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Biden calls Dobbs decision a 'tragic error', calls on Congress to codify abortion rights

U.S. President Joe Biden addresses the Supreme Court’s decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization to overturn Roe v. Wade June 24, 2022 in Cross Hall at the White House in Washington, DC. / Alex Wong/Getty Images

Denver Newsroom, Jun 24, 2022 / 13:55 pm (CNA).

In a Friday press conference, U.S. President Joe Biden called on Congress to codify abortion access into federal law, following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade that morning. The court’s decision returned the question of abortion policy to the states, which Biden labeled a “tragic error.” 

He also said he had that day directed the Department of Health and Human Services to make abortion pills more widely available, and that he would do “everything in my power” to protect women traveling to obtain abortions.  

“It's a sad day for the court and for the country,” Biden, the nation’s second Catholic president, said June 24.

Calling abortion an “intensely personal decision,” Biden went on to lament that the decision had taken away women’s “right to choose” and the “power to control their own destiny.” He claimed that with Roe gone, the “life and health” of women in the United States is now “at risk.” 

Biden has repeatedly expressed support for Roe v. Wade — which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973 — despite the teaching of his Catholic faith that abortion is a “grave evil.” 

“I believe Roe v. Wade was the correct decision,” Biden stated, claiming that Roe represented a “broad national consensus” relating to the “fundamental right to privacy” that “most Americans of faith…found acceptable.” 

This is despite evidence suggesting that more than 60% of all Americans disagreed with the central holding of Roe v. Wade, according to a January Knights of Columbus/Marist Poll survey.

“This decision is the culmination of a deliberate effort over decades to upset the balance of our law,” Biden continued, claiming that “the court has done what it has never done before, expressly take away a constitutional right that is so fundamental to so many Americans and had already been recognized. The court's decision to do so will have real and immediate consequences.”

“It's a realization of an extreme ideology and a tragic error by the Supreme Court, in my view.”

The only way to “secure a women’s right to choose,” Biden said, is for Congress to restore Roe as federal law, adding that “executive action can’t do that.” He urged the election of pro-choice legislators in the fall midterm elections.

Biden stated that he intends to provide aid to women living in pro-life states who want to travel to pro-abortion states. “If any state or local official, high or low, tries to interfere with a woman's exercising her basic right to travel, I will do everything in my power to fight that deeply un-American attack,” Biden said. 

The president also said he had directed the Department of Health and Human Services to “take steps” to ensure that mifepristone, the first drug in medical abortion regimen, is “available to the fullest extent possible.” Abortion supporters have pointed to medical abortions — which have been linked to numerous health risks — as a kind of workaround or backup plan for women to access abortion as states restrict abortion. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control's most recent Abortion Surveillance report, for the year 2019, “early medical abortions” made up 42.3% of abortions that year.

Biden requested that people upset by the decision remain peaceful in their response. This comes after numerous recent incidents of vandalism of pro-life pregnancy centers across the country, which the White House condemned via a spokesperson June 15. 

“I call on everyone no matter how deeply they care about this decision to keep all protests peaceful. Peaceful. Peaceful. Peaceful. No intimidation. Violence is never acceptable. Threats and intimidation are not speech. We must stand against violence in any form regardless of your rationale,” Biden said Friday. 

Biden concluded by claiming that the decision to overturn Roe had “made the United States an outlier among developed nations in the world,” despite the fact that the U.S. was previously one of only a handful of countries — including China and North Korea — that permitted elective abortions after 20 weeks’ gestation. Fourty-seven out of 50 European countries, independent states, and regions analyzed in 2014 either do not allow elective abortion or limit elective abortion to 15 weeks or earlier.

Pontifical Academy of Life says overturning of Roe v. Wade ‘challenges the world’

null / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Jun 24, 2022 / 12:54 pm (CNA).

The Pontifical Academy of Life said Friday that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade “challenges the whole world.”

“The court's opinion shows how the issue of abortion continues to arouse heated debate. The fact that a large country with a long democratic tradition has changed its position on this issue also challenges the whole world,” the Vatican academy wrote in a statement on June 24.

“The protection and defense of human life is not an issue that can remain confined to the exercise of individual rights, but instead is a matter of broad social significance. After 50 years, it is important to reopen a non-ideological debate on the place that the protection of life has in a civil society to ask ourselves what kind of coexistence and society we want to build,” it said.

The academy's statement was the first official reaction to the court’s decision issued by an entity linked to the Roman Curia. Pope Francis has condemned abortion using strong language, referring to it as "murder" and on multiple occasions comparing the act of killing an unborn child to hiring a "hitman" to solve a problem.

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the president of the academy, said: “In the face of Western society that is losing its passion for life, this act is a powerful invitation to reflect together on the serious and urgent issue of human generativity and the conditions that make it possible.”

The Pontifical Academy of Life also urged the importance of assisting mothers carry on with a difficult pregnancy, as well as “ensuring adequate sexual education, guaranteeing health care accessible to all and preparing legislative measures to protect the family and motherhood.”

St. John Paul II founded the Pontifical Academy of Life in 1994 to have the specific task of studying and providing formation on issues in biomedicine and the law regarding the promotion and defense of life.

Venerable Jérôme Lejeune, the French geneticist who discovered the extra chromosome that causes Down syndrome, served as the pontifical academy’s first president. 

The Pontifical Academy of Life wrote that it joined the U.S. bishops in calling for “healing wounds and repairing social divisions.”

“It is a time for reasoned reflection and civil dialogue, and for coming together to build a society and economy that supports marriages and families, and where every woman has the support and resources she needs to bring her child into this world in love,” the academy said.

Dobbs excerpts: Why the U.S. Supreme Court said Roe v Wade was 'egregiously wrong'

Associate Justice Samuel J. Alito Jr. / Screenshot from YouTube video

Denver Newsroom, Jun 24, 2022 / 12:08 pm (CNA).

The Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, saying that previous abortion rulings were “egregiously wrong from the start” and on a “collision course with the Constitution.” Roe and other pro-abortion rights precedents were “an error that cannot be allowed to stand,” and the abortion debate must now return to the states.

The June 24 decision, authored by Justice Samuel Alito, concerned a 15-week abortion ban in Mississippi under the name Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. It often echoes a draft decision leaked in May that thoroughly rebuked the pro-abortion decisions Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, respectively issued in 1973 and 1992 by Republican-majority courts.

Alito’s decision was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett. Thomas and Kavanaugh also filed concurring opinions.

Chief Justice John Roberts filed an opinion concurring in the judgement, in which he advocated for a more narrow ruling. All justices who backed the decision were nominated by Republican presidents. However, the decision cites President John F. Kennedy appointee Justice Byron White’s dissent in the Roe decision. 

The Dobbs case drew dissents from Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor, all appointees of Democratic presidents.

Here are some key passages from Alito’s decision.

Mandatory legal abortion is overruled; the debate goes back to the states

“Abortion presents a profound moral question. The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion,” the decision says. “Roe and Casey arrogated that authority. The Court overrules those decisions and returns that authority to the people and their elected representatives.”

