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Supreme Court strikes down Roe v. Wade. Here’s what it means


The Supreme Court announced its final decision on Roe v. Wade today, affirming the leaked draft opinion that was obtained by Politico in May. The court’s 6-3 ruling, which upholds a Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, strikes down a landmark decision that has enshrined abortion rights across the U.S. for nearly 50 years. All of the court’s reliably conservative justices—Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett—joined Samuel Alito’s majority opinion, while its more liberal members penned a jointly written dissent.

“The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion,” wrote Alito. “Roe and Casey are overruled; and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives.”

While the Court has allowed for restrictions on abortion access, it had long maintained the precedent set by Roe. This ruling will have a devastating and instant impact on people seeking abortions, forcing them to travel long distances to get the care they need or carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. With Roe overturned, the decision to protect or deny access to abortion is now left to individual states, many of which have already passed abortion bans and other increasingly restrictive measures in anticipation of this day.

In 13 states, ending Roe sets into motion existing trigger laws that almost immediately prohibit abortion. With the Court’s decision in hand, these bans have already outlawed abortion in Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and South Dakota, while those in other states—Arkansas, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming—should take effect in the coming weeks. (In Oklahoma, however, an outright ban on abortion has been in effect since late May.) None of these laws make exceptions for cases where a pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.

A handful of states—Alabama, Arizona, Michigan, West Virginia, and Wisconsin—have abortion bans that predate Roe, though it’s not clear if or when those may be enforced. (In Michigan, for example, enforcement of the state’s abortion ban has been temporarily blocked due to a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood.) Countless other states are also intent on further curtailing access to abortion, building on myriad restrictions they’ve adopted over the past decade. Some people may be able to obtain a medication abortion, while others could perhaps use benefits provided by their employers to get an abortion. But with more than half of U.S. states poised to ban or significantly restrict abortion rights in total, the Court’s ruling will fundamentally reshape access to reproductive care across the country.

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