The U.S. Supreme Court made a final decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health case on Friday that effectively overturns abortion access protections previously established by Roe v. Wade in the 1970s.
Dobbs v. Jackson concerns Thomas E. Dobbs, the state health officer of the Mississippi Department of Health, and a health clinic that battled over a Mississippi law banning all abortions over 15 weeks gestational age, except in medical emergencies and in the case of severe fetal abnormality. This is earlier than abortion access established by Roe, which allows abortions up the point of fetal viability, or a fetus’ ability to survive outside of its mother’s uterus, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
In May, POLITICO published a leaked draft opinion penned by Justice Samuel Alito that would overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade case. It appeared to have support from the majority of the conservative-leaning court. This final opinion is in line with the draft.
“The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion; Roe and Casey are overruled; and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives,” said Friday’s slip opinion, which also refers to the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey Supreme Court case.
Chief Justice John Roberts has ordered an investigation into the leak.
While it was a majority decision on the court, recent polls have consistently found that the majority of Americans support access to abortions. Most recently, a USA Today/Suffolk University poll found that 61% of respondents were opposed to overturning Roe v. Wade. In that poll, 78% said they would be opposed to a nationwide ban on abortion and 56% said they would be in favor of ensuring access to abortions nationwide.
Respondents, however, said that the economy would be a more significant factor regarding who they plan to vote for in the upcoming November midterm elections.
Out of the nine justices on the court, three conservative justices – Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett – were appointed by former President Donald Trump during his single term in office. Trump also appointed many federal judges, including “nearly as many powerful federal appeals court judges in four years as [former Democrat president] Barack Obama appointed in eight,” according to the Pew Research Center.
Since the leaked draft opinion was published, lawmakers attempted and failed to codify abortion rights into law and pro-choice protesters gathered across the nation to urge the court not to overturn Roe.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, abortion will be banned in 26 states after the fall of Roe. Last year, an Audacy investigation found that states with strict abortion laws do not necessarily have fewer abortions. Indeed, a recent Guttmacher study found that Mississippi – which has strict laws at the center of the Dobbs v. Jackson case – had one of the highest increases in abortion rates (40%) from 2017 to 2020.