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Supreme Court strikes down Roe v. Wade in seismic shift for abortion rights

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Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade 05:05

Washington — The Supreme Court on Friday overturned its landmark decision in Roe v. Wade that established the right to an abortion, with a ruling that marks a seismic shift in abortion law and will usher in new rules limiting or banning access to the procedure in half of the states, in some places immediately.

The decision to undo nearly 50 years of precedent will have sweeping ramifications for tens of millions of women across the country as abortion rights are curtailed, particularly in GOP-led states in the South and Midwest, and lead to a patchwork of laws absent the constitutional protection. Thirteen states have so-called "trigger laws" on the books, in which abortion will swiftly be outlawed in most cases with Roe overturned.

The ruling came in a case involving a Mississippi law that banned abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, and the court reversed the decision of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which blocked the measure.

Justice Samuel Alito delivered the opinion for the court, and was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. Chief Justice John Roberts delivered a concurring opinion, writing that while he agrees that the viability line established under Roe should be discarded and Mississippi's law upheld, Roe and Casey should be left untouched. The court's three liberal justices dissented.

"Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences. And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division," Alito wrote in his majority opinion. "It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people's elected representatives."

In a dissenting opinion written by Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, the court's liberal bloc declared, "With sorrow — for this court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection — we dissent."

"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. "Yesterday, the Constitution guaranteed that a woman confronted with an unplanned pregnancy could (within reasonable limits) make her own decision about whether to bear a child, with all the life-transforming consequences that act involves. And in thus safeguarding each woman's reproductive freedom, the Constitution also protected '[t]he ability of women to participate equally in [this Nation's] economic and social life.' But no longer."

The three liberal justices warned that the decision to overturn Roe and Casey will have consequences beyond the court's abortion precedents, putting other landmark decisions in jeopardy.

"No one should be confident that this majority is done with its work. The right Roe and Casey recognized does not stand alone," they said. "To the contrary, the court has linked it for decades to other settled freedoms involving bodily integrity, familial relationships, and procreation."

APTOPIX Supreme Court Abortion
Demonstrators gather outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, June 24, 2022. The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years, a decision by its conservative majority to overturn the court's landmark abortion cases. Jose Luis Magana / AP

President Biden condemned the ruling, calling it a "sad day for the court and the country." 

"The court has done what it has never done before: expressly take away a constitutional right that is so fundamental to so many Americans that had already been recognized," he said in remarks delivered from the White House, adding, "With Roe gone, let's be very clear: the health and life of women in this nation are now at risk."

The president stressed that the onus is now on Congress and the voters to protect abortion access by passing legislation and electing lawmakers who will support it. "This fall, Roe is on the ballot," he said. He also vowed his administration would take whatever steps it can to protect access. 

"This decision must not be the final word. You can have the final word," Mr. Biden said. "This is not over."

Protesters descended on the street outside the Supreme Court — which has for weeks been surrounded a non-scaleable fence — in anticipation of the decision, and the ruling brought both cheers in celebration and tears in mourning to demonstrators. Joining the protesters outside the Supreme Court were House lawmakers and members of its Pro-Choice Caucus, who marched to the court and led chants of, "We trust women, we won't go back!"

"At the ballot box in November, we're going to elect politicians who make sure every woman in this country has the same ability whether they live in California, Colorado, or Texas or Oklahoma. We will not go back," Rep. Diana DeGette, a Democrat from Colorado, declared.

Mr. Biden urged those protesting the court's reversal of its abortion precedents to remain peaceful.

"Violence is never acceptable. Threats and intimidation are not speech," he said. "We must stand against violence in any form, regardless if your rationale."

The ruling handed down by the court appears to closely mirror a draft majority opinion from Justice Samuel Alito that was leaked and published in May, which suggested the Supreme Court had voted to strike down Roe and Casey. Disclosure of the draft opinion, circulated among the justices in February, was an unprecedented leak from an institution that, unlike the rest of Washington, is known for being virtually leak-proof, and Roberts ordered an investigation into the source, which remains unknown.

