On Friday, June 24th, the Supreme Court of the United States overturned its historic ruling of Roe v. Wade, a 1973 court case which ensured the federal constitutional right to an abortion. With the ruling reversed, states will individually determine whether abortion will or will not be restricted in their domains. It is expected that nearly half of the states will restrict abortion rights effective immediately, and abortions will therefore be unavailable in many areas of the nation.
Although four dissented, five justices were in the majority. Among them was Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote that “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start.” In addition to Alito, Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Amy Coney Barrett, and Brett Kavanaugh voted in favor of overturning the ruling. The three justices who dissented were Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan, explaining regretfully that “young women today will come of age with fewer rights than their mothers and grandmothers.” The ninth justice on the Supreme Court, Chief Justice John Roberts, chose not to join the majority, writing a concurring opinion which would not overturn Roe v. Wade but would instead enforce a law prohibiting abortions after 15 weeks.
Given that the decision was leaked to the public last month, the court ruling did not come as a major shock to Americans. Nonetheless, the official ruling on Friday evoked powerful emotions from countless politicians and citizens across the nation.
President Biden denounced the court ruling, claiming, “It’s a sad day for the court and for the country.” He also emphasized that “the health and life of women in this nation are now at risk” following the reversal. House Speaker and prominent Democrat Nancy Pelosi called the controversial decision “an insult [and] a slap in the face to women.”
On the other side of the political spectrum, former Vice President Mike Pence praised the SCOTUS for giving “American people a new beginning for life.” Similar positive sentiment has been shared among America’s numerous pro-life organizations which have fought to protect the unborn for decades since the original Roe v. Wade ruling.
However, the Supreme Court decision does not accurately reflect the opinions of most Americans. When the Roe decision was leaked in May, CNN released a poll asking Americans whether they would support a reversal or not, with ⅔ of surveyed Americans not in support of completely overturning the ruling. In that same poll, it was discovered that if the ruling were overturned, the majority of adults would wish that new laws were permissive instead of restrictive, and that their states would become a welcoming place for women seeking abortion-related treatment.
The events of last week have inspired many to join in major cities to make their voices heard. Pro-choice and reproductive rights activists surrounded the Supreme Court in Washington D.C. following the decision in a mass protest. Similar protests have taken place in major cities all across the country, including those in New York, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Michigan.
In a New York City protest, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) joined the throngs of citizens to demonstrate her disapproval for the ruling, calling on President Biden to open abortion clinics on federal land to combat the SCOTUS decision. By nightfall on Friday, demonstrations took a more violent turn, with increased aggression leading to the involvement of law enforcement and the use of tear gas on protesters.
While pro-choice protests made national headlines after the decision, pro-life activists also took to the streets— their response celebratory. Anti-abortion advocates gathered in front of the Supreme Court in a counter protest. Randall Terry, who founded the pro-life group Operation Rescue, even compared the reversal of Roe v. Wade to the Allied invasion of Normandy during WWII.
So, looking forward, where will we expect to see abortion rights denied or protected? Thirteen states already have “trigger laws” in place that will quickly restrict abortion, some of which will go into effect instantly and some of which will take 30 days. These thirteen states include Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming.
There are eleven states with six-week bans, although most of them have been blocked: Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. Many anti-abortion advocates support abortion bans after six weeks because an embryonic heartbeat can often be detected at this time. Missouri is the only state with an eight-week ban, which was signed into law in 2019, although it has been previously blocked.
One of the most disputed bans is the 2018 fifteen-week ban in Mississippi, which is closely intertwined with the Roe controversy. There is also a 2018 fifteen-week ban in Louisiana and a recently introduced fifteen-week ban in Florida.
There are four states which ban abortion after twenty weeks: Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, and North Carolina. The Montana law, however, has been blocked by a court judge in the state.
Despite the plethora of restrictions on abortion, there are sixteen states which have taken legal measures to protect the right to an abortion: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawai’i, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.
In addition to the public’s concerns regarding abortion restrictions following the reversal of Roe v. Wade, there are now widespread fears that the overturning of the landmark ruling has opened the door for the Supreme Court to overturn other historic cases. Justice Clarence Thomas has claimed that the cases which established the rights to gay marriage and access to contraception are based on weak legal reasoning, even stating that the court has a “duty to ‘correct the error.’”
In the eyes of many Americans and even foreign nations, the Supreme Court’s recent overturning of Roe v. Wade marks a step backwards for the United States and challenges progress otherwise made in American society. During an age in which women’s rights are stripped away with little regard for their well-being, many Americans cannot help but wonder what will be next.
Ewall-Wice, Sarah, and Quinn, Melissa. “With Roe v. Wade overturned, which states would restrict or protect abortion rights?” CBS News, 27 June 2022,
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/roe-v-wade-overturn-trigger-laws-supreme-court-abortion-states-rights/. Accessed 27 June 2022.
Ishak, Natasha. “In 48 hours of protest, thousands of Americans cry out for abortion rights.” Vox, 26 June 2022,
https://www.vox.com/2022/6/26/23183750/abortion-rights-scotus-roe-overturned-protests. Accessed 27 June 2022.
Totenberg, Nina, and McCammon, Sarah. “Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, ending right to abortion upheld for decades.” NPR, 24 June 2022, https://www.npr.org/2022/06/24/1102305878/supreme-court-abortion-roe-v-wade-decision-overturn. Accessed 27 June 2022.
Vogue Et al. “Supreme Court overturns Roe v Wade.” CNN, 24 June 2022, https://www.cnn.com/2022/06/24/politics/dobbs-mississippi-supreme-court-abortion-roe-wade/index.html. Accessed 27 June 2022.
About the Author:
Karenna Marnik is a rising junior student. Over the past year, Karenna has developed an interest in journalism, as she writes monthly for her school newspaper in addition to the Alcott. She is also passionate about sailing, debate club, and participating in student leadership. Karenna enjoys a lifestyle filled with exercise and the outdoors, particularly hiking and skiing.