The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Friday to overturn Roe v. Wade in a landmark decision that reverses a nearly 50-year-old precedent granting women the right to an abortion in all 50 states.
The 6-3 ruling fell along ideological lines, with Republican-appointed judges voting to overturn Roe and the court’s three liberals dissenting.
“The Constitution does not confer a right to an abortion; Roe and Casey are overruled and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives,” Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the court’s majority, said in his opinion.
The decision will have wide-ranging impacts for millions of Americans, as bans on abortion will take immediate effect several states that have so-called trigger laws passed in the years after the Roe decision, set to would take effect if the Supreme Court allowed it.
A 1992 ruling, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, had previously affirmed a woman’s right to an abortion before fetal viability, typically at around 24 weeks of pregnancy.
The case decided on Friday, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, concerned a 2018 Mississippi state law that banned most abortions after the first 15 weeks of pregnancy, but the decision opens the door to states who wish to ban abortion entirely.
Chief Justice John Roberts, appointed by Republican President George W. Bush, issued a concurrence that agreed with the court’s decision to uphold the Mississippi law, but disagreed with the five other conservative justices’ decision to use the case to overturn 50 years of Supreme Court precedent.
“I agree with the Court that the viability line established by Roe and Casey should be discarded,” he wrote. “Our abortion precedents describe the right at issue as a woman’s right to choose to terminate her pregnancy. That right should therefore extend far enough to ensure a reasonable opportunity to choose, but need not extend any further,” he continued, noting that 15 weeks is sufficient time for a woman to learn she is pregnant and to decide whether to pursue an abortion.
“If it is not necessary to decide more to dispose of the case, then it is necessary not to decide more,” Roberts continued, chastising the court’s majority for taking the opportunity to overturn such a long standing precedent at Roe v. Wade.
The court’s three liberals: Justices Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan warned in their dissent that the court’s decision means that, “from the very moment of fertilizations, a woman has no rights to speak of.”
Some states have enacted laws extending to all forms of abortion procedure, including taking medication in one’s own home,” the wrote. “They have passed laws without any exceptions for when the woman is the victim of rape or incest. Under those laws, a woman will have to bear her rapist’s child or a young girl her father’s—no matter if doing so will destroy her life.”
An analysis by the pro-choice Guttmacher institute estimated that 26 states are “certain or likely” to ban abortion now that Roe has been overturned.