Roe vs Wade decision: US Supreme Court overturns abortion law to allow states to ban pregnancy termination

Pregnancy termination will be banned in half of US states after the US Supreme Court overturned the landmark ruling of the 1973 Roe v Wade case

The US House of Representatives have voted to restore abortion rights in US states after the US Supreme Court took the controversial decision to over turn the Roe V Wade ruling.

The ruling was made at the end of June, and made abortion almost instantly illegal in around 25 states.

Despite the House of Representitives voting to restore the right to an abortion for all women in the United States, it is unlikely to pass through the Senate, which currently does not have a Democartic or Republican majority.

Therefore the ban on abortions may still continue for millions of Americans across the country.

The Roe v Wade ruling, which had been made in 1973, has been upheld for almost 50 years, with the decidion heavily criticsed by many.

US President Joe Biden spoke of his heartbreak at the ruling, saying that it was a “sad day for the court and for the country”.

Protestors in Washington D.C. react to the Supreme Court ruling which overturned the Roe v. Wade case enshrining the right to abortion. Photo: Getty

What is Roe v Wade?

Roe v Wade was a landmark decision made by the US Supreme Court in 1973 which enshrined the right to choose a preganancy termination in all 50 states of the United States.

The ruling had been upheld for almost 50 years, with the US Supreme Court most prominently upholding the decision during the Planned Parenthood v Casey case in 1992.

Despite the decision now being overturned, recent polling in the US shows public backing for the ruling to be upheld and for the right to access abortions to be made available in all 50 states.

Why was Roe v Wade overturned?

After a leaked document was released in May which showed that the landmark ruling could be overturned, many activists worried that the access to abortions would be restritcted after the right was protected for almost 50 years.

On 24 June, it was confirmed that the US Surpreme Court had indeed overturned the decision, with the judges stating that the inital ruling was unconstitutional.

In the final opinion, Justice Alito wrote: “We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled. The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision.”

The make up of the court has also played a part in this decision being made, with conservative judges holding a majority.

Former President Donald Trump made an three appointments to the US Supreme Court during his time in power - Neil Gorsuch in 2017, Brett Kavanaugh in 2018 and Amy Coney-Barrett in 2020 - which pushed the convservative judges to hold the majority.

Justices Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, Coney-Barrett and Thomas all voted to overturn the decision, while the liberal wing of the court - Justices Beyer, Sotomayor and Kagan - all voted in dissent.

Pro-life campaigners celebrated the decision outside the US Supreme Court. (Credit: Getty Images)

Chief Justice John Roberts said that he would have stopped short of ending the abortion right, adding that he would have upheld the Mississippi law.

What does the overturning of Roe v Wade mean for the US?

Upon the overturning of Roe v Wade, at least half of US states are expected to restrict access to abortions.

Among these 25 states, there are 13 which currently have a “trigger law” which could mean that the practice is outlawed immediate.

This includes states such as Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana, as well as others in the South and Midwest.

These states already have laws on the book which can be immediately implemented if Roe v Wade was overturned.

Additionally, another half-dozen states will be able to introduce a total-ban on abortion.

Other states will introduce a ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, however, many women do not find out they are pregnant until after this timeframe.

What did Joe Biden say about Roe v Wade being overturned?

In a dedicated press cnference following the ruling, US President Joe Biden called it a “sad day” for America, adding: “The health and life of women in this nation are now at risk.

US President Joe Biden said it was a “sad day” for the US after the Roe v Wade decision was overturned. (Credit: Getty Images)

“I believe Roe v Wade was the correct decision as a matter of constitutional law and application of the fundamental right to privacy and liberty.”

The US leader spoke further about how he believed Mr Trump’s appointments to the Supreme Court is what led to this decision.

He said: “It was three justices named by one president, Donald Trump, at the core of today’s decision to upend the scale of justice and eliminate a fundamental right for women in this country,” he said.

“In my view, the court has done what has never been done before - expressly take away a constitutional right that is so fundamental to so many Americans.”

Mr Biden later said that he would do what he can to support women who will now have to travel to another state to receive an abortion, and urged for protests to remain peaceful, before urging voters to make their voice heard in this autumn’s midterm elections.

He said: “This fall, Roe is on the ballot, personal freedoms are on the ballot, right to privacy, liberty, equality.”

What has been the reaction to the overturning to Roe v Wade?

The issue of abortion has become a divisive topic in American politics, with Democrats and Republican often holding opposing views.

The overturning of the ruling has been welcomed by some Republican politicians, as well as anti-abortion campaigners who had gathered outside the court as the ruling was made.

U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, a prominent pro-life supporter, said that the decision was “courageous and correct”, calling the ruling a “historical victory”.

Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy echoed his colleague’s comments, saying: “Every unborn child is precious, extraordinary, and worthy of protection.

“I applaud this historic ruling, which will save countless innocent lives. The Court is right to return the power to protect the unborn to the people’s elected representatives in Congress and the states.”

However, their celebrations have been met with anger and concern from those on the pro-choice side of the argument.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said: “Today, the Republican-controlled Supreme Court has achieved the GOP’s dark and extreme goal of ripping away women’s right to make their own reproductive health decisions.

House speaker Nancy Pelosi said that women of this generation now had less freedom than their mothers. (Credit: Getty Images)

“Because of Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, the Republican Party and their supermajority on the Supreme Court, American women today have less freedom than their mothers.”

Former President Obama tweeted: “Today, the Supreme Court not only reversed nearly 50 years of precedent, it relegated the most intensely personal decision someone can make to the whims of politicians and ideologues—attacking the essential freedoms of millions of Americans.”

Former First Lady, Michelle Obama, added to his words, saying: “Our hearts may be broken today, but tomorrow, we’ve got to get up and find the courage to keep working towards creating the more just America we all deserve.”

President Joe Biden is expected to speak at a news conference later this evening.

The ruling has also gained international reaction, with UK prime Minister Boris Johnson calling the decision “a big step backwards” during a press conference in Rwanda.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “Obviously the immediate consequences will be suffered by women in the US - but this will embolden anti-abortion & anti-women forces in other countries too.”