The Supreme Court’s ruling on Friday overturning Roe v. Wade, the most consequential high court ruling in decades, contained several striking lines that will resonate for decades to come.
Here are key lines from the opinion:
From Justices Clarence Thomas, Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch who concurred with the majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito
“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled. 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.”
“Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences. And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division.”
“It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”
“We end this opinion where we began. Abortion presents a profound moral question. The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion. Roe and Casey arrogated that authority. We now overrule those decisions and return that authority to the people and their elected representatives.”
Chief Justice John Roberts, who did not join the majority
“The Court’s decision to overrule Roe and Casey is a serious jolt to the legal system—regardless of how you view those cases. A narrower decision rejecting the misguided viability line would be markedly less unsettling, and nothing more is needed to decide this case.”
“I would decide the question we granted review to answer—whether the previously recognized abortion right bars all abortion restrictions prior to viability, such that a ban on abortions after fifteen weeks of pregnancy is necessarily unlawful. The answer to that question is no, and there is no need to go further to decide this case.”
Joint dissenting opinion from Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan
“With sorrow—for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection—we dissent.”
“Whatever the exact scope of the coming laws, one result of today’s decision is certain: the curtailment of women’s rights, and of their status as free and equal citizens.”
“As of today, this Court holds, a State can always force a woman to give birth, prohibiting even the earliest abortions. A State can thus transform what, when freely undertaken, is a wonder into what, when forced, may be a nightmare. Some women, especially women of means, will find ways around the State’s assertion of power. Others—those without money or childcare or the ability to take time off from work—will not be so fortunate. Maybe they will try an unsafe method of abortion, and come to physical harm, or even die. Maybe they will undergo pregnancy and have a child, but at significant personal or familial cost. At the least, they will incur the cost of losing control of their lives. The Constitution will, today’s majority holds, provide no shield, despite its guarantees of liberty and equality for all.”
The dissent charged the majority with discarding a careful balance that Roe achieved, writing the majority, “says that from the very moment of fertilization, a woman has no rights to speak of.
“It says that from the very moment of fertilization, a woman has no rights to speak of. A State can force her to bring a pregnancy to term, even at the steepest personal and familial costs. An abortion restriction, the majority holds, is permissible whenever rational, the lowest level of scrutiny known to the law. And because, as the Court has often stated, protecting fetal life is rational, States will feel free to enact all manner of restrictions.”
“Across a vast array of circumstances, a State will be able to impose its moral choice on a woman and coerce her to give birth to a child. Enforcement of all these draconian restrictions will also be left largely to the States’ devices. A State can of course impose criminal penalties on abortion providers, including lengthy prison sentences. But some States will not stop there.”
“Withdrawing a woman’s right to choose whether to continue a pregnancy does not mean that no choice is being made. It means that a majority of today’s Court has wrenched this choice from women and given it to the States. To allow a State to exert control over one of “the most intimate and personal choices” a woman may make is not only to affect the course of her life, monumental as those effects might be.”
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