The US Supreme Court on Friday overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that established the constitutional right to abortion in the U.S. in 1973.
The Court in a 6-3 ruling powered by its conservative majority upheld a Republican-backed Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks.
Friday's landmark ruling is in favour of the state of Mississippi in a highly controversial case- Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization wherein the State of Mississippi sought to invalidate Roe v. Wade and outlaw nearly all abortions at and after 15 weeks gestation.
The ruling also overturned the court's precedent in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which was based on Roe and found in 1992 that states can't enact abortion restrictions that pose an "undue burden" on the person getting the abortion.
Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito held that the 1973 Roe ruling, and subsequent High Court decisions reaffirming Roe, "must be overruled" because they were "egregiously wrong," the arguments "exceptionally weak," and so "damaging" that they amounted to "an abuse of judicial authority."
The majority opinion was endorsed by Justice Clarence Thomas, appointed by the first President Bush, and the three Trump appointees — Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. Chief Justice Roberts, appointed by President George W. Bush issued a concurring opinion.
"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", the majority opinion held.
Justice Alito averred further, "The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision, including the one on which the defenders of Roe and Casey now chiefly rely — the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment,". "That provision has been held to guarantee some rights that are not mentioned in the Constitution, but any such right must be 'deeply rooted in this Nation's history and tradition' and 'implicit in the concept of ordered liberty," he added.
Near the end of the opinion, Justice Alito sought to allay fears about the wide-ranging nature of his opinion by underscoring, "To ensure that our decision is not misunderstood or mischaracterized, we emphasize that our decision concerns the constitutional right to abortion and no other right. Nothing in this opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion."
The dissenting judges were Justices Stephen Breyer, appointed by President Clinton, and Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, appointed by President Obama.
In their scathing joint dissent, the Court's liberal justices wrote, "The majority has overruled Roe and Casey for one and only one reason: because it has always despised them, and now it has the votes to discard them. The majority thereby substitutes a rule by judges for the rule of law."
"The majority would allow States to ban abortion from conception onward because it does not think forced childbirth at all implicates a woman's rights to equality and freedom," the dissent highlighted.
While concluding, the liberal justices underscored, "With sorrow—for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection—we dissent,".
The decision came a day after the Supreme Court in another controversial ruling invalidated a century-old New York law that had made placed strict restrictions on carrying concealed firearms in public for self defense.
In May, a leaked draft of the majority opinion which completely overturned Roe was published online by news portal Politico. Thereafter, the Supreme Court had immediately opened an investigation to find the source of the leak.
The controversial ruling has now left the question of legality of abortion to the States which can now set their own abortion laws in motion without concern of running afoul of Roe that has for nearly half a century permitted abortions during the first two trimesters of pregnancy.
The publication of the Court's draft opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito back in May had sparked protests from abortion-rights supporters, who were outraged and fearful about how the decision will impact both patients and providers as 22 states gear up to restrict abortions or ban them outright.
Abortion advocates perceive the Mississippi case as a death knell for the half-century guarantee of nationwide protection of reproductive rights and allow each state to decide whether to restrict or ban abortion.
A number of states took increased action to restrict abortion even as the court was still deliberating in the case, with multiple states passing 15-week bans in line with Mississippi's and Texas enacting a six-week ban that Idaho and Oklahoma have already copied. (Idaho's ban has been blocked in court.)