US Supreme Court overturns Roe v Wade, ending federal right to abortion

Major decision legalising abortion in US reversed by highest court

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The US Supreme Court on Friday overturned Roe v Wade, the major 1973 ruling that granted American women the constitutional right to an abortion, in a historic ruling that is likely to cause the majority of states to ban the procedure.

“Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” conservative justice Samuel Alito wrote in the majority opinion.

“The constitution makes no express reference to a right to obtain an abortion.”

The court voted along ideological lines. All six Republican-appointed justices voted to uphold a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, and five said they would go further and overturn Roe and the constitutional right it established.

President Joe Biden condemned the court's decision, calling it a "sad day for the court and the country."

Mr Biden added that "the health and life of women in this nation is now at risk."

Hundreds of people descended on the Supreme Court following the ruling, with pro-choice and pro-life demonstrators flocking to the marbled building.

Paige Thomas, a 17-year-old from Colorado, fought back tears as she described how she fears growing up in a country where she has fewer rights than her mother did.

“A million things are going through my mind right now, mostly that women of colour and people living in poverty are not going to have access to the health care they need,” she told The National.

“It’s really an attack on all women everywhere and it’s just really overwhelming,”

A few metres away, Nathalie Wilson welcomed the ruling with a friend.

“We are here to celebrate the lives that are going to be saved,” said Ms Wilson, 20, who had driven from Richmond, Virginia.

The decision struck a chord with women of all generations.

Janet Clazzy came out to support women who were distraught after the court's ruling. Ms Clazzy said that as a teenager in 1970, she had to travel from her home in Tennessee to New York State to have an abortion.

The Florida resident said she was struggling to come to terms with the idea that once again, a woman may be forced travel the same path as her.

"I just can't believe that our Supreme Court is [taking] our country back into history," she told The National. "It's a very sad day for justice in America. But we need to rise up and we need to vote out the people who would take away our freedoms, because we've got to change the law."

Emotions flared throughout the morning, with opposing groups chanting over each other. Black metal fencing, erected after a draft decision was leaked in May, surrounded the Supreme Court, preventing crowds from venturing too close.

Many worried the Supreme Court may come for other civil liberties such as the right to gay marriage, something Justice Clarence Thomas suggested in his decision.

Caitlin Gibson, who dropped everything and rushed over to the Supreme Court to protest the decision, said she was worried Roe Vs Wade was only the beginning.

"Things happen gradually and then suddenly in life," she told The National. "And so this is the gradual drip, drip, drip to a reversal of a lot of rights for a lot of individuals."

The court's decision restores states' ability to prohibit abortion. Mississippi was one of 13 states with so-called trigger-laws that were designed to ban the procedure if the Supreme Court overturned Roe.

Liberal justices Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan said that the Supreme Court's decision paves the way for even more restrictive measures.

“Whatever the exact scope of the coming laws, one result of today’s decision is certain: the curtailment of women’s rights and of their status as free and equal citizens,” they wrote in a dissenting opinion.

“With sorrow — for this court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection — we dissent.”

In a tweet, former president Barack Obama said the Supreme Court's decision attacks “the essential freedoms of millions of Americans”.

Friday's ruling marks a significant victory for Republicans, who for decades have advocated the overturning of Roe v Wade. As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump vowed to nominate justices who would reverse the decision.

All three of his picks — Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — joined in the majority opinion.

Annabelle Rutledge, who showed up at the Supreme Court wearing a shirt that said "Women For Kavanaugh", said the ruling upheld the Constitution.

Who "we want sitting on that bench is not anyone who is going to legislate from that bench or who is going to be a judicial activist but people who are going to look at the Constitution and what it is says," Ms Rutledge said.

A version of the opinion was leaked months before the court's ruling on one of the most hotly debated issues in the country.

The court's leaked opinion caused outrage among Democrats, who rallied to protect abortion rights.

Republicans blocked a Democrat-led effort to codify abortion rights in May.

Updated: June 24, 2022, 7:59 PM
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