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US Supreme Court could overturn Roe v Wade, document suggests

3 May 2022
US Supreme Court

The US Supreme Court could be about to overturn a seminal ruling establishing a constitutional right to abortion in the United States, a leaked document suggests.

A draft majority opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito and circulated inside the court, states that Roe v. Wade, a 1973 ruling establishing constitutional protections for abortion, should be quashed, and also Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a subsequent ruling that maintained Roe v. Wade.

In the document, leaked sensationally to POLITICO, Justice Alito states that "Roe was egregiously wrong from the start", and that "Roe and Casey must be overruled“. He adds that: "It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”

The document concludes: “The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion...Roe and Casey arrogated that authority. We now overrule those decisions and return that authority to the people and their elected representatives".

If the final ruling by the court mirrors this draft decision, abortion would become a matter for individual states to consider, rather than a constitutional entitlement imposed on all states. Legislation restricting abortion already on the books in more than twenty states but not enforced due to Roe would become lawful.

The Supreme Court is expected to issue a final ruling in July. Justices have been known to about turn on issues, so the draft decision is by no means a guarantee.

Wider context

Judges are considering Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey in the context of a legal challenge to a Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks, which was challenged by an abortionist group.

Several other US states have ushered in laws seriously restricting abortion in recent years, pushing the Supreme Court to re-examine the current constitutional settlement on the issue.

A total of 22 states already have total or near-total bans on abortion on the books but they are currently blocked by Roe. Only Texas is operating an abortion ban, given the state's unusual civil enforcement structure.

Critics believe as many as 26 states are sure, or likely, to significantly restrict access to abortion if the Supreme Court overturns Roe. At least a dozen liberal states are expected to continue allowing abortion.

The UK

The advent of more pro-life legislation in the states shines a spotlight on the UK's approach to abortion, one of the most permissive in the Western world.

In England, Scotland, and Wales, abortion is effectively available on demand up to 24 weeks and up to birth if a preborn baby is thought to have a disability. Abortion services have not yet been commissioned in Northern Ireland, after a change in the law was imposed by Westminster in 2019.

Wednesday 27 April 2022 marked 54 years since the UK's Abortion Act came into effect in 1968. Since then, an estimated 9,900,961 unborn babies have lost their lives to abortion in England, Wales and Scotland.

According to government statistics, more than a quarter of pregnancies in England and Wales now end in abortion. In 2020, at least one baby was lost every two and a half minutes - or 25 lives every hour.

Polling on the issue has shown Brits favour more restrictions on abortion. Only 1% of UK adults want to allow it up to birth and 70% of women want the limit to be reduced to 20 weeks or lower.

Learn more

To learn more about the abortion debate in the US, read this helpful explainer by James Mildred: Is the US Supreme Court about to overturn Roe v Wade? | CARE

For more on our work to defend both mother and baby, visit our cause page: CARE for Abortion | CARE

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In any pregnancy, both the woman and preborn baby have inherent value and dignity, by virtue of being made in the image of God. CARE is passionately pro-woman and pro-life.

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