PHILADELPHIA (CBS/AP) -- The Supreme Court on Friday stripped away the nation's constitutional protections for abortion that had stood for nearly a half-century. The decision by the court's conservative majority, which came down around 10 a.m., overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling and is expected to lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states.
The ruling, unthinkable just a few years ago, was the culmination of decades of efforts by abortion opponents, made possible by an emboldened right side of the court fortified by three appointees of former President Donald Trump.
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 CBS News.on the books, in which abortion will swiftly be outlawed in most cases with Roe v. Wade overturned, according to
The ruling came more than a month after the stunning leak of a draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito indicating the court was prepared to take this momentous step.
Alito, in the final opinion issued Friday, wrote that Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 decision that reaffirmed the right to abortion, were wrong and had to be overturned.
"We therefore hold that the Constitution does not confer a right to abortion. Roe and Casey must be overruled, and the authority to regulate abortion must be returned to the people and their elected representatives," Alito wrote, in an opinion that was very similar to the leaked draft.
Authority to regulate abortion rests with the political branches, not the courts, Alito wrote.
Joining Alito were Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. The latter three justices are Trump appointees. Thomas first voted to overrule Roe 30 years ago.
Chief Justice John Roberts would have stopped short of ending the abortion right, noting that he would have upheld the Mississippi law at the heart of the case, a ban on abortion after 15 weeks, and said no more.
Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — the diminished liberal wing of the court — were in dissent.
"With sorrow — for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection — we dissent," they wrote, warning that abortion opponents now could pursue a nationwide ban "from the moment of conception and without exceptions for rape or incest."
Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement that the Justice Department will protect providers and those seeking abortions in states where it is legal and also "work with other arms of the federal government that seek to use their lawful authorities to protect and preserve access to reproductive care."
In particular, Garland said that the federal Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of Mifepristone for medication abortions.
More than 90% of abortions take place in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy, and more than half are now done with pills, not surgery, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.
The decision is expected to disproportionately affect minority women who already face limited access to health care, according to statistics analyzed by The Associated Press.
It also puts the court at odds with a majority of Americans who favored preserving Roe, according to opinion polls.
Surveys conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and others have shown a majority in favor of abortion being legal in all or most circumstances. But many also support restrictions especially later in pregnancy. Surveys consistently show that about 1 in 10 Americans want abortion to be illegal in all cases.
Outside the barricaded Supreme Court, a crowd of mostly young women grew into the hundreds within hours of the decision. Some shouted, "The Supreme Court is illegitimate," while waves of others, wearing red shirts with "The Pro-Life Generation Votes," celebrated, danced and thrust their arms into the air.
The Biden administration and other defenders of abortion rights have warned that a decision overturning Roe also would threaten other high court decisions in favor of gay rights and even potentially contraception.
The liberal justices made the same point in their joint dissent: The majority "eliminates a 50-year-old constitutional right that safeguards women's freedom and equal station. It breaches a core rule-of-law principle, designed to promote constancy in the law. In doing all of that, it places in jeopardy other rights, from contraception to same-sex intimacy and marriage. And finally, it undermines the Court's legitimacy."
And Thomas, the member of the court most open to jettisoning prior decisions, wrote a separate opinion in which he explicitly called on his colleagues to put the Supreme Court's same-sex marriage, gay sex and contraception cases on the table.
Abortion foes cheered the ruling, but abortion-rights supporters, including President Biden, expressed dismay and pledged to fight to restore the rights.
"It's a sad day for the court and for the country," Biden said at the White House. He urged voters to make it a defining issue in the November elections, declaring, "This decision must not be the final word."
In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf is vowing to protect abortion access in the commonwealth as long as he is governor. He also wants women who live in surrounding states with abortion restrictions to know they are safe in Pennsylvania.
"It's a dark day for reproductive rights in America," Wolf tweeted. "But I want every Pennsylvanian to know abortion services are available and unharmed by today's ruling. To women and pregnant people in surrounding states and across the country where this isn't the case: You are safe here."
Philadelphia residents also reacted to the ruling.
"It's not their choice," Elizabeth Szmigiel said. "As women, it's our bodies and we should be the ones that get to say what we can do to it."
"I don't know how it's going to affect our city, but it's certainly going to affect our country," Robert Sondey said. "This coupled with the thing that happened with the guns yesterday where everyone now is able to carry a gun too, I just don't understand. I don't understand where I'm living. I'm just in a state of disbelief."
Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner called on his counterparts in the commonwealth to publicly vow to protect and support abortion rights after the Supreme Court's decision.
"As the chief law enforcement officer of the largest and most populous county in Pennsylvania, let me be clear: Abortion is legal in Philadelphia County and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania," Krasner said.
While abortion is legal in Pennsylvania, there are some restrictions that include, a mandatory consultation with a doctor to hear alternatives, then a 24-hour waiting period, parental consent is necessary for people under 18, lab testing has to be completed and abortions are prohibited after the sixth month of pregnancy.
New Jersey doesn't have any abortion restrictions and is expected to be flooded with patients seeking care from more restrictive states. There are few restrictions in Delaware -- parental notification is required for people under age 16 and late-term abortions are only allowed if the mother or baby's life is at risk.
In Atlantic City, many shoppers expressed disappointment over the Supreme Court's decision.
"Honestly, I feel sad that they overturned that," Lisa Locker said. "Women's rights are very important to me, and now you take something that's legalized, and unfortunately many states are going to shut it down."
James McClean added, "I can't sit there and tell my grandkids what to do once they get older. That's like this young lady right here coming down the street, that's like me trying to tell this lady, 'No, you can't do that.'"
New Jersey state Sen. Ed Durr of Gloucester County said he and his fellow conservative lawmakers are satisfied with the court's decision.
"Hopefully, this is a measure that will start saving babies' lives," Durr said.
Durr is trying to push state legislation to restrict abortions after 12 weeks.
"This is a compromise so I think it's a good bill that would be something that satisfies both parties," Durr said.
However, if Durr's bill gets passed by the legislature, it's almost guaranteed to be vetoed by Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy.
Biden addressed the nation, saying people should be peaceful when protesting the Supreme Court opinion, adding that he knows many Americans are "frustrated and disillusioned" by the court decision but objections to the ruling should remain peaceful.
"Violence is never acceptable. Threats and intimidation are not speech. We must stand against violence in any form, regardless of your rationale," Biden said.
In Philadelphia, a protest is scheduled for Friday at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall.
CBS3's Brandon Goldner contributed to this report.
(© Copyright 2022 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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