WASHINGTON | The Supreme Court on Friday stripped away women’s constitutional protections for abortion, a fundamental and deeply personal change for Americans’ lives after nearly a half-century under Roe v. Wade. The court’s overturning of the landmark court ruling is likely to lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states.
The ruling, unthinkable just a few years ago, was the culmination of decades of efforts by abortion opponents, made possible by an emboldened right side of the court fortified by three appointees of former President Donald Trump.
Both sides predicted the fight over abortion would continue, in state capitals, in Washington and at the ballot box. Justice Clarence Thomas, part of Friday’s majority, urged colleagues to overturn other high court rulings protecting same-sex marriage, gay sex and the use of contraceptives.
GOV. JARED POLIS: “Coloradans do not want politicians making their healthcare decisions. Because of my administration and Democratic leadership in the legislature, Coloradans don’t have to worry because our rights are still protected today despite the unfortunate reality that the U.S. Supreme just rolled those freedoms back for millions of Americans in other states. In Colorado, we will continue to choose freedom and we stand against government control over our bodies. State leadership matters now more than ever and in Colorado we will not retreat to an archaic era where the powerful few controlled the freedoms over our bodies and health decisions,“ said Governor Jared Polis.
COLORADO GOP CONGRESSPERSON LAUREN BOEBET, 3rd CD: “LIFE WINS! Glory to God.”
COLORADO GOP CHAIRPERSON KRISTI BURTON BROWN: “Today is the best day. After decades of so many Americans fighting for every single life, today, the Supreme Court of the United States has finally declared that every child is worth saving and that every child must be protected. This brave decision by the Supreme Court will save countless lives and ensure that the United States is no longer listed among the likes of China and North Korea when it comes to countries with extreme abortion laws. I’m proud to be a member of the Pro-Life Party and the Pro-Life generation. As a mom, I know that this decision is an amazing step towards equal protection for every child. I hope this decision leads to a real conversation – between people on all sides – about how we as a country can best work together to further support our children, mothers, and families. Life is precious. I have no doubt that this is the right decision.”
STATE REP. MIKE WEISSMAN, D-AURORA: “Throughout our history there have been cases by which the U.S. Supreme Court severely damaged our country, hurt millions of people, and shredded its own legitimacy. Dobbs is now one of those cases. Dred Scott helped precipitate the Civil War. Plessy shamefully upheld the “separate but equal” doctrine of the Jim Crow era. In Lochner and related cases of the early 20th century, a Court out of touch with a fast evolving country struck down health, safety and worker protection laws for decades. Korematsu upheld the internment of Japanese American citizens. Bowers v. Hardwick upheld the government’s ability to get into your bedroom. Dobbs now joins this disgraceful history. A Court that can’t anchor in our Constitution a woman’s right to her own body, her own life, free from interference from radical politicians is a Court that can’t be counted on to protect any right most of us care about. The ball is not being hidden here. In his concurrence, Justice Clarence Thomas invites further reversal of the 20th Century: “in future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell” Breaking that down: those are the rights to contraception; consensual sexual activities between adults, and marriage equality. If you can’t believe that — I hardly can either. States matter now more than ever. In Colorado this year, we passed a law, House Bill 1279, making very clear that a woman’s choice whether to have an abortion is her own and no one else’s — certainly not the government’s. In Colorado women are still citizens equal to men, with sovereignty over their own bodies. Sovereignty over your own body, your own life, and other fundamental rights shouldn’t depend on what state you live in. But the Supreme Court has now said it very much does. This is an unspeakably tragic day for this country and for every American woman in particular.”
COLORADO DEMOCRATIC CONGRESSPERSON ED PERLMUTTER, 7th CD: “Today’s ruling formalizes a decades-long attempt to take away a women’s constitutional right to choose and the freedom to do what is best for her and her family. Women’s healthcare decisions are between her and her doctor. I applaud the actions taken by Colorado and other states to prioritize women’s healthcare and uphold women’s reproductive freedoms. However, by dismantling these federal protections, a patchwork of disparate state laws will emerge and women across the country will be left with uneven, unjust and dangerous options for their reproductive healthcare needs. For too many women across this country, today is a dark day and marks the loss of a basic right and a freedom to make their own healthcare decisions and control their future.”
