The Supreme Court struck down the landmark decision that legalized abortion nationwide Friday in a drastic reversal of nearly 50 years of precedent protecting people’s right to decide for themselves whether to continue or end an unwanted pregnancy.
In a 6–3 decision authored by Justice Samuel Alito, the court overturned its 1973 opinion in Roe v. Wade and upheld Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban, meaning that states will now have the ability to completely outlaw — and criminalize — the medical procedure.
"Stanford Law School professor John J. Donohue III and University of Chicago economist Steven D. Levitt ignited a debate last August when they released a study on the relationship between abortion and crime. Their findings suggest that legal abortions have prevented the births of many would-be criminals. The absence of these people, according to their research, is behind at least half of the dramatic drop in crime rates seen between 1991 and 1997."
"After today, young women will come of age with fewer rights than their mothers and grandmothers had," Associate Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in the dissent joined by the court's two other liberal justices. "The majority accomplishes that result without so much as considering how women have relied on the right to choose or what it means to take that right away."
The decision will also play into the November midterm elections, in which control of Congress is up for grabs, though there are signs it may not be as salient for voters as other issues, such as inflation.
The court's decision hit like a political and cultural earthquake, reshaping the relationship between millions of Americans and the government. Though the opinion will be celebrated by conservatives, it will almost certainly lead to protests, lawsuits and charges from the left that the nation's highest court – ostensibly above the partisan fray – is just as political as the other branches of the federal government.
Anti-abortion groups, which had pushed for Friday's outcome for decades, applauded the decision.
"Today marks a historic human rights victory for unborn children and their mothers and a bright pro-life future for our nation,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony SBA Pro-Life America. "Every legislature in the land, in every single state and Congress, is now free to allow the will of the people to make its way into the law through our elected representatives."
For years, the legal battle over abortion has focused on regulating the procedure, such as requirements that minors inform their parents before ending a pregnancy or requiring doctors performing the procedure to have privileges at nearby hospitals. For anti-abortion groups, the Dobbs case represented the first opportunity in decades to focus squarely on whether the procedure itself is constitutional.