“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, including the one on which the defenders of Roe and Casey now chiefly rely—the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

It’s about human life: Abortion 'fundamentally different' than related court decisions   

Abortion is “fundamentally different” from other decisions related to sexual relations, contraception, and marriage because it destroys what other court decisions call “fetal life” and what the Mississippi law in question describes as an “unborn human being.”

“None of the other decisions cited by Roe and Casey involved the critical moral question posed by abortion.”

Roe v. Wade: 'Egregiously wrong from the start'

The legal principle of stare decisis, which advises that precedent should usually stand, “does not compel unending adherence to Roe’s abuse of judicial authority.” 

“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,” said Alito’s decision.

Women’s voices on abortion must be heard through legislatures and the ballot box

“Our decision returns the issue of abortion to those legislative bodies, and it allows women on both sides of the abortion issue to seek to affect the legislative process by influencing public opinion, lobbying legislators, voting, and running for office. Women are not without electoral or political power. It is noteworthy that the percentage of women who register to vote and cast ballots is consistently higher than the percentage of men who do so,” said the Dobbs decision.

The states have 'legitimate interests' in regulating abortion

The majority decision said, “procuring an abortion is not a fundamental constitutional right because such a right has no basis in the Constitution’s text or in our Nation’s history.”

“It follows that the States may regulate abortion for legitimate reasons, and when such regulations are challenged under the Constitution, courts cannot ‘substitute their social and economic beliefs for the judgment of legislative bodies’.”

A law regulating abortion, like other health and welfare laws, is entitled to a “strong presumption of validity” if there is “a rational basis on which the legislature could have thought that it would serve legitimate state interests.”

“These legitimate interests include respect for and preservation of prenatal life at all stages of development; the protection of maternal health and safety; the elimination of particularly gruesome or barbaric medical procedures; the preservation of the integrity of the medical profession; the mitigation of fetal pain; and the prevention of discrimination on the basis of race, sex, or disability,” the decision explains.

Roe v. Wade was 'on a collision course with the Constitution' from day one

“Roe’s constitutional analysis was far outside the bounds of any reasonable interpretation of the various constitutional provisions to which it vaguely pointed.”

“Roe was on a collision course with the Constitution from the day it was decided, Casey perpetuated its errors, and those errors do not concern some arcane corner of the law of little importance to the American people.” 

“Rather, wielding nothing but ‘raw judicial power,’ the Court usurped the power to address a question of profound moral and social importance that the Constitution unequivocally leaves for the people.”

“Casey described itself as 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 dissented in any respect from Roe…. Together, Roe and Casey represent an error that cannot be allowed to stand.”

Abortion precedents relied on bad history and bad reasoning

The right to abortion was “entirely unknown in American law” until the latter part of the 20th century, said Alito’s decision.

“Indeed, when the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted, three quarters of the States made abortion a crime at all stages of pregnancy.”

“The weaknesses in Roe’s reasoning are well-known. Without any grounding in the constitutional text, history, or precedent, it imposed on the entire country a detailed set of rules much like those that one might expect to find in a statute or regulation…. The scheme Roe produced looked like legislation, and the Court provided the sort of explanation that might be expected from a legislative body… What Roe did not provide was any cogent justification for the lines it drew.”

“The Constitution makes no express reference to a right to obtain an abortion, and therefore those who claim that it protects such a right must show that the right is somehow implicit in the constitutional text… Roe, however, was remarkably loose in its treatment of the constitutional text.”

“Roe’s reasoning was exceedingly weak, and academic commentators, including those who agreed with the decision as a matter of policy, were unsparing in their criticism,” said the decision. Among those it cites is Roe critic Laurence Tribe, a Harvard Law School professor emeritus who supports legal abortion.

Roe was a groundless novelty because many U.S. states banned abortion

“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 expanded 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. It is therefore important to set the record straight,” said the Dobbs decision, before providing its own overview of the legal history of abortion.

“The inescapable conclusion is that 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.”

The Supreme Court can’t settle the abortion debate, but legislators may

“It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”

“This Court’s inability to end debate on the issue should not have been surprising. This Court cannot bring about the permanent resolution of a rancorous national controversy simply by dictating a settlement and telling the people to move on. Whatever influence the Court may have on public attitudes must stem from the strength of our opinions, not an attempt to exercise ‘raw judicial power’.”

This is a developing story.

LIVE UPDATES: Nation reacts to Supreme Court's abortion decision overturning Roe v. Wade

Pro-abortion protestors outside the Supreme Court after the historic decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. / Katie Yoder / CNA

Washington D.C., Jun 24, 2022 / 11:11 am (CNA).

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday released its long-awaited judgment in a pivotal Mississippi abortion case — a 6-3 decision that overturns the Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood decisions that legalized abortion nationwide. Here is the latest developments:

Note: Times are EDT.

2:00 p.m.

The Pontifical Academy of Life shares their statement regarding the Supreme Court's decision.

“The court's opinion shows how the issue of abortion continues to arouse heated debate. The fact that a large country with a long democratic tradition has changed its position on this issue also challenges the whole world,” the Vatican academy wrote.

“The protection and defense of human life is not an issue that can remain confined to the exercise of individual rights, but instead is a matter of broad social significance. After 50 years, it is important to reopen a non-ideological debate on the place that the protection of life has in a civil society to ask ourselves what kind of coexistence and society we want to build,” it said.

Major companies in the U.S. announce they will cover travel costs for employees to get an abortion in another state if the state they live in has banned abortions. Companies include Disney, Comcast, Paramount and Netflix among others.

Cardinal Sean O'Malley of the Archdiocese of Boston shared his statement in regards to the Supreme Court's decision.

"For all of us who have spoken, written, worked, marched, and prayed to reverse Roe v. Wade, today's Supreme Court's decision in Dobbs v. Jackson is deeply significant and encouraging. This decision will create the possibility of protecting human life from conception; it calls us to recognize the unique burden faced by women in pregnancy; and it challenges us as a nation to work together to build up more communities of support -- and available access to them -- for all women experiencing unplanned pregnancies."

Read the full statement here.

12:50 p.m.

President Joe Biden gives press conference regarding the Supreme Court's decision.

He says, "Keep all protests peaceful. Violence is never acceptable. Threats are not speech. Stand against violence in any form, regardless of your rationale”

12:30 p.m.

Outside the Supreme Court.

Hundreds of people packed together in front of the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., following the Dobbs decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973.

Most pro-life supporters have left the court. It’s mostly abortion supporters in front of the court now. Abortion supporters are chanting “Legal abortion on demand right f*ing now!” and “f* you, SCOTUS.”

There are Lots of colorful signs, many with profane language: “F*** SCOTUS we’re doing it anyway.” Some abortion supporters are giving the middle finger to the court building.

11:00 a.m.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi holds her weekly press conference.

She said, "Because of Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, the Republican Party & their supermajority on the Supreme Court, American women today have less freedom than their mothers. Radical Republicans are now charging ahead with their crusade to criminalize health freedom."

"A woman’s fundamental health decisions are her own to make, in consultation with her doctor & her loved ones – not to be dictated by far-right politicians. While Republicans seek to punish & control women, Democrats will keep fighting ferociously to enshrine Roe v. Wade into law."

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of the Diocese of San Francisco in California issued a statement following the U.S. Supreme Court decision.

