades
I think for those who have been working toward this moment – to overturn Roe v. Wade for decades – it is a huge moment. I can’t emphasize enough what a big day this is. I checked in with one anti-abortion-rights activist in Mississippi who helped push for the law that was central to the Dobbs case, and she said, you know, she was in tears. She said she hoped that this day would come in her lifetime, and so it’s a moment of celebration for her and for others.
We saw former Vice President Mike Pence release a statement today, saying that Roe v. Wade has been, quote, “consigned to the ash heap of history,” which, of course, was something that he was saying he would do while he and Trump were running for president in 2016. And, you know, we covered that campaign, and I’m sure you remember, too, Scott, just how many Trump supporters ultimately said this came down to the Supreme Court for them.
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