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Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, undoing nearly 50 years of legalised abortion nationwide

Business Insider US
Activists marching along Constitution Avenue to the US Supreme Court on May 14. Astrid Riecken for The Washington Post via Getty Images
Activists marching along Constitution Avenue to the US Supreme Court on May 14. Astrid Riecken for The Washington Post via Getty Images
  • The US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that legalised abortion across the US.
  • The decision was split 6-3 along ideological lines.
  • The move gives states the authority to decide their own abortion laws.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

The Supreme Court on Friday overturned Roe v. Wade, a decision that guts the nearly 50-year-old landmark ruling that legalised abortion nationwide. 

The court sided with Mississippi and eliminated the standard set in Roe, which allowed abortion until about 24 weeks of pregnancy, otherwise known as viability, the point at which a foetus can survive outside the womb.

The ruling was split along ideological lines, with the court's conservative wing in the majority and the three liberals in dissent.

Justice Samuel Alito was widely expected to deliver the court's decision after Politico last month published a leaked draft opinion he wrote for the case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. In that draft, Alito offered a scorching rebuke of Roe, calling the decision "egregiously wrong from the start."

The topic of abortion has long sparked immense political division within the country, and the court's decision is expected to fan the flames. It delivers a monumental victory to the anti-abortion movement, which has worked to undo abortion rights ever since Roe was decided in 1973. At the same time, nightmare has become reality for abortion-rights advocates, who have fought to protect women's access to reproductive healthcare.

The court's decision will have far-reaching consequences as it grants states the authority to decide their own abortion laws. At least 23 states are expected to move to enact restrictions on abortion, and 13 states with so-called trigger laws will ban all or nearly all abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion-rights organization that tracks reproductive-healthcare data.

Economists expect that uneven access to severely set back women back. Studies have found that low-income women are more likely to be forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term than their wealthier counterparts because they cannot afford to travel to a state where the procedure is legal. That's been the case in Texas after the state in September enacted one of the strictest abortion laws in the country, banning the procedure after six weeks of pregnancy, a time when many women do not yet know they are pregnant. Women in Texas who have sought the procedure and can afford to travel have done so, though it's uncertain whether that scenario will continue in a post-Roe landscape, with abortion access significantly curtailed across the country.

These new abortion restrictions are sure to set off a wave of legal challenges. However, legal experts say those are likely to fail, given the Supreme Court has handed off abortion decision-making to the states.

The decision, overturning decades-old precedent, throws the Supreme Court's public standing into jeopardy amid an era of record-lowapproval ratings and intense political polarisation, according to court watchers. 

"I don't think they're showing a lot of respect for the stability of the institution and the stability of the law," Sherry Colb, a professor at Cornell Law School, told Insider before the decision was released.


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