"The arc of history is long but it bends towards justice.” Never have the words the Rev. Martin Luther King, the great prophet of human rights in the 20th century, rung more true. This historic Supreme Court decision would not have happened without fifty years of patient, loving, hard work by people of all faiths and none in diverse fields including social service, religion, law, medicine, culture, education, policy and politics. But our work has just begun. The artificial barriers the Supreme Court created by erecting a so-called Constitutional right out of thin air have been removed. The struggle to demonstrate we can build a culture that respects every human life, including mothers in crisis pregnancies and the babies they carry, continues. We must redouble our efforts to accompany women and couples who are facing unexpected or difficult pregnancies, as well as to offer mercy to those suffering the after-effects of the abortion experience. Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the unborn, pray for us.

Read the full statement here.

March for Life President Jeanne Mancini reacts to the historic decision.

“For nearly fifty years, the Supreme Court has imposed an unpopular and extreme abortion policy on our nation, but as the annual March for Life gives witness to, Roe's allowance of abortion-on-demand, up-until-birth has never represented where most Americans stand on life! Today, the ability to determine whether and when to limit abortion was returned to the American people who have every right to enact laws like Mississippi's which protect mothers and unborn babies after 15 weeks — when they have fully formed noses, can suck their thumb, and feel pain. We are so grateful to the countless pro-life people of goodwill who contributed and sacrificed to make today possible – including the millions of those who have marched for life over the years - and we recognize that this is just the beginning of our work to advance policies that protect life. We will continue to march until abortion is unthinkable because equality begins in the womb.”

CatholicVote President Brian Burch shares his reaction.

"We are energized by this historic moment and resolve to work ever more diligently toward building a culture of life that respects the dignity of both mother and child. The Court today has merely allowed state legislators to begin the important task of supporting women in need, and protecting their vulnerable children from the grisly practices of the abortion industry. We urge state legislatures along with our federal representatives to move quickly to enact broad protections for women and children, and support for pregnancy centers, maternity homes, and programs that offer real choices for women to keep and love their children.”

Bishop Thomas John Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois issued the following statement in response to the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade:

“Today’s decision by the Supreme Court of the United States marks an important moment for our nation, lifting a cloud that has hung over our country for nearly a half century. There is no way to undo the tragedy of tens of millions of innocent lives lost or the decades of division sown by the Roe v. Wade decision. But, for the sake of future generations, we can now move forward with a more honest debate and efforts to advance policies and support programs that protect innocent life and promote stability and security for vulnerable mothers. Much work remains to be done on both fronts, and that work will now necessarily have more of a local focus, particularly in our own home state of Illinois. Importantly, these efforts must include prayer and concerted efforts to preserve peace in the face of recent violence, intimidation, and criminal vandalism against churches and government officials.”

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of the Archdiocese of Denver releases his statement regarding the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

"For nearly 50 years, Roe v. Wade has been a dark cloud over our country and has played a role in tens of millions of pre-born babies dying. In this life, we will never know the unrepeatable gifts they would have brought to our families, communities, and world."

Read the full statement here.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops release their statement in regards to the Supreme Court's decision.

“This is a historic day in the life of our country, one that stirs our thoughts, emotions and prayers. For nearly fifty years, America has enforced an unjust law that has permitted some to decide whether others can live or die; this policy has resulted in the deaths of tens of millions of preborn children, generations that were denied the right to even be born."

The full statement can be read here.

You can find the full statement from Bishop Michael Barber of the Diocese of Oakland in California here.

Read the Catholic University of America's full statement.

11:17 a.m.

Missouri becomes the first state to end abortions.

Reaction from the New York State Catholic Conference.

"We give thanks to God for today’s decision of the United States Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. This just decision will save countless innocent children simply waiting to be born." Read the full statement here.

10:20 a.m.

The Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade in a historic 6-3 decision.

The opinion, in the Mississippi abortion case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, is widely seen as the Supreme Court’s most highly anticipated and consequential ruling since Roe. It not only overturns Roe, the landmark 1973 abortion case, but also Casey v. Planned Parenthood, a 1992 decision that affirmed Roe.

The Dobbs opinion was written by Associate Justice Samuel Alito. Associate Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil M. Gorsuch, Brett M. Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett joined the opinion. Thomas and Kavanaugh filed concurring opinions. Chief Justice John Roberts filed an opinion concurring in the judgement. Associate Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan dissented.

This is a developing story.

Unrest after Dobbs? Here's what's happening.

An armored police vehicle is positioned on the plaza between the U.S. Capitol and the Supreme Court after the court handed down its decision in Dobbs v Jackson Women's Health on June 24, 2022 in Washington, DC. / Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Washington D.C., Jun 24, 2022 / 11:03 am (CNA).

Police with riot gear arrived outside the Supreme Court at around 11:30 a.m. on Friday, just hours after the court released the decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which returns the regulation of abortion to the states.

Although activists on both sides of the abortion topic have been raising their voices outside the court, as of midday June 24 there have been no reports of violence in response to the ruling

On May 30, a group called Jane’s Revenge released a call to action “Night of Rage,” in which they called for people to “come out after dark” and “make your anger known” on the night of the Dobbs decision. They selected 8 p.m. for “actions nationwide to begin.”

Pro-life pregnancy centers have come under attack since early May, with the words “Jane’s revenge,” or something similar, being left at the site of the vandalism. The attacks began after the Dobbs draft decision was leaked to the press. In recent months, many churches, especially Catholic ones, have come under attack from pro-abortion individuals as well. 

After the leak in May, a pro-abortion group called Ruth Sent Us began calling for its followers to disrupt Catholic Masses. Many local Churches issued guidance to parishes to prepare for possible disruptions.

A memo from the Diocese of Stockton shows that the diocese is directing its clergy, parish staff, religious, and pastoral center staff to prepare for possible disturbances to churches. 

A June 24 risk advisory from the Archdiocese of Boston, sent before the Dobbs decision’s release, shows that the archdiocese is taking similar precautions. 

“We would like to emphasize that there have been no direct threats received; however, we encourage all parishes and institutions to elevate their awareness and be prepared by taking the following precautions,” the advisory says.  

The archdiocese is calling on parishes and institutions to ask for guidance and increased patrol outside weekend Masses from their local police departments. 

The archdiocese is also advising parishes to train their staff to deal with protesters and develop an advanced plan for potential violence or vandalism. The advisory says parishes should remind all staff to call 911 for any concerns regarding violence or vandalism.

The archdiocese is also directing parishes to “Discuss your communication plan with ushers and greeters in the event they need to notify the pastor or police of an emergency situation.”

Other guidance from the archdiocese tells parishes to “assess your location” and identify doors that don’t lock or are unlocked at certain hours. Parishes are called to consider video security cameras on the exterior of churches where there is possible vandalism risk. The archdiocese is also asking parishes to create protocols, “where possible,” for screening visitors. 

This is a developing story.

UPDATED: 6 things to know about Roe v. Wade, Dobbs v. Jackson and the Supreme Court

Pro-life and pro-abortion advocates outside of the Supreme Court during oral arguments in the case Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, March 2, 2016. / Catholic News Agency

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 24, 2022 / 10:00 am (CNA).