COLORADO DEMOCRATIC CONGRESSPERSON JOE NEGUSE, 2nd CD: “Today’s decision by the Supreme Court to overrule Roe v. Wade is deeply disappointing. The ruling, which departs from nearly fifty years of legal precedent, will deprive countless women across the country of the freedom to make deeply personal reproductive health decisions. Our work does not end today, and we cannot lose faith. House Democrats know the importance of protecting our freedoms and constitutional rights. That is why we passed legislation earlier this year to codify Roe v. Wade. While these efforts fell short in the Senate, we must continue to make every effort to secure passage of this critical legislation.”
COLORADO DEMOCRATIC SEN. MICHAEL BENNET: “In 1973, the Supreme Court riled in Roe V. Wade that a woman’s choice about whether to have an abortion is a fundamental, Constitutional right. For half a century, courts have repeatedly upheld this decision as a bedrock of American law. Today, a radical majority of the Supreme Court demolished 50 years of legal precedent. This activist ruling strips women of their individual liberty to make intensely personal decisions about their bodies and futures, and eviscerates their Constitutionally protect rights to freedom and equality.”
COLORADO GOP CONGRESSMAN KEN BUCK, 4th CD: “VICTORY for the unborn and JUSTICE for federalism at SCOTUS. The Supreme Court made the right decision in overturning Roe v. Wade, a tragic abortion mandate that has cost over 73 million unborn babies their lives, The power to decide this profound moral question has officially returned to the states, where it will be debated and settled in the way it should be in our democratic society—by the people.”
COLORADO GOP CONGRESSPERSON DOUG LAMBORN, 5th CD: “I applaud SCOTUS for making the right decision! The 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, made half a century ago, was tragically wrong & caused insurmountable damage to our nation. Life is precious from conception to natural death & this ruling will save countless innocent lives.”
AURORA COUNCILPERSON JUAN MARCANO: “This decision will lead to poor women dying and will make reproductive autonomy a luxury for the rich. The Republican Party is a fascist death cult.”
COLORADO ATTORNEY GENERAL PHIL WEISER: “Today, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned 50 years of settled and reaffirmed legal precedent affirming the constitutional right to an abortion. The Court’s decision is not only legally incorrect, but also remarkably out of step with the views of the two-thirds of Americans who believe government should not interfere in a woman’s very personal decision to end a pregnancy. The Court’s decision to overrule Roe v. Wade will cause significant suffering and harm. In many states, women who are raped will be forced to continue the pregnancy, causing untold mental anguish and distress. Doctors providing abortions will be arrested and jailed. Women who cannot access abortion care will resort to desperate and dangerous measures to end a pregnancy, even in ways that threaten their health. Women who experience life-threatening conditions during pregnancy will die. And women of color will be disproportionately impacted. These scenarios are now realities as laws in other states restricting abortion go into effect.”
AURORA COUNCILPERSON ALISON COOMBS: I never thought I would see this day. Roe, Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell were bulwarks against fascist attacks on my rights as a queer woman. (The Supreme Court) has repealed Roe and are openly talking about repealing the rest. We must keep fighting with all we’ve got.
COBALT COLORADO: “For more than 50 years, abortion opponents have been trying to overturn Roe v Wade and the Constitutional right to abortion. Although this ruling may be a shock to some, it is sadly not a surprise to those of us who have repeatedly fought off attacks on abortion rights here in Colorado. This is a sad day, but the fight isn’t over. It’s only beginning and we here in Colorado will be leading the way on abortion access, just as we did in 1967 and 1973.”
Pregnant women considering abortions already had been dealing with a near-complete ban in Oklahoma and a prohibition after roughly six weeks in Texas. Clinics in at least eight other states — Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, South Dakota, Wisconsin and West Virginia — stopped performing abortions after Friday’s decision.
In Ohio, a ban on most abortions at the first detectable fetal heartbeat became the law when a federal judge dissolved an injunction that had kept the measure on hold for nearly three years. And Utah’s law was triggered by the ruling, going into effect with narrow exceptions.
Abortion foes cheered the ruling, but abortion-rights supporters, including President Joe Biden, expressed dismay and pledged to fight to restore the rights.
Protests built into the evening in a number of cities, including thousands demonstrating against the decision outside the barricaded Supreme Court. Thousands more chanted "We will rise up!" in New York's Washington Square.
At the White House, Biden said, "It's a sad day for the court and for the country." He urged voters to make it a defining issue in the November elections, declaring, "This decision must not be the final word."
Outside the White House, Ansley Cole, a college student from Atlanta, said she was "scared because what are they going to come after next? ... The next election cycle is going to be brutal, like it's terrifying. And if they're going to do this, again, what's next?"
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of SBA Pro-Life America, agreed about the political stakes.
