The Supreme Court on Friday overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that guaranteed a constitutional right to an abortion in a 6-3 vote, a momentous break from a half century of rulings on one of the nation’s most controversial issues. About half the states have already indicated they would move to ban the procedure.
Supporters of abortion rights were bracing for the loss after an early draft of the opinion was leaked in May, touching off several days of demonstrations in more than two dozen cities. Protesters even showed up outside the homes of some members of the court.
Alarmed by the prospect that Roe would be overturned, Democrats in Congress responded to the leak by holding a Senate vote to advance legislation that would guarantee access to abortion nationwide. The bill was blocked, however, in a largely party-line vote.
The court’s ruling does not make abortion illegal, but with access to the procedure no longer deemed a constitutional right, states can now move to ban it. About half of them have already indicated a willingness to do so.
Legal scholars said the decision to overrule Roe marked one of the few times the Supreme Court has ever invalidated an earlier decision that declared a constitutional right — and was the only time it took away a right that had considerable public support.
For abortion opponents who have fought Roe for decades, the court’s decision was a huge victory. But it was a bitter defeat for advocates of abortion rights, who struggled to maintain them while courts narrowed their application over the past five decades.