While the Supreme Court confirmed the draft opinion was authentic, it said the document did not "represent a decision by the court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case."

With the reversal of Roe and the 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which reaffirmed Roe's central holding and said states cannot enact restrictions that imposes an undue burden on the right to an abortion before viability, roughly 26 states are likely to or will restrict abortion with the Supreme Court's decision, according to the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights research organization. In anticipation of the ruling, governors of Republican-led states, including Oklahoma and Florida, signed new limits into law.

The decision marks a long-awaited victory for anti-abortion advocates, who since the Supreme Court first legalized abortion nationwide in 1973 have mounted a dogged campaign for it to overturn Roe, marked by an annual march in Washington held around the anniversary of the landmark ruling.

Before its ruling in the Mississippi case, the court's most recent decision involved an abortion restriction from Louisiana, and the court split 5-4 — Roberts joined with the four liberal members — in striking down the measure. But months after that June 2020 ruling, the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the anchor of the court's liberal wing, created a vacancy for former President Donald Trump to fill, marking his third appointment to the Supreme Court and one that would prove to be crucial to the outcome of the Mississippi case.

The confirmation of Barrett just days before the 2020 presidential election widened the Supreme Court's conservative majority and laid the groundwork for the decision Friday. It was months after Barrett joined the court that the justices agreed to hear the Mississippi dispute, a watershed in the anti-abortion movement.

The Mississippi law at the heart of the legal fight was enacted by the GOP-led legislature in 2018 and banned abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. A federal district court swiftly blocked enforcement of the ban after Jackson Women's Health Organization, the state's lone abortion clinic, argued it violated Roe and Casey. 

Jackson Women's Health Organization serves roughly 3,000 women annually and provides abortion services up to 16 weeks of pregnancy. Roughly 100 patients per year obtain an abortion after 15 weeks, lawyers for the clinic told the court.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the federal district court's ruling, and Mississippi officials asked the Supreme Court to step in. It was after the justices agreed to hear the court fight that the state called for Roe and Casey to be overturned, raising the stakes in an already-blockbuster dispute.

Supporters of abortion rights have warned a decision from the Supreme Court upending Roe could lead to laws that vary from state-to-state and make access to abortion dependent on where a person lives. Republican-led states have already passed bills restricting abortion or are poised to do so in the wake of the decision, while Democrat-led states have taken steps to preserve abortion access, either by codifying the right or allowing abortions before fetal viability.

At the national level, the White House and Democrats in Congress have pushed for passage of legislation enshrining the right to an abortion into federal law. Publication of the draft opinion reignited efforts on Capitol Hill to pass the measure, called the Women's Health Protection Act, which had passed the House but twice failed to meet the 60-vote threshold for legislation to advance in the Senate, most recently in mid-May.

Democrats are also hoping the Supreme Court's decision spurs voters to head to the polls in the November midterm elections, when they're working to maintain control of Congress. Mr. Biden in May said a reversal Roe shifted the onus on elected officials at all levels of government to protect a woman's right to choose to have an abortion and urged voters to elect pro-abortion rights officials in November. Expanded majorities in the House and Senate, he said, would allow adoption of legislation codifying Roe. 


Susan Collins: Decision "is inconsistent" with what Gorsuch, Kavanaugh said "in their testimony and their meetings with me"

Sen. Susan Collins called the Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade on Friday an "ill-considered action" and criticized the conservative justices who supported the decision, singling out Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh.

"This decision is inconsistent with what Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh said in their testimony and their meetings with me, where they both were insistent on the importance of supporting long-standing precedents that the country has relied upon," she said in a statement about two of Trump's nominees to the court. Collins voted to confirm both.   

Collins, who supports abortion rights, was excoriated by abortion rights advocates for her vote to confirm Kavanaugh, who was nominated to fill the seat of the swing vote on the high court, former Justice Anthony Kennedy. Unlike Kavanaugh, the selection of Gorsuch to take the seat of late Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative, did not change the court's ideological makeup.

Read more here.

