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InsightHealthcareCivil & Constitutional RightsAngela Buchanan

Supreme Court eliminates federal protection for abortion

By June 30th, 2022No Comments

By Angela M. Buchanan

This article appeared as a Guest Column in the Journal Record on June 30, 2022

Angela-Buchanan portrait
Angela M. Buchanan

Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization concerned a Mississippi clinic’s challenge to a state law that banned abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy with no exceptions for rape or incest. A federal district court and the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the clinic, blocking Mississippi’s law. The state appealed to the Supreme Court.

On June 24, the Supreme Court issued its ruling in Dobbs, overturning the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade and 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey cases, which provided constitutional protections for abortion. In Dobbs, the Supreme Court determined that there is no inherent right to privacy or personal autonomy in the Constitution. Writing for the court majority, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that the 1973 Roe ruling and decisions reaffirming Roe “must be overruled” because they were “egregiously wrong” and “an abuse of judicial authority.” Justice Alito further wrote: “we hold” that “the Constitution does not confer a right to abortion.”

The Dobbs decision eliminates federal protections for abortion and leaves the issue to state legislatures. Under Dobbs, when a state regulation of abortion is challenged, the regulation will be presumptively valid and “must be sustained if there is a rational basis on which the legislature could have thought” it was serving “legitimate state interests,” including “respect for and preservation of prenatal life at all stages of development.”

Joining Justice Alito’s opinion were Justice Clarence Thomas (H.W. Bush appointee), Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett (Trump appointees). Chief Justice Roberts (W. Bush appointee) concurred in the judgment only. Dissenting were Justices Stephen Breyer (Clinton appointee), and Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan (Obama appointees). They wrote “[w]ith sorrow – for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection – we dissent.” The dissenting justices concluded, “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.”

Following Dobbs, abortion rights will be curtailed in almost half of the country immediately, with more restrictions likely to follow. Although Justice Alito wrote that “[n]othing in this opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion,” Justice Thomas’ concurrent opinion stated that the legal rationale for the decision could be used to overturn other cases, including those that legalized gay marriage.

Angela M. Buchanan is a litigation attorney at the law firm of Phillips Murrah.

For more information on how the information in this article may impact your business, please call 469.485.7341 or email Angela M. Buchanan.

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