Key Excerpts From Supreme Court’s Abortion Ruling Overturning Roe v. Wade

From a Wall Street Journal story by Peter Landers headlined “Key Excerpts From Supreme Court’s Abortion Ruling Overturning Roe v. Wade”:

The Supreme Court on Friday overturned both the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision establishing a constitutional right to abortion, and a 1992 opinion that reaffirmed Roe, called Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey.

Below are excerpts from the majority opinion by Justice Samuel Alito; concurrences by Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Brett Kavanaugh; a concurrence in the judgment by Chief Justice John Roberts that takes issue with the majority’s approach; and a dissent jointly written by Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. For the full text of these opinions, click here.

Majority opinion by Justicee Samuel Alito

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.” (p. 6)

“[A] right to abortion is not deeply rooted in the nation’s history and traditions. On the contrary, an unbroken tradition of prohibiting abortion on pain of criminal punishment persisted from the earliest days of the common law until 1973.” (p. 25)

“[A]s the Court has reiterated time and time again, adherence to precedent is not ‘an inexorable command.’ There are occasions when past decisions should be overruled.” (p. 37)

“[W]e emphasize that our decision concerns the constitutional right to abortion and no other right. Nothing in this opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion.” (p. 66)

“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.” (p. 79)

Concurrence by Justice Clarence Thomas

Justice Thomas summarized the conclusions of three previous cases: “right of married persons to obtain contraceptives” (Griswold v. Connecticut); “right to engage in private, consensual sexual acts” (Lawrence v. Texas), and “right to same-sex marriage” (Obergefell v. Hodges).

“[I]n future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell.” (p. 3)

Concurrence by Justice Brett Cavanaugh

“[T]he Court’s decision today does not outlaw abortion throughout the United States. On the contrary, the Court’s decision properly leaves the question of abortion for the people and their elected representatives in the democratic process.” (p. 3)

Concurrence in the judgment by Chief Justice John Roberts

“The Court’s opinion is thoughtful and thorough, but those virtues cannot compensate for the fact that its dramatic and consequential ruling is unnecessary to decide the case before us.” (p. 2)

“A narrower decision rejecting the misguided viability line would be markedly less unsettling, and nothing more is needed to decide this case.” (p. 11)

“Both the Court’s opinion and the dissent display a relentless freedom from doubt on the legal issue that I cannot share.” (p. 12)

Dissent by Justices Stephen Bryer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elana Kagan

“[A]fter today’s ruling, some states may compel women to carry to term a fetus with severe physical anomalies—for example, one afflicted with Tay-Sachs disease, sure to die within a few years of birth. States may even argue that a prohibition on abortion need make no provision for protecting a woman from risk of death or physical harm.…Most threatening of all, no language in today’s decision stops the federal government from prohibiting abortions nationwide.” (p. 2-3)

“Those responsible for the original Constitution, including the Fourteenth Amendment, did not perceive women as equals, and did not recognize women’s rights. When the majority says that we must read our foundational charter as viewed at the time of ratification (except that we may also check it against the Dark Ages), it consigns women to second-class citizenship.” (p. 15)

“[T]oday’s opinion will fuel the fight to get contraception, and any other issues with a moral dimension, out of the Fourteenth Amendment and into state legislatures.” (p. 28-29)

“[W]eakening stare decisis in a hotly contested case like this one calls into question this court’s commitment to legal principle. It makes the court appear not restrained but aggressive, not modest but grasping. In all those ways, today’s decision takes aim, we fear, at the rule of law.” (p. 57)

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