WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years in a decision by its conservative majority to overturn Roe v. Wade. Friday’s outcome is expected to lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states.
The decision, unthinkable just a few years ago, was the culmination of decades of efforts by abortion opponents, made possible by an emboldened right side of the court that has been fortified by three appointees of former President Donald Trump.
The court’s ruling was welcomed by members of Kansas’ congressional delegation, including Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kansas), who said that “today’s historic decision signals a new beginning for millions of unborn American children,” and Rep. Jake LaTurner (R-Kansas 2nd District), who called it “a monumental win for pro-life Americans” nationwide.
“Democrats' extreme abortion-on-demand agenda does not accurately reflect the views of most Americans. Overturning Roe ensures state and local officials closest to the people they represent, not unelected judges in Washington, construct our nation’s abortion laws,” LaTurner added.
“Unfortunately, this welcomed ruling won't protect life in Kansas,” LaTurner said, urging voters to approve the proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution known as “Value Them Both” in the special election set for Aug. 2 “to guarantee our state does not become a hub for unlimited abortions.”
Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly reportedly said the 5-4 decision would not immediately have an impact in Kansas, as a 2019 Kansas Supreme Court opinion said the state’s Bill of Rights included a constitutional right to abortion.
“But anybody who’s been alive in Kansas in the last six months knows that we have an amendment on the primary ballot that would essentially overturn the (state) Supreme Court ruling and say that women’s reproductive rights are not protected under the constitution,” Kelly said.
If the Value Them Both amendment passes, Kelly said, the Republican-led Kansas Legislature will probably try to impose further restrictions on abortion rights, which Kelly has suggested she would oppose.
“I will continue to oppose all regressive legislation which interferes with individual rights or freedoms,” Kelly said in a statement to Politico earlier this month, although she did not directly answer several of the news outlet’s more specific questions about her position on abortion.
The ruling announced Friday came more than a month after the stunning leak of a draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito indicating the court was prepared to take this momentous step.
It puts the court at odds with a majority of Americans who favored preserving Roe, according to opinion polls.
According to a recent Gallup poll, Americans’ confidence in the Supreme Court has also reached an all-time low in Gallup’s nearly 50-year trend. Only 25% of adults say they have “a great deal” of confidence in the Supreme Court.
“We stand today against the injustice of this decision with anyone who may experience a pregnancy or has experienced a pregnancy- wanted or unwanted,” local group Southeast Kansas Women's Intersectional Network said in a Facebook post Friday.
"We stand today against the injustice of this decision with anyone who will now live in fear that their partner may die from lack of access to safe abortion. We stand today against the injustice of this decision with the leagues of people before us who died without lack of safe care, the unwanted children who were born to unprepared parents that did not have access prior to Roe V. Wade, the people who are living in fear of what this decision will mean for the future. We stand together and we will stand strong. We will stand forever."
SEKWIN urged Kansans to vote against the Value Them Both Amendment on Aug. 2.
“By voting no, you can help to preserve access to safe abortions in Kansas. By voting no, and motivating your friends and families to vote no, you can take a direct stand against the injustice that was levied against the American people today and say that Kansas will stand as a Free State against the terrible choice of the Supreme Court,” SEKWIN said.
Dr. Emily Walters of Pittsburg said the ruling was an abomination and women will die because of it.
“None of the people advocating that a non-viable fetus be carried to term have ever watched a newborn with classic Potter sequence — which results in being born without lungs — suffocate and die minutes after birth,” Walters said.
“There is so much complexity,” Walters said. “These decisions must be left to the pregnant person and their physician. No law can account for all of the possibilities and legislating medicine is impossible.”
Local supporters of the court’s ruling, however, applauded the announcement Friday.
“On this feast day of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Roe v. Wade is finally overturned,” Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church said in a Facebook post. Earlier this month, the church hosted a “Pro-Life Pittsburg Day of Action,” featuring two stars of the television show Duck Dynasty.
Alito, in the final opinion issued Friday, wrote that Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 decision that reaffirmed the right to abortion, were wrong the day they were decided and must be overturned.
“We therefore hold that the Constitution does not confer a right to abortion. Roe and Casey must be overruled, and the authority to regulate abortion must be returned to the people and their elected representatives,” Alito wrote.
Authority to regulate abortion rests with the political branches, not the courts, Alito wrote.
Joining Alito were Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. The latter three justices are Trump appointees. Thomas first voted to overrule Roe 30 years ago.
Justice Thomas, in a concurring opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade and wipe out constitutional protections for abortion rights, said that he would also support doing away with the doctrine of “substantive due process,” a term in constitutional law that essentially allows courts to protect certain rights, even if those rights are not explicitly enumerated in the Constitution.
Thomas explicitly called on the court to overrule the watershed civil rights rulings in Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) that established the right for married couples to buy and use contraceptives and became the basis for the right to contraception for all couples a few years later; Lawrence v. Texas (2003) that established the right for consenting adults to engage in same-sex intimacy; and Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) that established the right for same-sex couples to be married.
Chief Justice John Roberts would have stopped short of ending the abortion right, noting that he would have upheld the Mississippi law at the heart of the case, a ban on abortion after 15 weeks, and said no more.
Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — the diminished liberal wing of the court — were in dissent.
“With sorrow—for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection—we dissent,” they wrote.
The ruling is expected to disproportionately affect minority women who already face limited access to health care, according to statistics analyzed by The Associated Press.
Morning Sun staff contributed to this report.