The U.S. Supreme Court heard a historic case on Dec. 1, 2021 that directly challenged Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. And on June 24, 2022, the court issued its ruling, overturning Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey and returning the question of abortion policy to the states.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. What was the case about?

The case, known as Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, involved a 2018 Mississippi law restricting most abortions after 15 weeks. “Dobbs” stands for Thomas E. Dobbs, who serves as the state health officer of the Mississippi State Department of Health. Jackson Women’s Health Organization provides abortion in Jackson, Mississippi, and is the only abortion clinic in that state.

The case centered on the question of “Whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional,” or whether states can ban abortion before a fetus can survive outside the womb. The case challenges two landmark abortion cases that Mississippi calls “egregiously wrong”: Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

2. Why did the case challenge Roe and Casey?

In Roe v. Wade, the court ruled that states could not ban abortion before viability, which the court determined to be 24 to 28 weeks into pregnancy. Nearly 20 years later, the court upheld Roe in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The 1992 ruling said that while states could regulate pre-viability abortions, they could not enforce an “undue burden,” defined by the court as “a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus.”

Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act, the subject of the Dobbs case, bans abortion weeks before the point of viability.

“Under the Constitution, may a State prohibit elective abortions before viability? Yes,” Mississippi argues in its brief. “Why? Because nothing in constitutional text, structure, history, or tradition supports a right to abortion.”

3. Who argued the case before the court?

Three people spoke before the justices in December 2021. Scott G. Stewart, the solicitor general of Mississippi, was given 35 minutes to represent the state. For Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Julie Rikelman, litigation director of the Center for Reproductive Rights, was given 20 minutes. U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar had 15 minutes to argue in support of Jackson Women’s Health Organization.  

4. How can Americans hear or read the arguments that were made? 

The Supreme Court website offers an audio recording and transcripts of the arguments.

5. What did the Court rule in June?

The Supreme Court overturned Roe and Casey in a historic 6-3 decision released Friday that brought a sudden and dramatic end to nearly a half-century of nationwide legalized abortion in the U.S. 

"Abortion presents a profound moral question. The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion. Roe and Casey arrogated that authority," the opinion states. "We now overrule these decisions and return that authority to the people and their elected representatives."

The decision does not ban or criminalize abortion, nor does it recognize an unborn child's constitutional right to life. But in one stroke, the court’s action sweeps away entrenched legal barriers, created and strictly enforced by the federal judiciary, that for decades have blocked states like Mississippi from heavily restricting or prohibiting the killing of unborn children in the womb.

The ruling marks a watershed moment for the Catholic Church and the wider pro-life movement in the United States, which have painstakingly sought Roe’s reversal since the landmark 7-2 decision was handed down on Jan. 19, 1973.

6. What happens now?

In more than a dozen states, abortion is now completely illegal, with a few exceptions, while several other states in the country have passed laws to protect abortion within their borders.

Abortion has the potential to be a major issue in the November elections in the U.S., but early polling suggests economic problems such as inflation may play more of a role. 

There have already been attempts in the Senate to pass a codification of Roe v. Wade into federal law, but so far these have failed, with Democrat Joe Manchin joining all the senate Republicans in opposition. Political observers have speculated that even if Democrats abolished the filibuster rule — which requires 60 votes to break a filibuster from the minority — they may still not have enough votes to pass a codification of Roe v. Wade. 

Plus, there is a chance that, in light of the Dobbs ruling, the Supreme Court could strike down a federal law attempting to codify abortion rights. 

Part of a continuing series examining the U.S. Supreme Court case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a direct challenge to the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion throughout the United States. This story has been updated since its original publication on Nov. 30, 2021.

Read about the five Supreme Court justices who voted to overturn Roe v. Wade

Left to right, Supreme Court associate justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Brett M. Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett, and Neil M. Gorsuch. / Courtesy of Supreme Court

Denver Newsroom, Jun 24, 2022 / 09:15 am (CNA).

The U.S. Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade with its landmark Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision, issued Friday. 

For the first time in almost 50 years, the debate over legal abortion returns to the individual U.S. states, allowing many states to protect the lives of the unborn. 

Such protection efforts will still face strong opposition from foes who say individual autonomy should trump the right to life, and Congressional Democrats have pushed for federal legislation they say would “codify” Roe.

Though the Dobbs decision falls short of nationwide protections for the unborn, it nonetheless represents a major victory for the decades of pro-life efforts to cultivate and promote jurists capable of rejecting Roe’s deeply troubling precedent and allowing the country to chart a different path.

The majority opinion, authored by Justice Samuel Alito, was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett. Thomas and Kavanaugh also filed concurring opinions.

Chief Justice John Roberts filed an opinion concurring in the judgement, in which he advocated for a more narrow ruling.

"The Court’s decision to overrule Roe and Casey is a serious jolt to the legal system—regardless of how you view those cases," his opinion reads. "A narrower decision rejecting the misguided viability line would be markedly less unsettling, and nothing more is needed to decide this case."

"My point is that Roe adopted two distinct rules of constitutional law: one, that a woman has the right to choose to terminate a pregnancy; two, that such right may be overridden by the State’s legitimate interests when the fetus is viable outside the womb," he added at another point. "The latter is obviously distinct from the former. I would abandon that timing rule, but see no need in this case to consider the basic right."

Here are the justices who voted to end Roe v. Wade.

Associate Justice Samuel J. Alito Jr.

Alito is the author of the Dobbs decision. Now 72, he was nominated to the Supreme Court by President George W. Bush, where he has served since January 2006. He replaced Reagan nominee Justice Sandra Day O’Connor upon her retirement.

Alito outlined his philosophy in a January 2006 hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

“A judge can’t have any agenda. A judge can’t have any preferred outcome in any particular case. And a judge certainly doesn’t have a client,” he said. “The judge’s only obligation — and it’s a solemn obligation — is to the rule of law, and what that means is that in every single case, the judge has to do what the law requires.”

Alito added that “there is nothing that is more important for our Republic than the rule of law. No person in this country, no matter how high or powerful, is above the law, and no person in this country is beneath the law.”

Associate Justice Samuel J. Alito Jr. Screenshot from YouTube video
Associate Justice Samuel J. Alito Jr. Screenshot from YouTube video

The justice’s other work has at times addressed religious and moral issues. Alito wrote the majority opinion in the 2014 Burwell v. Hobby Lobby case, which rebuked the Obama administration’s mandate that companies and others provide contraceptive coverage, including drugs that can cause abortions, in employee health plans. The mandate through the Department of Health and Human Services was particularly burdensome to Catholic organizations which reject contraception and abortifacients as unethical.

Alito also wrote a notable dissent from the majority opinion in the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges case, in which the Supreme Court held that the Constitution guarantees the right to same-sex marriage.

He is a practicing Catholic from a first-generation Italian-American family in Trenton, New Jersey. He is a graduate of Yale Law School and was an officer in the U.S. Army Reserve from 1972 to 1980.

Alito gave the keynote address to the 2017 graduating class of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia and received an honorary doctorate from the seminary, presented by Philadelphia’s then-Archbishop Charles Chaput.

In his remarks to the seminarians, he emphasized the importance of religious freedom and anticipated more struggles to come in the face of political and cultural dangers. He also said his faith provides him meaning and purpose in life.

