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SCOTUS overturns Roe v. Wade, ending federal abortion rights

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In a 6-3 majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey and found there is no Constitutional right to abortion.

“The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion. Roe and Casey arrogated that authority. The Court overrules those decisions and returns that authority to the people and their elected representatives,” the majority of the court found in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

Alito’s opinion was joined by Associate Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. Thomas and Kavanaugh also filed concurring opinions, as did Chief Justice John Roberts.

Associate Justices Anthony Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elana Kagan filed a dissenting opinion.

The opinion discusses substantive due process arguments, relying on the Fourteenth Amendment, that Alito writes have ”long been controversial” and which the majority finds do not protect the right to an abortion at the national level.

The majority also found that “a right to abortion is not deeply rooted in the Nation’s history and traditions,” and found the legal reasoning in Roe to be “exceedingly weak.”

Further, Alito wrote that the court’s rulings in Roe and Casey, found to be incorrect through the Dobbs ruling, have “led to the distortion of many important but unrelated legal doctrines, and that effect provides further support for overruling those decisions.”

In response to the dissents’ concern that the Dobbs ruling will lead the court to reconsider other landmark Supreme Court decisions, including Griswold v. Connecticut, which found that marital privacy protects the right to contraception, and Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage on a national level, Alito states that the opinion should “not be understood to cast doubts on precedents that do no not concern abortion.” Rights to contraception and same-sex rleationships are different because Roe and Casey uniquely involved “potential life,” according to Alito.

Alito also writes that challenges to abortion protections at the state level should be subject to rational-basis review because abortion is not a Constitutional right.

“It follows that the States may regulate abortion for legitimate reasons, and when such regulations are challenged under the Constitution, courts cannot “substitute their social and economic beliefs for the judgment of legislative bodIes.” Alito writes.

The dissent’s opinion notes that historically, the Supreme Court struck a balance between the state’s legitimate interest in protecting the potential life of a child and the autonomous rights of women to make decisions about their lives. With the Dobbs opinion, the dissent wrote that the Court discarded that balance.

“It says that from the very moment of fertilization, a woman has no rights to speak of. A State can force her to bring a pregnancy to term, even at the steepest personal and familial costs. An abortion restriction, the majority holds, is permissible whenever rational, the lowest level of scrutiny known to the law. And because, as the Court has often stated, protecting fetal life is rational, States will feel free to enact all manner of restrictions,” wrote the minority.

Maine codified Roe v. Wade and abortion rights into state law in 1993. Women in Maine still have abortion access following the high court’s decision.

Immediately following the ruling, Gov. Janet Mills’ office issued a press release in which the governor vowed to use her veto pen to obstruct any effort to restrict abortion protections in Maine.

“This decision is a fundamental assault on women’s rights and on reproductive freedom that will do nothing to stop abortion. In fact, it will only make abortion less safe and jeopardize the lives of women across the nation. In Maine, I will defend the right to reproductive health care with everything I have, and I pledge to the people of Maine that, so long as I am Governor, my veto pen will stand in the way of any effort to undermine, rollback, or outright eliminate the right to safe and legal abortion in Maine,” Mills said in a press release.

The Maine GOP also released a statement following the decision. 

“This decision empowers states to determine their own laws on this controversial topic, and Mainers have weighed in time and time again. I’m pro-life, but I know that there may be some who are upset and some who are excited right now. I certainly understand that reaction given the nature of this topic, though it appears that this ruling will have little impact in Maine. During my decades in Maine health care, it has been clear that Mainers care deeply about one another regardless of political differences and will continue to do so. Right now, Maine Republicans will focus on winning in November so we can solve the immediate problems at hand affecting all of us, including out of control gas prices, ridiculous grocery costs, and record inflation,” said Maine GOP Chair Dr. Demi Kouzounas.

About Katherine Revello

Katherine Revello is a reporter for The Maine Wire. She has degrees in journalism and political science from the University of Maine. Her writing has appeared in Reason, The Washington Examiner, and various other publications. Got news tips? Contact Katherine at krevello@mainepolicy.org.

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