The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion; Roe and Casey are overruled; and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives. Pp. 8–79.
…(a) The critical question is whether the Constitution, properly understood, confers a right to obtain an abortion. Casey’s controlling opinion skipped over that question and reaffirmed Roe solely on the basis of stare decisis. A proper application of stare decisis, however, requires an assessment of the strength of the grounds on which Roe was based. The Court therefore turns to the question that the Casey plurality did not consider. Pp. 8–32.
…The Constitution makes no express reference to a right to obtain an abortion, but several constitutional provisions have been offered as potential homes for an implicit constitutional right. Roe held that the abortion right is part of a right to privacy that springs from the First, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments. See 410 U. S., at 152–153. The Casey Court grounded its decision solely on the theory that the right to obtain an abortion is part of the “liberty” protected by the Fourteenth Amend- ment’s Due Process Clause. Others have suggested that support can be found in the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, but that theory is squarely foreclosed by the Court’s precedents, which es- tablish that a State’s regulation of abortion is not a sex-based classifi- cation and is thus not subject to the heightened scrutiny that applies to such classifications.
…The Court finds that the right to abortion is not deeply rooted in the Nation’s history and tradi- tion. The underlying theory on which Casey rested—that the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause provides substantive, as well as procedural, protection for “liberty”—has long been controversial.
…Guided by the history and tradition that map the essential compo- nents of the Nation’s concept of ordered liberty, the Court finds the Fourteenth Amendment clearly does not protect the right to an abor- tion. Until the latter part of the 20th century, there was no support in American law for a constitutional right to obtain an abortion. No state constitutional provision had recognized such a right. Until a few years before Roe, no federal or state court had recognized such a right. Nor had any scholarly treatise. Indeed, abortion had long been a crime in every single State. At common law, abortion was criminal in at least some stages of pregnancy and was regarded as unlawful and could have very serious consequences at all stages. American law followed the common law until a wave of statutory restrictions in the 1800s ex- panded criminal liability for abortions. By the time the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted, three-quarters of the States had made abortion a crime at any stage of pregnancy. This consensus endured until the day Roe was decided. Roe either ignored or misstated this history,
and Casey declined to reconsider Roe’s faulty historical analysis.
…Instead of seriously pressing the argument that the abortion right itself has deep roots, supporters of Roe and Casey contend that the abortion right is an integral part of a broader entrenched right. Roe termed this a right to privacy, 410 U. S., at 154, and Casey described it as the freedom to make “intimate and personal choices” that are “central to personal dignity and autonomy,” 505 U. S., at 851. Ordered liberty sets limits and defines the boundary between competing interests. Roe and Casey each struck a particular balance between the interests of a woman who wants an abortion and the interests of what they termed “potential life.” Roe, 410 U. S., at 150; Casey, 505 U. S., at 852. But the people of the various States may evaluate those inter- ests differently. The Nation’s historical understanding of ordered lib- erty does not prevent the people’s elected representatives from deciding how abortion should be regulated. Pp. 11–30.
…Attempts to justify abortion through appeals to a broader right to autonomy and to define one’s “concept of existence” prove too much. Casey, 505 U. S., at 851. Those criteria, at a high level of generality, could license fundamental rights to illicit drug use, prostitution, and the like. What sharply distin- guishes the abortion right from the rights recognized in the cases on which Roe and Casey rely is something that both those decisions acknowledged: Abortion is different because it destroys what Roe termed “potential life” and what the law challenged in this case calls an “unborn human being.” None of the other decisions cited by Roe and Casey involved the critical moral question posed by abortion. Ac- cordingly, those cases do not support the right to obtain an abortion, and the Court’s conclusion that the Constitution does not confer such a right does not undermine them in any way. Pp. 30–32.
…(1) The nature of the Court’s error. Like the infamous decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, Roe was also egregiously wrong and on a collision course with the Constitution from the day it was decided. Casey perpetuated its errors, calling both sides of the national controversy to resolve their debate, but in doing so, Casey necessarily declared a winning side. Those on the losing side—those who sought to advance the State’s interest in fetal life—could no longer seek to persuade their elected representatives to adopt policies consistent with their views. The Court short-circuited the democratic process by closing it to the large number of Americans who disagreed with Roe. Pp. 43–45.
…(2) The quality of the reasoning. Without any grounding in the constitutional text, history, or precedent, Roe imposed on the entire country a detailed set of rules for pregnancy divided into trimesters much like those that one might expect to find in a statute or regulation. See 410 U. S., at 163–164. Roe’s failure even to note the overwhelming consensus of state laws in effect in 1868 is striking, and what it said about the common law was simply wrong. Read more»
Justice Alito for , Justices Roberts, Thomas, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett | “Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization” Pp. 1–7| June 24, 2022
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