Alito’s nomination gave the Supreme Court its first Catholic majority. At the time of his nomination Eleanor Smeal, then-president of the group Feminist Majority, whose causes include legal abortion, noted this fact and voiced concern that the court majority “would underrepresent other religions, not to mention nonbelievers.” Smeal’s statement drew criticism from some Catholics.

Associate Justice Clarence Thomas

In 1991, Thomas was nominated by President George H. W. Bush to fill the vacancy left by the death of Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first Black Supreme Court justice and a President Kennedy appointee who retired due to declining health.

Thomas, a Black man who grew up in segregated Georgia, has often had to reflect on the effects of race and racism in his life and in American history.

In a 2007 Supreme Court decision that ruled that race cannot be a factor in assigning children to public schools, rejecting a policy implemented to advance racial diversity, Thomas cited Justice John Marshall Harlan. In 1896 Harlan dissented from a pro-racial segregation ruling with the words: “Our Constitution is colorblind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens.”

Before Thomas became a federal judge, he served in various public and private roles and was chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He was a Catholic seminarian at Conception Seminary in Conception, Missouri. He was one of the first African-Americans to graduate from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, where he later served as a trustee.

Allegations of sexual harassment, which Thomas strongly denied, made his 1991 confirmation hearings a major flashpoint of contention. His critics also opposed his judicial philosophy and worried how he might decide on various cases, including any reconsideration of Roe v. Wade.

Thomas has explicitly lamented abortion as a “tool of modern-day eugenics” that the court must eventually address. He made this argument in a 2019 solo opinion in the case Box v. Planned Parenthood, which concerned an Indiana ban on abortion based on race, sex, or disability of the unborn child.

 In his view, the foundation for legal abortion was built in the birth-control movement of the early 20th century, which developed alongside the eugenics movement. Eugenics claimed to advance the scientific improvement of the human population either through fostering births of “superior” humans or by preventing the births of “inferior” people, sometimes through coercive means including forced sterilization.

Thomas charged that Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger promoted birth control, though not abortion, “as a means of reducing the ‘ever increasing, unceasingly spawning class of human beings who never should have been born at all,” Thomas said, citing Sanger’s own words. Later abortion advocates, including Sanger collaborator Allan Guttmacher, “explicitly endorsed eugenic reasons for abortion,” the justice wrote.

Thomas lamented that previous Supreme Court decisions gave legitimacy and power to the eugenics movement and its coercive aspects. Prenatal screenings and other technologies, he warned, mean that “abortion can easily be used to eliminate children with unwanted characteristics” and he questioned why the right to a legal abortion should protect this.

At that time, Thomas agreed with the Supreme Court’s decision not to revisit lower courts’ injunction against the Indiana abortion regulation, pending further developments.

“Although the Court declines to wade into these issues today, we cannot avoid them forever,” said Thomas, who added, “the Constitution itself is silent on abortion.”

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

Thomas was born near Savannah, Georgia. He was raised by his grandfather, a Black Catholic convert, and his grandmother, a staunch Baptist. Thomas attended Catholic schools and would convert to Catholicism in his youth.

Though he entered a Catholic seminary, he left after the 1968 assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. Thomas has said he was repelled by fellow seminarians’ disparaging comments about King. That experience led to years of distance from Catholicism, and years of involvement and interest in Black radicalism before he moved into conservative political circles. He returned to the practice of the Catholic faith after becoming a Supreme Court justice.

In a September 2021 address at the University of Notre Dame, Thomas said the example of his grandparents and the Catholic nuns who taught him helped instill the belief that all people were children of God and that the racist flaws of American society were a betrayal of its best promises. He said he did not heed his grandfather’s warnings and became disenchanted, embittered, cynical, and despondent until he once again returned to the beliefs taught to him in his childhood.

Thomas is married and has a son from a previous marriage. The 74-year-old justice is the longest-serving justice on the court.

Associate Justice Neil M. Gorsuch

Gorsuch was nominated by President Donald Trump to fill the vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016. The vacancy became especially contentious, with Democrats strongly objecting that Senate Republicans should not have blocked then-President Barack Obama’s nomination of federal appellate court judge Merrick Garland. Garland would later become President Joe Biden’s attorney general.

Gorsuch’s approach to the U.S. Constitution tends to defer to elected legislatures. Federal judges should shun imposing their views on the laws as written, he said.

“If judges were just secret legislators, declaring not what the law is but what they would like it to be, the very idea of a government by the people and for the people would be at risk,” he said in his March 2017 confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“In my decade on the bench, I have tried to treat all who come before me fairly and with respect, and afford equal right to poor and to rich,” he added.

At his confirmation hearings, he acknowledged Roe v. Wade as settled precedent, though he declined to say whether it was decided correctly and how he would rule in future abortion cases.

Gorsuch holds a law degree from Harvard Law School and a doctorate from Oxford University, where he studied under the prominent natural law legal scholar John Finnis.

He authored the 2006 book “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia,” in which he explored various arguments made in favor of doctor-prescribed suicide and euthanasia before offering his own observations and opinions. He argued that "human life is fundamentally and inherently valuable,” and that “the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong." He supported laws that banned doctor-prescribed suicide, basing his arguments upon "secular moral theory.”

During his 2017 confirmation hearings, he said that the book was essentially his doctoral dissertation, written in his capacity as a commentator and not a judge. He published the book the same year he was nominated and confirmed to the Tenth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Gorsuch clerked for Reagan appointee Justice Anthony Kennedy, a longtime swing vote in key court decisions. Kennedy was a joint author of the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision which concerned abortion restrictions in Pennsylvania. That decision was a divided judgement. It allowed some abortion restrictions but refused to overturn Roe v. Wade, as pro-life advocates had hoped.

Gorsuch also clerked for President John F. Kennedy-appointee Justice Byron White, one of two justices to dissent from the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

White’s dissent, which Alito cites in the Dobbs decision, said there was “nothing in the language or history of the Constitution to support the Court’s judgment” legalizing abortion. White said the Supreme Court’s action in Roe was “an exercise of raw judicial power” and he objected to the invalidation of all state abortion laws. While not declaring a value judgement on abortion, he rejected the court’s choice both to impose “a constitutional barrier to state efforts to protect human life” and to invest “mothers and doctors with the constitutionally protected right to exterminate it.”

White was the only Democrat-appointed justice to join Justice Clarence Thomas and two other justices to dissent against Planned Parenthood v. Casey.  

Gorsuch’s time on the court is not without controversy. He wrote the majority opinion in Bostock v. Clayton County which ruled that a ban on sex discrimination in employment included sexual orientation and gender identity. The decision means that a funeral home cannot require male employees to dress like males or ban male employees from wearing dresses.

Gorsuch was born in Denver, Colorado. He is married with two daughters. He was raised Catholic and attended Catholic schools, including the Society of Jesus’ prestigious Georgetown Preparatory School in Maryland. He and his wife, a British citizen, were married at an Anglican church in England and they attend an Episcopalian church in Boulder, Colorado., where he has taught at the University of Colorado. His late uncle, John P. Gorsuch, was an Episcopal priest.

