The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established the constitutional right for women to choose to have an abortion.
Abortion is a medical operation that ends a pregnancy. Friday’s ruling is expected to lead to abortion bans or restrictions in about half of the states in the country.
The court, in a six to three ruling, upheld a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The vote was five to four to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Justice Samuel Alito wrote the court’s opinion for the conservative majority. He wrote, “We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled. The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision.” Planned Parenthood v. Casey is a 1992 court decision that confirmed abortion rights in the country.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that he upheld the Mississippi law but did not want to overturn the 1973 decision. He noted that the “ruling is unnecessary to decide the case before us.”
Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan disagreed with the majority’s ruling. They wrote, “With sorrow—for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection—we dissent.”
To dissent means to disagree with an official opinion.
The three dissenting justices noted that with the decision, “… 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.”
Thirteen American states, mainly in the South and Midwest, already have laws that ban abortion in the event that Roe v. Wade is overturned. The Guttmacher Institute, an organization that supports abortion rights, says 26 American states are likely to ban abortion without Roe.
Some states, including Texas and Oklahoma, permit private citizens to bring civil legal cases against anyone who assists a woman seeking an abortion.
States controlled by the Democratic Party such as California, Connecticut and Washington have passed laws to protect people who provide or seek abortions from legal action.
The decision to overturn Roe v. Wade came even though a large number of Americans say that they support abortion rights. In a public opinion study carried out in March of this year, the Pew Research Center found that 61 percent of U.S. adults say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Thirty-seven percent said they think abortion should be illegal in all or most cases.
The center said its numbers have not changed much in the past few years. Support for abortion rights is much higher, at 80 percent, among those who identified as Democrats or who support Democrats. The center said 38 percent of Republicans and their supporters approve of abortion.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, said the decision is part of a Republican Party plan to take away a “women’s right to make their own reproductive health decisions.”
In a statement, Pelosi said, “In the Congress, Republicans are plotting a nationwide abortion ban. In the states, Republicans want to arrest doctors for offering reproductive care and women for terminating a pregnancy.”
Mike Pence, the former Republican Vice-President under Donald Trump, said on Twitter, “Today, Life Won.” The long-time abortion rights opponent then called for abortion to be banned across the country. Pence wrote, “… we must not rest and must not relent until the sanctity of life is restored to the center of American law in every state in the land.”
Overturning Roe v. Wade has long been a goal of Christian conservatives and many Republicans.
As a Republican candidate, former President Donald Trump promised in 2016 that he would appoint justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade. As president, Trump appointed Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. They were part of the majority that overturned the decision on Friday.
Abortions in the U.S., around the world
Both the Guttmacher Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , or CDC, say legal abortions have generally decreased in the U.S.
Worldwide, the World Health Organization said about 73 million abortions take place yearly. The health organization calls it “a common health intervention” and “a critical public health and human rights issue.”
I’m Ashley Thompson.
Hai Do wrote this report for VOA Learning English.
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Words in This Story
reference –n. the act of mentioning something in speech or in writing
implicitly –adv. understood but not clearly or directly stated
terminating –n. the act of causing the end of something
relent –v. to agree to do or accept something that you have been resisting or opposing
sanctity –n. the quality of being holy, very important or valuable