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A good legal history overview (Roe v Wade). Snitz thought.

Updated: Jun 27, 2022

Ok, a brief moment of "seriousness" here. Alexis de Tocqueville (you had to read him in US History) said that was made America special was our devotion to individual rights. "Defending rights against the encroachments of the government saves the common liberties of the country."


When the gov sticks its neck into a women's right to choose, appoints the woke to decide what you can read/watch, overtaxes or over-regulates we lose some of what makes us special. Progressives and bible thumping conservatives play the same game.


Or as Ronald Reagan astutely remarked "the nine most terrifying words in the English language are I'm from the government and I'm here to help".


What Does Overturning Roe v. Wade Mean? What to Know About the Supreme Court Abortion Ruling

After changes in the court’s membership, conservative justices built a majority to overrule precedent they viewed as egregiously wrong


Now that the Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, the legal fate of abortion is left up to individual states.


By Brent Kendall, WSJ

Updated June 25, 2022 9:41 pm ET


The Supreme Court on Friday upheld abortion restrictions in Mississippi and eliminated the constitutional right to an abortion that was first established in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Here is a look at the court’s journey from establishing the right to abortion nearly 50 years ago to withdrawing it today.


What is Roe v. Wade?

The Roe case involved a pregnant Texas woman who sought a judicial declaration that state laws making it a crime to procure or attempt an abortion were unconstitutional. The Supreme Court agreed by a 7-2 vote and found that the right to abortion was a fundamental liberty protected by the 14th Amendment, which says the states can’t deprive individuals of life, liberty or property without due process of law. The decision was written by a Nixon appointee, Justice Harry Blackmun.


The case was the product of a time in which the court took an expansive view of individual liberties protected by the Constitution. The ruling built upon other high court decisions of that era, including Griswold v. Connecticut in 1965, which struck down a state ban on contraceptives.



The justices on the U.S. Supreme Court when Roe v. Wade was decided: (front row) Potter Stewart, William O. Douglas, Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, William J. Brennan Jr. and Byron R. White; (standing) Lewis F. Powell Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Harry Blackmun and William H. Rehnquist.




Why was Roe so controversial?

One reason of course is the subject matter: Abortion is an issue on which passions run high. More broadly in the legal world, Roe became part of a decadeslong debate over when and whether it’s appropriate for the Supreme Court to recognize new individual rights under broadly written provisions in the Constitution.


Roe didn’t become a lightning rod overnight. It wasn’t until the Reagan administration that the decision became a rallying cry for conservatives who made it a long-term aspiration to reshape the courts with judges and justices who would reject Roe-era thinking.


How is it that the court can just change its mind?

The Supreme Court’s respect for its own precedents has been a hallmark of the U.S. legal system. The court as a general matter has believed that it is important to abide by past rulings, even if later groups of justices might have decided a case differently. That approach promotes stability in the law and avoids societal disruptions that can come with giant swings in how the court decides an issue.


That said, the court does overrule past precedents on occasion if a majority of justices believe they have especially good justifications for doing so. Some of the court’s most famous decisions have come in cases where it has changed its mind, such as Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, which ended racial segregation in public schools and overruled Plessy v. Ferguson, the 1896 ruling that allowed state segregation laws.


Justices have long argued over what special factors should be present for the Supreme Court to overrule a past decision. That kind of jousting was a central theme in the decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.



The 1992 March for Women’s Lives was held in Washington ahead of the Supreme Court’s decision on Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

Had Roe been under fire before now?

Yes, especially after a series of appointments to the Supreme Court by Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush in the 1980s and early 1990s. The 1992 case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, examining abortion restrictions in Pennsylvania, gave the court the opportunity to overrule Roe, but three of those GOP appointees, Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Anthony Kennedy and David Souter, jointly wrote a controlling opinion that instead chose to reaffirm the constitutional right to an abortion.


Those justices cited the importance of respecting precedent and said overruling Roe would inflict “unnecessary damage to the court’s legitimacy, and to the nation’s commitment to the rule of law.”


Why did Roe fall now?

In large part because the high court’s composition has changed. The three Republican appointees who controlled the Casey decision have all retired. The court became more conservative when Justice Samuel Alito, author of the Dobbs ruling, succeeded Justice O’Connor in 2006, and again in 2018 when Justice Brett Kavanaugh, another member of the Dobbs majority, succeeded Justice Kennedy, a maverick conservative who had long been a key vote for preserving abortion rights.


But the most pronounced ideological shift came when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a leading liberal and champion of abortion rights, died in the weeks before the 2020 election. Then-President Donald Trump quickly filled the vacancy with Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative whose appointment put Roe in deep jeopardy. She provided another key vote in the Dobbs ruling.


Who voted to overturn Roe?

Justices Alito, Kavanaugh, Barrett, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch.


Chief Justice John Roberts voted in favor of upholding a Mississippi law that prohibited abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, but he didn’t support overruling Roe.


The court’s three liberal justices—Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan—dissented.


What happens from here?

With the Supreme Court withdrawing the constitutional right to an abortion, states will have wide latitude to restrict or allow abortion as they see fit. State courts could play a larger role in determining what types of abortion regulations are permissible. It’s also possible the Supreme Court still could face future abortion cases even after the overruling of Roe, particularly if some states adopt total abortion bans that make no exceptions for rape, incest or the health of the mother.


Write to Brent Kendall at Brent.Kendall@wsj.com

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