On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case that allowed the constitutional right to abortion on the grounds of a right to privacy in the 14th Amendment. This landmark decision was made in the case of Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization and overturns over 50 years of judicial precedent. According to Gallup, the majority of Americans were against overturning Roe v. Wade. Nonetheless, many conservative groups praised the decision, and it was seen as a victory.
The court’s conservative majority led the 6-3 vote to overturn the ruling, with Justices Brett Kavanaugh, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Amy Coney Barrett, and Neil Gorsuch voting to overturn. Chief Justice John Roberts voted to uphold Roe but ultimately voted to uphold an abortion ban in Mississippi. Justice Kavanaugh wrote in his opinion that the ability to travel between states to get an abortion should not be banned. Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor all voted against the ruling and wrote a dissenting opinion. In their dissenting opinion, the justices added, “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.” They ended their dissent by adding, “With sorrow—for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today, lost a fundamental constitutional protection—we dissent.”
Additionally, many activists have expressed concern that other famous cases such as Griswold vs. Connecticut, Lawrence vs. Texas, and Obergefell vs. Hodges could be under threat. These landmark cases protect the right to contraception, same-sex relationships, and same-sex marriage. These cases have also been decided on the grounds of a right to privacy in the 14th Amendment. This was underscored by Justice Thomas’ concurring opinion, stating, “For that reason, in future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell.”
The decision was quite a reversal from former calls to uphold constitutional precedents, even by the justices that overturned the ruling. This has led some to see the court as becoming more political. Public opinion of the court has changed, with only 25% of Americans saying they have a “great deal” of confidence in the court, according to Gallup. A year ago, that number stood at 36%. This drop in confidence is unprecedented and has many wondering about future outcomes this may have, especially as midterm elections approach.
For student groups on campus, this decision adds a new layer of tension to a difficult topic. For Nina Cuthrell, the President of the Women’s Empowerment Organization, the topic is deeply personal. “The overturning of Roe v. Wade is a tragedy. It is nobody’s right to tell another human being what to do with their body. You have no idea what is going on in somebody’s life and what kind of place they are in physically, emotionally, financially, etc.” Additionally, for Cuthrell, this is only part of the story. “ My biggest issue is that the overturning of Roe v. Wade is NOT only about abortion. It also threatens the right to have life-saving medical procedures, the right to access birth control, and truly, just the humanity of women. When we tell a woman that a fertilized egg in her uterus deserves to live independently of her choices, you instantly invalidate her humanity. You tell her that a cluster of cells that cannot live on its own deserves more freedom than she does. We cannot continue to dehumanize women so we can pretend we care about something that is really a cover for a racist, oppressive, and white-centric ideology because really, taking away abortions is not about the potential of a child. If this were the case, the anti-choice community would be fighting for access to healthcare, contraceptives, sexual education, and food equality.” WEO also released a statement over the summer as an organization, highlighting the effects the court’s decision would have on women and communities.
Meanwhile, for many organizations, overturning Roe v. Wade is considered a victory. Many in the pro-life movement felt that Roe v. Wade was decided on improper grounds and that its overturning is a sign of setting a legal precedent right again. In a previous Anchor article covering the legalization of abortion in Colombia, Students Cherishing Life stressed the importance of providing support to prevent abortion. “Research has shown that abortion hurts women in a number of ways,” Secretary Alyssa Klaver said, “so if any of us know someone facing that decision (here or far away), we should meet them with love, empathy and support so they don’t feel the isolation, fear and shame that often drive them towards ending the life of their child.”
Turning to the midterm election cycle, the abortion debate will be front and center in understanding what Americans think of Roe v. Wade. In August, Kansas held a vote on a possible amendment to the state’s constitution banning abortion. In what was predicted to be a close race, voters ultimately chose to keep abortion legal. Michigan will have a similar measure proposed on ballots this November. The Michigan Supreme Court put forth measures to include on the ballot if abortion should be protected under the state constitution.