The Supreme Court ruled 6–3 Friday against the constitutional right to abortion in a decision that is expected to severly curb abortion access across the country.
The court ruled in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in favor of a Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, and overuled the landmark Supreme Court cases Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), which guaranteed abortion rights throughout the country.
Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the opinion of the court that the Constitution bears no mention of abortion rights and that the court would “return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”
“Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” the opinion reads. “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.”
Alito’s vote was joined by the court’s conservative majority of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, Justice Neil Gorsuch and Chief Justice John Roberts.
In their dissent, the court’s liberal wing — Justice Stephen Breyer, Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Elena Kagan — said the court’s ruling overturns 50 years of precedent, damaging the court’s legitimacy and opening the door for challenges to other rights, “from contraception to same-sex intimacy and marriage.”
“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,” the dissent reads.
The decision comes after Politico released a leaked draft opinion last month that ruled against the constitutional right to an abortion. The leaked opinion sparked nationwide protests and condemnation by abortion rights advocates and physicians.
Almost half of the states are expected to outlaw or restrict abortions as a result of the decision. Without the protection of the ruling, several abortion bans put in place before Roe v. Wade will go back into effect.
In Michigan, a 1931 ban on all abortions except those necessary to save a person’s life will not go into effect immediately as a result of a preliminary injunction. Michigan Court of Claims Judge Elizabeth Gleicher granted the injunction, which was sought by Planned Parenthood of Michigan in a lawsuit against the attorney general. Gleicher claimed that abortion rights are protected under the Michigan Constitution’s due process provisions, which protects a person’s bodily integrity. This injunction blocks the 1931 law from being enforced and maintains the right to an abortion in Michigan.
While abortion rights are currently protected in Michigan, the injunction is only temporary, and conservative activists sought to have it lifted in a request filed to the Michigan Court of Appeals last month. There is currently a ballot initiative in Michigan that seeks to amend Michigan’s constitution to protect the right to an abortion.
Following the announcement of the leaked opinion, the University of Michigan initiated a task force in response to the potential abortion ban. The task force will outline resources for students, faculty and staff looking to obtain an abortion out of state as well as provide reproductive healthcare guidance for clinical providers.
The City of Ann Arbor is a “zone of reproductive freedom.” 30 years ago, residents of Ann Arbor voted to amend the city’s charter, maintaining access to abortion within the city’s limits and requiring only a $5 fee for any abortions that take place, should state or federal law ban the procedure. This amendment still stands, and it restricts the city attorney from referring abortion cases to any other authority for prosecution.
In a June 24 statement, the University said Michigan Medicine will continue to provide abortions under the injunction. In an email to the campus community, Interim President Mary Sue Coleman said she will do everything in her power to ensure the University continues to provide abortion services.
“Our campus is more than half women; we care about our own communities as well as those we serve through clinical care and education,” Coleman wrote. “I am deeply concerned about how prohibiting abortion would affect U-M’s medical teaching, our research, and our service to communities in need.”
Washtenaw County Prosecuting Attorney Eli Savit wrote in a tweet on Friday that Washtenaw County will not prosecute anyone under the 1931 law.
“For residents of my county, I will reiterate this once again: no matter the outcome of court cases, and the ballot initiative, we will not be prosecuting doctors, patients, or providers under that old Michigan law,” Savit wrote. “Full-stop.”
In a statement posted to Twitter, Governor Gretchen Whitmer wrote she will use every resource at her disposal to ensure abortion remains legal in Michigan, even after the injunction expires.
“I want every Michigander to know that I am more determined than ever to protect access to safe, legal abortions,” Whitmer wrote. “Now is the time to use every tool in our toolbox to protect women and reproductive healthcare.”