The Supreme Court ruled Friday that Americans no longer have a constitutional right to abortion, a watershed decision that overturned Roe v. Wade and erased reproductive rights in place for nearly five decades.
In the court’s most closely watched and controversial case in years, a majority of the justices – all of whom were appointed by Republican presidents – held that the right to end a pregnancy was not found in the text of the Constitution nor the nation’s history.
Associate Justice Samuel Alito wrote the opinion for a 6-3 majority, with the court’s liberal justices in dissent.
“Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” Alito wrote for the majority. “Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences.”
The decision instantly shifts the focus of one of the nation’s most divisive issues to state capitals: Republican lawmakers are set to ban abortion in about half the states while Democratic-ed states are likely to reinforce protections for the procedure. Access to abortion, in other words, will depend almost entirely on where a person lives.
“After today, young women will come of age with fewer rights than their mothers and grandmothers had,” Associate Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in a 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.”
Though not unexpected, the court’s decision hit like a political and cultural earthquake, reshaping the relationship between millions of Americans and the government. While the opinion will be celebrated by conservatives, it will almost certainly lead to protests, new 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.