By Caitlin O'Kane

States with abortion rights expect to see surge in out-of-state patients — and protesters

Abortion providers brace for influx of out-of-state patients 02:33

The Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has set the stage for a pending border battle between states that have opposite views on abortion. Washington state recently expanded abortion rights, while neighboring Idaho is ready to impose some of the nation's strictest bans.

Washington is expecting to see a nearly 400% increase in abortion patients, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Planned Parenthood also added that nearly 60% of those coming to Washington for care are from Idaho. Others have driven more than 20 hours from Texas.

Elisabeth Keifer-Kraus, a mother of two, told CBS News she's thankful she did not have to travel to another state to get an abortion. She said life-threatening conditions caused her to terminate two early pregnancies.

"I did not have the time, I would have died bleeding out in a car on the side of the road trying to get somewhere that would help me. And that is the future we are about to face," Keifer-Kraus said.

Read more here.

By Jamie Yuccas

13 states have "trigger" laws restricting abortion with the fall of Roe

Several states set to ban abortions through trigger laws 02:35

Thirteen states have so-called "trigger" laws that would restrict abortion with the overturning of Roe: 

  • Arkansas
  • Idaho
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • North Dakota 
  • Oklahoma
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Wyoming

Some of the states' laws will go into effect immediately with the Supreme Court decision, while others would be implemented after 30 days.

In several cases, the bans take effect once the state attorney general or another official certifies that the Supreme Court's decision reverses Roe.

By Sarah Ewall-Wice

Lloyd Austin says Defense Dept is "examining this decision closely"

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the Defense Department is "examining this decision closely" and evaluating department policies to ensure it can "continue to provide seamless access to reproductive health care as permitted by federal law."  

One defense official explained that the department is looking at the effect of the ruling on the military, which has bases in states where abortion bans are expected to take effect: Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Sill, Okla.; Fort Polk, La., and others.

Abortions are performed at military medical installations for only three reasons — rape, incest, and health of the mother. 

Some military medical installations must be certified by the state, a requirement that varies by state. In a state that certifies military installations and also bans abortion, a military hospital could lose its certification and doctors could lose their licenses for performing abortions that are not permitted by state law.

However, there is existing authority to transfer patients to another base if the base where they are located cannot provide the needed medical procedure. For instance, a burn patient in one location could be moved to the burn center in San Antonio. Presumably, this same mechanism could be used for service members in the three categories of rape, incest and health of the mother.

The military does not provide abortion services for other types of unwanted pregnancies.  A service member just goes to a private provider and pays for the abortion. Those service members would now be in the same predicament as civilian women in states where abortion is illegal — having to travel out of state to get a legal abortion.  

"Nothing is more important to me or to this Department than the health and well-being of our Service members, the civilian workforce and DOD families," Austin said in a statement. "I am committed to taking care of our people and ensuring the readiness and resilience of our Force."

By David Martin

Missouri abortion ban now in effect

Missouri's attorney general, Eric S. Schmitt, issued an opinion within minutes saying his state's ban is now in effect, outlawing abortion except in cases of medical emergency. "With this attorney general opinion, my Office has effectively ended abortion in Missouri, becoming the first state in the country to do so following the Court's ruling," Schmitt said in a statement.

Governor Mike Parson signed a proclamation activating the state's authority to ban abortion. 

"With Roe v. Wade overturned and statutory triggers provided in HB 126, we are issuing this proclamation to restore our state authority to regulate abortion and protect life," Parson said in a statement, adding, "[O]ur Administration has always fought for the life of every unborn child. Today, our efforts have produced what generations of Missourians have worked and prayed for: Today, we have won our fight to protect innocent life."

The Missouri law also makes those who perform or induce non-emergency abortions criminally liable and threatens them with suspension of their professional license. Women who receive abortions are not to be prosecuted.


Trump praises ruling

Former President Trump praised the Supreme Court's ruling, telling Fox News Friday that its ruling "is following the Constitution and giving rights back when they should have been given a long time ago."

Trump, who appointed the three conservative justices to the court who made the 5-4 decision to overturn Roe possible, said that the opinion striking down the landmark case "brings everything back to the states, where it has always belonged."

