Roe v Wade: Supreme Court overturns landmark ruling allowing states in US to ban abortions

The US Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that have been in place for nearly 50 years in a decision by its conservative majority to overturn Roe versus Wade.

The ruling is expected to lead to abortion bans in roughly half of US states.

The decision was labelled “one of the darkest days for women’s rights” by Nicola Sturgeon, who said the ruling would “embolden anti-abortion and anti-women forces in other countries”.

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Boris Johnson condemned the decision as a “big step backwards”, while US president Joe Biden described it as “a sad day for the court and the country”.

“Now with Roe gone, let’s be very clear, the health and life of women across this nation are now at risk,” he said from the White House.

The ruling was the culmination of decades of efforts by abortion opponents, made possible by an emboldened right side of the court that has been fortified by three appointees of former president Donald Trump.

Mr Trump took credit for the decision, saying in a statement the ruling was “the biggest win for life in a generation”.

He said the rulings and others “were only made possible because I delivered everything as promised, including nominating and getting three highly respected and strong constitutionalists confirmed to the United States Supreme Court”.

The Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, allowing states to ban abortions.The Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, allowing states to ban abortions.
The Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, allowing states to ban abortions.
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Roe v Wade: ‘Draft opinion’ suggests Supreme Court could overturn abortion right...

“It was my great honour to do so,” he said.

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.

It puts the court at odds with a majority of Americans who favoured preserving Roe, according to opinion polls.

Justice Alito, in the final opinion issued on Friday, wrote that Roe and Planned Parenthood v Casey, the 1992 decision that reaffirmed the right to abortion, was wrong the day it was decided and must be overturned.

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Authority to regulate abortion rests with the political branches, not the courts, Justice Alito wrote.

Joining him were Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. The latter three justices are Trump appointees. Justice Thomas first voted to overrule Roe 30 years ago.

Chief Justice John Roberts would have stopped short of ending the abortion right, noting that he would have upheld the Mississippi law at the heart of the case, a ban on abortion after 15 weeks, and said no more.

Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — the diminished liberal wing of the court — were in dissent.

The ruling is expected to disproportionately affect minority women who already face limited access to healthcare.

Thirteen states, mainly in the South and Midwest, already have laws on the books that ban abortion in the event Roe is overturned. Another half-dozen states have near-total bans or prohibitions after six weeks of pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant.

Mr Biden decried the “extreme” court’s ruling, saying politicians should not be allowed to interfere with a decision that should be made between a woman and her doctor.

He called the decision “wrong, extreme and out of touch”.

Members of pro-choice group Back Of Scotland, which campaigns for safe buffer zones around places offering abortion services, said they were “absolutely devastated” by the Supreme Court’s decision.

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“They haven’t eliminated the right to abortion, they have just eliminated the right to safe abortion,” campaigners said.

“Abortions will still happen. They’ll just happen in unsafe backstreet clinics. Women will die.”