Associate Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh

Kavanaugh was born in Washington, D.C., and is a graduate of Yale Law School. Like Gorsuch, he was a law clerk for Justice Anthony Kennedy, and like Gorsuch, he attended the Jesuits’ Georgetown Preparatory School.

Kavanaugh has served as legal counsel to President George W. Bush and also as an Assistant to the President and Staff Secretary for the president, his biography on the Supreme Court website says.

President Donald Trump nominated Kavanaugh to fill the seat of Justice Kennedy, who retired in June 2018.

“A judge must be independent and must interpret the law, not make the law. A judge must interpret statutes as written, and a judge must interpret the Constitution as written, informed by history and tradition and precedent,” Kavanaugh said in his White House speech accepting the nomination.

“I will tell each senator that I revere the Constitution. I believe that an independent judiciary is the crown jewel of our constitutional republic,” he continued. “If confirmed by the Senate, I will keep an open mind in every case, and I will always strive to preserve the Constitution of the United States and of the American rule of law.”

Kavanaugh taught constitutional law for more than a decade at Harvard Law School. His acceptance speech noted that he had been hired by law school dean Elena Kagan, herself named to the Supreme Court by President Obama.

As a federal judge, Kavanaugh wrote a decision that prevented a pregnant undocumented minor in federal custody from receiving an abortion. The decision was overturned by a higher court.

Kavanaugh said he is “part of the vibrant Catholic community in the D.C. area,” adding, “the members of that community disagree about many things, but we are united by a commitment to serve.”

Kavanaugh had been a consistent volunteer at Catholic Charities, helping to serve food to the homeless several times a year.

Monsignor John Enzler, CEO and president of Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of Washington, is a longtime friend. Kavanaugh in childhood would assist the priest at Mass as an altar boy.

Kavanaugh is a married father of two and has served as a basketball coach for his two daughters’ basketball team.

Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh speaks before the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 27, 2018. YouTube screenshot via CBS News
Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh speaks before the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 27, 2018. YouTube screenshot via CBS News

His Senate confirmation hearings in 2018 were rocked by decades-old sexual harassment allegations which Kavanaugh angrily denied. Two different pro-abortion rights groups also tried to disrupt the confirmation hearings.

Kavanaugh’s wife Ashley, who also served in the Bush White House, is town manager of Chevy Chase Section Five, the incorporated Maryland village where the Kavanaughs live.

Protests of the Supreme Court’s looming decision on abortion seem to have inspired a credible threat to Kavanaugh’s life. Nicholas John Roske of Simi Valley, Calif. was charged with attempted murder of a Supreme Court justice after the 26-year-old was arrested near Kavanaugh’s home early morning of June 8. He allegedly was armed and had planned to kill the justice and himself, but then abandoned his plan and reported himself to authorities after a phone call with his sister.

Roske was reportedly angry about the prospect that Roe v. Wade would be overturned and about the wide availability of guns in light of the mass shooting at a Uvalde, Texas, elementary school.

Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett

Barrett, nominated by President Trump to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 2020, is the second Catholic woman to serve on the court.  

Barrett was born in New Orleans and is the eldest of seven siblings. She and her husband have seven children, including two adopted from Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. Her father, Mike Coney, has served as a deacon in the New Orleans archdiocese for 40 years.

She is a graduate of Notre Dame Law School and taught classes there for years before becoming a professor there in 2010.

Amy Coney Barrett. Photo courtesy of the Notre Dame Law School.
Amy Coney Barrett. Photo courtesy of the Notre Dame Law School.


Barrett was a law clerk for the late Justice Antonin Scalia and credits him as a major influence, though she has also emphasized that she would rule on cases as she sees fit. Even justices with the same judicial approach do not necessarily agree on application, she told her Senate confirmation hearings in October 2020.

She said the legal approach of “originalism” means “that I interpret the Constitution as a law … and that I interpret its text as text, and I understand it to have the meaning that it had at the time people ratified it. So that meaning doesn't change over time and it’s not up to me to update it or infuse my own policy views into it.”

President Trump had previously nominated Barrett to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Her September 2017 confirmation hearings included some scrutiny of her Catholic faith. 

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., drew attention for one particular comment to her: “And I think in your case, professor, when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that's of concern.”

Barrett insisted that as a judge, she would honor binding precedents, and would not let her religious beliefs inappropriately alter her judicial decisions.

She is a member of the ecumenical charismatic group People of Praise, which has an estimated 2,000 adult members. The group has priest members in two dioceses and it operates several schools. Her membership in the group was the subject of some scrutiny by the media during her confirmation process. Some have called the group a “cult” and criticized its former practice of referring to husbands and wives as “heads” and “handmaidens,” both scriptural references.

Some context about the group came from Bishop Peter Smith, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Portland and part of a group of priests associated with People of Praise. He told CNA in July 2018 that the group was one of many lay charismatic movements that emerged in the Church after the Second Vatican Council. It sought to provide an opportunity for Catholic families to live their faith more intentionally.

While most People of Praise members are Catholic, the group is officially ecumenical; people from a variety of Christian denominations can join. Members of the group are free to attend the church of their choosing, including Catholic parishes, Smith explained.

Barrett has reflected on how Catholic faith can interact with the American judicial system. In 1998 the future Supreme Court justice co-authored an article with law professor John Garvey on the possibility of Catholic judges recusing themselves in capital cases, due to the Church's teaching on the death penalty.

Seven myths about overturning Roe v. Wade

null / Photographee.eu/Shutterstock.

St. Louis, Mo., Jun 24, 2022 / 08:48 am (CNA).

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling Friday overturning the 1973 decision Roe v. Wade as well as the 1992 decision Planned Parenthood v. Casey. In simplest terms, this means that abortion is no longer legal nationwide — the legality of abortion is now determined at the state level. 

There are a lot of myths out there about what this ruling means and what will happen next. Here are some responses to common myths about the overturning of Roe v. Wade: 

Myth 1: Abortion is now illegal in the United States. 

Abortion — which the Catholic Church teaches is a “grave evil” — is still legal in many areas of the country. Now that Roe v. Wade is overturned, abortion is governed by state laws, and for years some states have been legislating in a pro-life direction, and others in a pro-choice direction. 

States such as Hawaii, Colorado, Nevada, New York, and Illinois have written explicit abortion protections into their state laws. Abortions there will continue, and many of those states have positioned themselves as destinations for women traveling to obtain abortions from states with more restrictions. 

That said, there exist dozens of state laws regulating abortion that were, up until the court’s June 24 ruling, in legal limbo or struck down entirely for being out of step with Roe, and thus unconstitutional. Now, those laws will be able to come into effect. They include a total ban on abortion in these states: Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Texas, Oklahoma, and Wyoming. 

The legal landscape at the state level is varied and complex, as among the more pro-life states, there are a variety of kinds of restrictions that have been enacted. For example, Nebraska bans a certain kind of abortion called dilation and evacuation, which is typically done in the second trimester of pregnancy and results in the dismemberment of an unborn child. Other states, such as Arizona, have restrictions such as a ban on abortions done solely because of a Down syndrome diagnosis. 

A handful of states, such as Michigan, have previously-unenforceable bans on abortion, some 100 or more years old, that have never have been repealed. In Michigan, where a judge recently blocked the state's ban, Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D) has repeatedly called for the ban’s complete repeal. 