He also released a statement saying, "Today's decision, which is the biggest WIN for LIFE in a generation, along with other decisions that have been announced recently, were only made possible because I delivered everything as promised, including nominating and getting three highly respected and strong Constitutionalists confirmed to the United States Supreme Court. It was my great honor to do so!"


Attorney General Merrick Garland pledges Justice Department will use "every tool at our disposal to protect reproductive freedom"

Attorney General Merrick Garland denounced the decision from the Supreme Court, saying in a statement that by ending the constitutional right to an abortion, the majority "upended the doctrine of stare decisis," or fidelity to precedent.

"The Justice Department strongly disagrees with the court's decision," he said. "This decision deals a devastating blow to reproductive freedom in the United States. It will have an immediate and irreversible impact on the lives of people across the country. And it will be greatly disproportionate in its effect – with the greatest burdens felt by people of color and those of limited financial means."

Still, Garland said states retain the ability to legalize abortion within their boundaries, and the Constitution can still limit states' power to ban reproductive services that are provided outside their borders.

"We recognize that traveling to obtain reproductive care may not be feasible in many circumstances. But under bedrock constitutional principles, women who reside in states that have banned access to comprehensive reproductive care must remain free to seek that care in states where it is legal," he said. "Moreover, under fundamental First Amendment principles, individuals must remain free to inform and counsel each other about the reproductive care that is available in other states."

Garland made clear that peacefully protesting is protected under the First Amendment, but the Justice Department "will not tolerate" violence and threats of violence. He also reiterated that the department supports efforts in Congress to enshrine the right to an abortion into federal law and other legislative efforts to ensure access to reproductive services. 

He also noted that the medication Mifepristone may be used to terminate a pregnancy after 10 weeks gestation and has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and it may not be banned by states "based on disagreement with the FDA's expert judgment about its safety and efficacy."

"Few rights are more central to individual freedom than the right to control one's own body," he said. "The Justice Department will use every tool at our disposal to protect reproductive freedom. And we will not waver from this Department's founding responsibility to protect the civil rights of all Americans."

By Melissa Quinn

Full D.C. police department activated to support protests

The Metropolitan Police Department has activated its full department through Tuesday to support demonstrations stemming from the Supreme Court's reversal of Roe, the department said.

Scores of protesters descended upon the high court in the run-up to and after the court released its decision Friday. 

"As the nation's capital, we take seriously our responsibility to support First Amendment rights," the department said in a statement.

Joining the demonstrators outside the Supreme Court were members of the House's Pro-Choice Caucus, who marched to the court and led chants of, "We trust women, we won't go back!"

"At the ballot box in November, we're going to elect politicians who make sure every woman in this country has the same ability whether they live in California, Colorado, or Texas or Oklahoma. We will not go back," Rep. Diana DeGette, a Democrat from Colorado, declared.

By Melissa Quinn

Biden to speak about decision at 12:30 p.m.

President Biden is addressing the nation hours after the ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, as his administration determines how to move forward now that the Supreme Court has decided there is no constitutional right to an abortion. 

The president will speak at 12:30 p.m. ET at the White House.

By Kathryn Watson

Mississippi attorney general: Court's decision is a "victory" for women and children

Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch, whose office argued in favor of the law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy and asked the Supreme Court to overturn Roe, heralded its decision and said there is a "new era in American history."

"Roe v. Wade is now behind us, consigned to the list of infamous cases that collapsed under the weight of their errors," she said in a statement. "This decision is a victory not only for women and children, but for the court itself."

Fitch said with the ruling, the Supreme Court has "let loose its hold on abortion policymaking" and returned it to the people.

By Melissa Quinn

Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America says decisions raises stakes of midterm elections

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, an anti-abortion rights organization, called the decision an "historic human rights victory for unborn children and their mothers" and said it clears the way for state legislatures and Congress to follow "the will of the people" in crafting its laws involving abortion.

