By Tinashe Chingarande and Grace Kpetemey,
Special to the AFRO
The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) overturned its almost 50 year-old landmark verdict on Roe v. Wade in a 6-3 vote on June 24. The historic case enshrined federal protections for women to abort a pregnancy. Now, the Supreme Court Justices have relegated the power to allow or ban abortions back to state governments.
The National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) described the court’s ruling as “an egregious assault on basic human rights.”
“It is evidently clear at this time that the future of our democracy hangs in the balance,” said Portia White, vice president of policy and legislative affairs. “They’ve stripped away our right to vote, and now women have lost their right to their own body. What’s next?”
Congressman Anthony G. Brown (MD-04) echoed the sentiments of those maddened by the court’s decision. “Maryland must remain a safe haven for all seeking abortion services,” he said. “With the expected rise in out-of-state patients, we must continue bolstering our health infrastructure and broadening the pool of professionals ready to provide this essential health care.”
Conversely, some Black activists have applauded the Supreme Court.
“An unborn child now has a fighting chance at life,” said Steven Mosley of Project 21, a self-proclaimed “black leadership network.”
Mosley said in a statement that “this is a great day of joy – especially for us in the Black community, as abortion is the number-one killer of Black Americans.”
Health research, however, points to heart disease, cancer and strokes as the leading causes of death amongst African Americans, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.
The case that put the abortion decision back into the hands of the Supreme Court, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, was a legal battle that began in Mississippi. At the crux of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health was the Gestational Age Act, which prevents abortion after 15 weeks unless in the case of medical emergency or severe fetal abnormality.
The bill states that “a person shall not intentionally or knowingly perform…or induce an abortion of an unborn human being if the probable gestational age of the unborn human being has been determined to be greater than 15 weeks.”
Abortion advocates in the state including clinic Jackson Women’s Health Organization and one of its doctors challenged the act in federal district court and alleged that it violated the court’s precedents —Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey (1992)— that established a constitutional right to abortion.
Conservative-leaning Justice Samuel Alito Jr. delivered the Supreme Court’s opinion.
“We hold that Roe and Casey just be overruled,” he said. “The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision, including the one on which defenders of Roe v. Wade rely.”
Alito also echoed now-deceased former Justice Antonin Scalia’s 1992 opinion in the Planned Parenthood v. Casey case in which he argued that abortion rights is such a polarizing case with sharply conflicting views that should be returned to elected representatives.
“The permissibility of abortion and the limitations upon it are to be resolved like most important questions in oour democracy: by citizens trying to persuade one another and then voting,” said Scalia.
Liberal-leaning justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elana Kagan chose to dissent from the court’s majority opinion and argued that it “
] women’s rights and their status as free and equal citizens.”
They also warned that the majority’s decision could jeopardize other constitutional guarantees of bodily integrity, familial relationships and procreation, such as marriage equality and the right to use birth control.
“Most obviously, the right to terminate a pregnancy arose straight out of the right to purchase and use contraception,” they said. “Those rights led to rights of same-sex intimacy and marriage.”
Conservative-leaning Justice Clarence Thomas has hinted that he wants rulings on same-sex marriage and contraception rights to be reconsidered next, writing that the decisions on these issues were “demonstrably erroneous.”
Political analysts predict that Thomas’ recommendation to reconsider these specific past decisions is an inferred invitation to conservative lawmakers to pass state legislation that goes against the Supreme Court’s past decisions, with the ultimate goal being to reverse those rulings.
Help us Continue to tell OUR Story and join the AFRO family as a member – subscribers are now members! Join here!