Some state legislatures may scramble in the coming days, weeks, or months to pass laws regulating — or deregulating — abortion.  

Myth 2: Women will be harmed by this decision. 

Virtually all states with “trigger” laws to ban abortion include an exception for medical emergencies, and stipulate that the person punished under the law would be the person performing the abortion, not the woman seeking one.

In addition, at least one expert observer says cases of women being prosecuted for obtaining abortions are very unlikely to occur.  

“There is no documented case in America of a woman being prosecuted for seeking an abortion since 1922. There has been only one case of a woman being convicted for unlawful self-management of abortion, and that was vacated on appeal,” legal scholar O. Carter Snead wrote recently in the Economist. 

“All modern abortion laws immunize the woman seeking abortion from liability."

Speaking more broadly, there is a commonly cited study, called the Turnaway Study, which advocates of abortion say proves that most women do not regret their abortions, and that women who were denied abortions at certain points in their lives had worse mental health and economic outcomes than those who were not. The study has since been widely debunked, with its research methods and potential conflicts of interest being criticized. Many women who regret their abortions have joined the pro-life movement. 

Myth 3: Women could now be jailed after having miscarriages. 

About one in five pregnancies will end in miscarriage. Every woman will respond and process their grief differently, but needless to say, such an intensely personal and emotional occurrence should be met with compassion and loving care.  

Some pro-choice activists have falsely stated that in countries such as El Salvador — where abortion is prohibited entirely — women have been investigated and jailed following miscarriages. In fact, reporting from ACI Prensa has found that the 140 cases often cited by pro-choice activists in El Salvador of women being jailed actually involve aggravated homicide of their newborn babies, rather than naturally occurring miscarriages.

In the U.S., incidents where a mother could be jailed for a miscarriage are relatively rare, and often involve instances where women used illegal and harmful drugs during pregnancy. An Oklahoma woman who was sentenced last October to four years in prison after her baby died in her womb at 17 weeks. In that case, the 21-year-old woman admitted to using methamphetamines while pregnant, and traces of meth were found in the unborn baby’s body.

About two dozen states have laws defining substance use during pregnancy as child abuse under civil child welfare statutes, according to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute. But, "There is also no serious likelihood of the incidental criminalization of contraception, [in vitro fertilization] and management of ectopic pregnancy or miscarriages," Snead, the legal scholar, wrote.

Myth 4: A majority of women will live in states with no surgical abortion. 

Because several of the most populous states in the nation — such as California, New York, and Illinois — have moved to codify abortion into their laws, a majority of women will likely live in states where surgical abortion is still accessible. Many of the most pro-life states in the country have relatively small populations, despite being geographically large. 

That said, populous states such as Texas and Florida have made moves toward more pro-life policies in recent years. 

Myth 5: Treatment for ectopic pregnancy is considered an abortion, and thus many women will likely die from lack of treatment in states where abortion is illegal.

Ectopic pregnancies occur when an embryo implants outside the uterus, usually in the Fallopian tube. Though relatively rare, the most recent data available from the CDC shows the rate of ectopic pregnancies increasing to about 1.4% as of 2013, and may today be as high as 2%.

Once implanted, the embryo’s growth is likely to rupture the Fallopian tube, which can cause the death of both mother and child. And whether treatment is done or not, the embryo is highly unlikely to survive.

There are three common medical procedures to address ectopic pregnancies, two surgical and one involving a drug. In all of the procedures, the embryo dies. From a Catholic perspective, direct abortion — the intentional killing of an unborn baby — is never permitted, but a procedure to save a woman's life that has the unintended effect of an unborn baby's death is morally permissible.

But medical professionals have noted that virtually every state regulation or ban on abortion contains an explicit exception for ectopic pregnancy treatment — which, again, is generally not considered the same as an abortion. 

True enough, some recent state legislative proposals — which have garnered frenzied media attention — have included references to ectopic pregnancy that have worried some medical professionals for their ambiguity. But state legislatures have taken steps to address this problem and make sure that ectopic pregnancy treatments are allowed and accessible.

For example, a Louisiana bill under consideration would treat abortion as a homicide, and originally did not carve out an explicit protection for ectopic pregnancy treatment. However, a companion Louisiana bill, from pro-life Democrat Katrina Jackson, explicitly states that ectopic pregnancy treatments are not illegal under Louisiana’s abortion ban. 

Myth 6: Women in states where surgical abortions are banned will be unable to get abortions, unless they travel. 

Again, the reality is that abortion will remain accessible for many women who seek it out. Part of the reason for this is the proliferation of the “abortion pill,” also known as medication abortion. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control's most recent Abortion Surveillance report, for the year 2019, “early medical abortions” made up 42.3% of abortions that year.

The two-pill regimen is fully approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which in late 2021 authorized doctors to prescribe the drugs online and mail the pills, allowing women to perform early abortions — up to ten weeks of gestation — without leaving their homes. 

At least 19 states mandate that a clinician must be physically present when the pills are administered. But even so, research by pro-life groups has found that the rate of abortion-related emergency-room visits is increasing faster for medical abortions than for surgical abortions, and that medical abortion makes subsequent abortions more dangerous.

To complicate matters, taking an abortion pill can cause a life-threatening emergency for women who have an ectopic pregnancy, and telehealth appointments may not be enough to catch when a woman seeking a medication abortion is experiencing an ectopic pregnancy. 

Myth 7: Now that Roe v. Wade is overturned, it’s a done deal. States will always be able to restrict abortion from now on. 

This is true currently, but the federal government under President Joe Biden has attempted to pass a bill codifying Roe v. Wade into federal law, which if passed would supersede state-level pro-life laws; but such attempts so far have failed. But just because such efforts have failed so far does not mean the federal government will not continue to try to pass such measures. There is a chance, however, that in light of the Dobbs ruling, the Supreme Court could strike down a federal law attempting to codify abortion rights. 

For pro-life people, the work continues. 

Note: The second paragraph after "Myth 3" has been revised since publication for greater clarity.

Roe v. Wade is overturned. What happens next?

Map of the United States. / Shutterstock

St. Louis, Mo., Jun 24, 2022 / 08:26 am (CNA).

The U.S. Supreme Court on June 24 issued a 6-3 ruling overturning the seminal decisions of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, with the immediate effect of returning the question of abortion policy to the states. 

What other effects have already happened or will soon happen as a result of this decision? Here are three quick things you need to know:

  1. In these states, abortion is now completely illegal, with a few exceptions:

  • Alabama

  • Arkansas

  • Idaho

  • Kentucky

  • Louisiana

  • Mississippi

  • Missouri

  • North Dakota

  • Oklahoma

  • South Dakota

  • Tennessee

  • Texas

  • Utah

  • Wyoming

In other states such as Arizona, Nebraska, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Georgia, lawmakers have passed pro-life measures such as bans on certain methods of abortion, bans on abortions done for eugenic reasons, and bans on abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Here’s a list of states with “heartbeat” bans (excluding those states that also have a total ban):

  • South Carolina

  • Georgia

  • Ohio

  1. Several states in the country have passed laws to protect abortion within their borders.

Most notably, some states such as Colorado, Washington D.C., and New York allow abortion up until the point of birth. These states, and the District of Columbia, have passed some form of explicit protection for abortion:

  • California

  • Colorado

  • Connecticut

  • Delaware

  • Washington, D.C.

