The US Supreme Court on Friday ended the right to abortion in a ruling that shreds half a century of constitutional protections on one of the most divisive and bitterly fought issues in American political life.
The conservative-dominated court overturned the landmark 1973 “Roe v Wade” decision that enshrined a woman’s right to an abortion, saying that individual states can now permit or restrict the procedure themselves.
“The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion; Roe and Casey are overruled; and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives,” the court said.
In the majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito said “abortion presents a profound moral issue on which Americans hold sharply conflicting views.
“The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion,” he said.
Dissenting were the three liberals on the court.
The ruling will likely set into motion a cavalcade of new laws in roughly half of the 50 US states that will severely restrict or outright ban and criminalize abortions, forcing women to travel long distances to states that still permit the procedure.
The opinion shredded the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling by the nation’s highest court that said women had the right to abortion based on the constitutional right to privacy over their own bodies.
In total, abortion access is expected to be cut off for about 36 million women of reproductive age, according to research from Planned Parenthood, a healthcare organisation that provides abortions.
The landmark 1973 Roe v Wade case saw the Supreme Court rule by a vote of seven to two that a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy was protected by the US constitution.
The ruling gave American women an absolute right to an abortion in the first three months (trimester) of pregnancy, but allowed for restrictions in the second trimester and for prohibitions in the third.
But in the decades since, anti-abortion rulings have gradually pared back access in more than a dozen states.