"Today's outcome raises the stakes of the midterm elections," she said. "Voters will debate and decide this issue and they deserve to know where every candidate in America stands, including those who toe the Democratic Party line of abortion on demand without limits." 

Dannenfelser said U.S. and state lawmakers now "must commit to being consensus builders" who push for abortion regulations.

"Life is winning in the hearts and minds of decent men and women across this nation, and when Americans remember our foundational values, life will win," she said.

By Melissa Quinn

Obama denounces Supreme Court decision

Former President Barack Obama took to Twitter to denounce the Supreme Court's decision overturning Roe and said that while the leaked draft opinion indicated the high court was poised to eviscerate the constitutional right to an abortion, the ruling is still "devastating."

"Today, the Supreme Court not only reversed nearly 50 years of precedent, it relegated the most intensely personal decision someone can make to the whims of politicians and ideologues — attacking the essential freedoms of millions of Americans," he said in a series of tweets.

The former president encouraged his followers to support abortion rights organizations that for years have been working to protect abortion access.

By Melissa Quinn

Protests and celebration outside Supreme Court

Crowds were outside the Supreme Court within an hour of the ruling overturning Roe v. Wade. 

The Women's March on Friday called for a "summer of rage." 

The law enforcement posture ahead of the decision was noticeably higher on Friday morning, and more demonstrators were at the court than on previous days this month when Supreme Court opinions have been released.

Ahead of the opinion, anti-abortion activists outnumbered pro-abortion rights supporters by nearly a 2-1 margin.

One eyewitness told CBS News that he saw law enforcement putting on riot gear and taking positions on rooftops around the court. 

By Major Garrett, Arden Farhi and Sean Conlon


Planned Parenthood: "We won't back down"

Alexis McGill Johnson, the president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, vowed that Planned Parenthood would continue its efforts to protect abortion rights in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision.

"We will rebuild and reclaim the freedom that is ours. We won't go back. And we won't back down," she said in a statement. 

Johnson condemned the decision for giving politicians "permission to control what we do with our bodies, deciding that we can no longer be trusted to determine the course for our own lives." She also lamented that Black, Latino and Indigenous communities and vulnerable populations will be most acutely impacted by the rolling back of Roe.

"Make no mistake – if they can take away the right to abortion, a right we've held for nearly 50 years, they won't stop here: All of our freedoms are on the line," she warned.

Johnson previewed that in undoing the constitutional right to an abortion, the Supreme Court has "unleashed a movement" that will fight to ensure women have access to abortion services.

By Melissa Quinn

Pelosi lambasts ruling a "cruel" and "outrageous"

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi lambasted the Supreme Court's decision overruling Roe and Casey and slammed former President Donald Trump, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and the court's conservative majority for taking away freedoms for millions of American women.

"Today, the Republican-controlled Supreme Court has achieved the GOP's dark and extreme goal of ripping away women's right to make their own reproductive health decisions," she said in a statement. 

Pelosi vowed that in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision, Democrats will continue working to enshrine the right to an abortion into law, and she called on voters to flock to the ballot box in November.

"This cruel ruling is outrageous and heart-wrenching," she said. "But make no mistake: the rights of women and all Americans are on the ballot this November."

By Melissa Quinn

McConnell praises decision as "courageous and correct"

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell lauded the Supreme Court's decision, calling it "courageous and correct."

This is an historic victory for the Constitution and for the most vulnerable in our society," he said in a statement.

McConnell's decision in 2016 to block the confirmation of Merrick Garland, then-President Barack Obama's nominee to the Supreme Court, proved instrumental in paving the way for the decision Thursday, because it enabled former President Donald Trump to appoint three justices to the court, expanding its conservative majority to 6-3.

"The court has corrected a terrible legal and moral error, like when Brown v. Board overruled Plessy v. Ferguson. The justices applied the Constitution. They carefully weighed the complex factors regarding precedent," McConnell said. "The court overturned mistaken rulings that even liberals have long admitted were incoherent, restoring the separation of powers. I commend the court for its impartiality in the face of attempted intimidation."

By Melissa Quinn
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