  • Hawaii

  • Illinois

  • Maine

  • Maryland

  • Massachusetts

  • Minnesota

  • Nevada

  • New Jersey

  • New York

  • Oregon

  • Rhode Island

  • Vermont

  • Washington

In a few cases, state supreme courts has found a “right to abortion” in the state constitution:

  • Alaska

  • Kansas

  • Iowa

  • Montana

In these states, the abortion landscape could be somewhat ambiguous, at least until the state legislatures act to make their statutes clearer:

  • New Mexico: Pre-Roe ban repealed in 2021, but not much else in its statutes governs abortion.

  • Michigan: 1931 pre-Roe ban is still on the books, though a court temporarily blocked it on May 17.

In terms of U.S. territories, the Penal Code of Puerto Rico prohibits abortion except to save the life of the mother. However, in 1980, the decision of the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico in the Pueblo v. Duarte case effectively made abortion legal at any point in pregnancy because of the broad interpretation of “the life and health of the woman” that it mandated. A bill currently under consideration in Puerto Rico would limit abortion to the 22nd week of gestation. 

  1. The decision promises to play a major role in the upcoming mid-term elections.

Abortion has the potential to be a major issue in the November elections in the U.S., but early polling suggests economic problems such as inflation may play more of a role. 

According to a December poll from the Associated Press/NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, cited by FiveThirtyEight, just 13 percent of Democrats named abortion or reproductive rights as one of the issues they wanted Congress to address in 2022. That number could be higher now.

Some Democrats, including President Joe Biden, have already indicated that abortion will be a key issue in this year’s midterm elections, with Biden saying in a statement last week that “we will need more pro-choice Senators and a pro-choice majority in the House to adopt legislation that codifies Roe, which I will work to pass and sign into law.”

There have already been attempts in the Senate to pass a codification of Roe v. Wade into federal law, but so far these have failed, with Democrat Joe Manchin joining all the senate Republicans in opposition. Political observers have speculated that even if Democrats abolished the filibuster rule — which requires 60 votes to break a filibuster from the minority — they may still not have enough votes to pass a codification of Roe v. Wade. 

Plus, there is a chance that, in light of the Dobbs ruling, the Supreme Court could strike down a federal law attempting to codify abortion rights. 

BREAKING: Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade in historic abortion decision

Breaking News / CNA

Washington D.C., Jun 24, 2022 / 08:24 am (CNA).

The Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade in a historic 6-3 decision released Friday that brings a sudden and dramatic end to nearly a half-century of nationwide legalized abortion in the U.S. 

The opinion, in the Mississippi abortion case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, is widely seen as the Supreme Court’s most highly anticipated and consequential ruling since Roe. It not only overturns Roe, the landmark 1973 abortion case, but also Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a 1992 decision that affirmed Roe.

"Abortion presents a profound moral question. The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion. Roe and Casey arrogated that authority," the opinion states. "We now overrule these decisions and return that authority to the people and their elected representatives." You can read the full opinion below.

The Dobbs opinion was written by Associate Justice Samuel Alito. Associate Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil M. Gorsuch, Brett M. Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett joined the opinion. Thomas and Kavanaugh filed concurring opinions. Chief Justice John Roberts filed an opinion concurring in the judgement. Associate Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan dissented.

"In overruling Roe and Casey, this Court betrays its guiding principles. With 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 opinion reads.

The decision does not ban or criminalize abortion, nor does it recognize an unborn child's constitutional right to life. But in one, breathtaking stroke, the court’s action sweeps away entrenched legal barriers, created and strictly enforced by the federal judiciary, that for decades have blocked states like Mississippi from heavily restricting or prohibiting the killing of unborn children in the womb.

In the process, the decision ushers in a new era of abortion politics in the U.S., with the battleground now shifting to state legislatures. Those democratically elected bodies are now free to debate and regulate abortion as they see fit, as happened throughout American history before the Supreme Court federalized the issue.

“An entirely new pro-life movement begins today. We are ready to go on offense for life in every single one of those legislative bodies, in each statehouse and the White House," Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life American President Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a statement Friday. "Over the next few years we will have the opportunity to save hundreds of thousands, even millions of lives by limiting the horror of abortion in many states."

Speaking from the White House Friday afternoon, President Joe Biden, a Catholic who ardently supports legalized abortion, called the court's opinion "a tragic mistake."

"It's a sad date for the country, in my view, but that doesn't mean the fight is over," Biden said. He called for Congress to codify Roe and the legal framework it created into federal law.

Acknowledging widespread anger and disappointment at the court's decision, Biden called for demonstrations to remain peaceful, saying, "Threats and intimidation are not speech."

Catholic bishops respond

Friday's ruling marks a watershed moment for the Catholic Church and the wider pro-life movement in the United States, which have painstakingly sought Roe’s reversal since the landmark 7-2 decision was handed down on Jan. 19, 1973.

"America was founded on the truth that all men and women are created equal, with God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said in a joint statement following the opinion's release.

"This truth was grievously denied by the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade ruling, which legalized and normalized the taking of innocent human life," the Catholic bishops continued. "We thank God today that the Court has now overturned this decision." Gomez is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and Lori is chairman of the USCCB's Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

"Today’s decision is also the fruit of the prayers, sacrifices, and advocacy of countless ordinary Americans from every walk of life. Over these long years, millions of our fellow citizens have worked together peacefully to educate and persuade their neighbors about the injustice of abortion, to offer care and counseling to women, and to work for alternatives to abortion, including adoption, foster care, and public policies that truly support families," the statement continued.

"We share their joy today and we are grateful to them. Their work for the cause of life reflects all that is good in our democracy, and the pro-life movement deserves to be numbered among the great movements for social change and civil rights in our nation’s history."

Decision conforms to leaked draft

The outcome of Dobbs came as little surprise, since the final opinion substantially resembled a draft written by Alito in February that was leaked to the press on May 2.

In Roe v. Wade, the court ruled that states could not ban abortion before viability, which the court determined to be 24 to 28 weeks into pregnancy. Nearly 20 years later, the court upheld Roe in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The 1992 ruling said that while states could regulate pre-viability abortions, they could not enforce an “undue burden,” defined by the court as “a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus.”

Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act, the subject of the Dobbs case, directly challenged both decisions, because it bans abortion weeks after 15 weeks, well before the point of viability.

"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 inflamed debate and deepened division," the opinion states.

"It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people's elected representatives," the opinion states.

Roberts writes own opinion

In his opinion concurring in the judgment, Roberts called for a narrower ruling.

"The Court’s decision to overrule Roe and Casey is a serious jolt to the legal system—regardless of how you view those cases," his opinion reads. "A narrower decision rejecting the misguided viability line would be markedly less unsettling, and nothing more is needed to decide this case."

"My point is that Roe adopted two distinct rules of constitutional law: one, that a woman has the right to choose to terminate a pregnancy; two, that such right may be overridden by the State’s legitimate interests when the fetus is viable outside the womb," he added at another point. "The latter is obviously distinct from the former. I would abandon that timing rule, but see no need in this case to consider the basic right."

This is a developing story.