A draft of the ruling indicating the court was likely to overthrow Roe was leaked in May, sparking a political storm. The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday took the dramatic step to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which recognized and legalized a woman’s constitutional right to abortion nationwide, awarding a momentous victory to Republicans and religious conservatives who the procedure. In a 6-3 ruling, backed by the conservative majority, the court upheld a Republican-backed Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks. The judges ruled that the Roe v. Wade decision allowing abortions performed before a fetus would be viable outside the womb — between 24 and 28 weeks gestation — was wrongly made because the U.S. Constitution does not mention abortion rights.
A draft of the ruling indicating that the court was likely to overthrow Roe was leaked in May, sparking a political storm. Lower courts had blocked Mississippi’s law as a violation of the Supreme Court’s precedent on abortion rights. The law allows abortions in the event of a “medical emergency” or “serious fetal abnormality” but makes no exception for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the only remaining abortion clinic in Mississippi, challenged the 2018 law and gained the support of Democratic President Joe Biden’s administration on the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court, in a 1992 ruling called Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, upheld abortion rights and banned laws that imposed an “unnecessary burden” on access to abortion. Roe v. Wade recognized that the right to personal privacy under the United States Constitution protects a woman’s ability to terminate her pregnancy. Roe v. Wade recognized that the right to personal privacy under the United States Constitution protects a woman’s ability to terminate her pregnancy. A federal judge struck down the law in 2018, citing the Roe precedent. The New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reached the same conclusion in 2019.
Chief Justice John Roberts denounced the May 2 leak of Judge Samuel Alito’s draft opinion in the case and announced an investigation to identify the perpetrator. Supreme Court leaks are extremely rare, especially regarding internal deliberations before a ruling is made. Following the leak, Biden condemned the overthrow of Roe as a “radical” move and urged Congress to pass legislation protecting access to abortion nationally. Thousands of people gathered for abortion rights in Washington and other cities after the leak, including some protesters at the homes of some conservative judges. A California man armed with a handgun, ammunition, a crowbar, and pepper spray was arrested on June 8 near Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Maryland home and charged with attempted murder.
The judges overturned a Texas law in 2016 that imposes strict rules on abortion facilities and doctors. The judges overturned a law in Louisiana in 2020 that similarly restricted doctors performing abortions. But the court has become more conservative in recent years with the addition of three appointees from former President Donald Trump. Since 2018, the court has lost two abortion rights advocates. Liberal judge Ruther Bader Ginsburg died in 2020 and was replaced by Amy Comey Barrett, who, as an academic before joining the judiciary, expressed support for the overthrow of Roe.
Judge Anthony Kennedy, a conservative who sometimes sided with the liberal judges on social issues such as abortion and LGBT rights, retired in 2018 and was replaced by Kavanaugh. Kennedy was part of the majority in the 1992 decision and voted in 2016 to lift the abortion restriction in Texas. Judge Neil Gorsuch replaced the late Conservative Judge Antonin Scalia in 2017, who opposed abortion. Polls show that a majority of Americans support abortion rights. But overthrowing Roe has been a goal of anti-abortion activists and Christian conservatives for decades, with annual marches in Washington, including in January this year.
According to data released on June 15 by the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights research group, the number of abortions in the U.S. has increased by 8% in the three years ending in 2020. The U.S. abortion rate peaked in 1980, seven years after the Roe ruling, at 29.3 abortions per 1,000 women of childbearing age – 15-44 years – and was 13.5 per 1,000 in 2017 before rising to 14.4 per 1,000. 1,000 women in 2020. In 2020, there were 930,160 U.S. abortions, with 20.6% of pregnancies ending in abortion in 2020, up from 18.4% in 2017. Mississippi experienced a 40% increase in abortions from 2017 to 2020. Globally, abortion rights have generally increased. The U.N. World Health Organization said there are approximately 73 million abortions yearly, including 29% of all pregnancies.