"We are ready to go on offense for life in every single one of those legislative bodies, in each statehouse and the White House," Dannenfelser said in a statement.
Trump praised the ruling, telling Fox News that it "will work out for everybody."
The decision is expected to disproportionately affect minority women who already face limited access to health care, according to statistics analyzed by The Associated Press.
It also puts the court at odds with a majority of Americans who favored preserving Roe, according to opinion polls.
Surveys conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and others have shown a majority in favor of abortion being legal in all or most circumstances. But many also support restrictions especially later in pregnancy. Surveys consistently show that about 1 in 10 Americans want abortion to be illegal in all cases.
The ruling came more than a month after the stunning leak of a draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito indicating the court was prepared to take this momentous step.
Alito, in the final opinion issued Friday, wrote that Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 decision that reaffirmed the right to abortion, were wrong had and to be be overturned.
"We therefore hold that the Constitution does not confer a right to abortion. Roe and Casey must be overruled, and the authority to regulate abortion must be returned to the people and their elected representatives," Alito wrote, in an opinion that was very similar to the leaked draft.
Joining Alito were Thomas and Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett. The last three justices are Trump appointees. Thomas first voted to overrule Roe 30 years ago.
Four justices would have left Roe and Casey in place.
The vote was 6-3 to uphold Mississippi's law banning most abortions after 15 weeks, but Chief Justice John Roberts didn't join his conservative colleagues in overturning Roe. He wrote that there was no need to overturn the broad precedents to rule in Mississippi's favor.
Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — the diminished liberal wing of the court — were in dissent.
"With sorrow — for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection — we dissent," they wrote, warning that abortion opponents now could pursue a nationwide ban "from the moment of conception and without exceptions for rape or incest."
Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement that the Justice Department will protect providers and those seeking abortions in states where it is legal and "work with other arms of the federal government that seek to use their lawful authorities to protect and preserve access to reproductive care."
In particular, Garland said the federal Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of Mifepristone for medication abortions.
More than 90% of abortions take place in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy, and more than half are now done with pills, not surgery, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.
Mississippi's only abortion clinic, which was at the center of Friday's case, continued to see patients Friday. Outside, men used a bullhorn to tell people inside that they would burn in hell. Clinic escorts wearing colorful vests used large speakers to blast Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down" at the protesters.
Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky and Missouri are among 13 states, mainly in the South and Midwest, that already have laws on the books to ban abortion in the event Roe was overturned. Another half-dozen states have near-total bans or prohibitions after 6 weeks of pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant.
In roughly a half-dozen other states, including West Virginia and Wisconsin, the fight will be over dormant abortion bans that were enacted before Roe was decided in 1973 or new proposals to sharply limit when abortions can be performed, according to Guttmacher.
Outside the barricaded Supreme Court, a crowd of mostly young women grew into the hundreds within hours of the decision. Some shouted, "The Supreme Court is illegitimate," while waves of others, wearing red shirts with "The Pro-Life Generation Votes," celebrated, danced and thrust their arms into the air.
The Biden administration and other defenders of abortion rights have warned that a decision overturning Roe also would threaten other high court decisions in favor of gay rights and even potentially contraception.
The liberal justices made the same point in their joint dissent: The majority "eliminates a 50-year-old constitutional right that safeguards women's freedom and equal station. 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."
And Thomas, the member of the court most open to jettisoning prior decisions, wrote a separate opinion in which he explicitly called on his colleagues to put the Supreme Court's same-sex marriage, gay sex and contraception cases on the table.
But Alito contended that his analysis addresses abortion only. "Nothing in this opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion," he wrote.
Whatever the intentions of the person who leaked Alito's draft opinion, the conservatives held firm in overturning Roe and Casey.
In his opinion, Alito dismissed the arguments in favor of retaining the two decisions, including that multiple generations of American women have partly relied on the right to abortion to gain economic and political power.
Changing the makeup of the court has been central to the anti-abortion side's strategy, as the dissenters archly noted. "The Court reverses course today for one reason and one reason only: because the composition of this Court has changed," the liberal justices wrote.
Mississippi and its allies made increasingly aggressive arguments as the case developed, and two high-court defenders of abortion rights retired or died. The state initially argued that its law could be upheld without overruling the court's abortion precedents.
Justice Anthony Kennedy retired shortly after the Mississippi law took effect in 2018 and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died in September 2020. Both had been members of a five-justice majority that was mainly protective of abortion rights.
In their Senate hearings, Trump's three high-court picks carefully skirted questions about how they would vote in any cases, including about abortion.