Supreme Court Votes 6-3 Overturning Roe v. Wade, The Internet And America React

June 24th, 2022 - 1:30 PM EDT by Aidan Walker

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An image of the Supreme Court behind high fences, and a tweet by Danny DeVito about the situation.

The Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade this morning with a 6-3 vote, finding that there is no constitutional right to an abortion. The six members appointed by Republican Presidents voted against the three appointed by Democratic Presidents in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case about the constitutionality of a Mississippi law specifically designed and argued by the state to bring the question of abortion to the Supreme Court.

In a majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito, which was leaked back in May, the Court finds that there is no constitutional right to an abortion.

What this means immediately is that in 13 states with so-called “trigger laws,” performing an abortion will become a criminal offense. Reporting suggests these laws should all take effect within a month. Longer-term, the Court’s ruling potentially opens the door to Congress passing an abortion ban for the whole country if Republicans win control in the 2022 midterm elections.

A consensus opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas agreeing with and adding to Alito’s argument gave an indication of what some other longer-term consequences might be. Fifty years ago, in Roe, the right to an abortion was codified through an interpretation of the 14th Amendment’s due process clause.

The due process clause states that no state can “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” In the majority opinion for Roe v. Wade, the Court wrote, “at the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”

In Roe, the Court interpreted that liberty to include a “right to privacy” when it comes to individual choices about the body, sex and intimate relationships, which the state cannot take away. The same reasoning – a “right to privacy” – has been used in cases like Griswold v. Connecticut, which allows access to contraception, and Obergefell v. Hodges, which allows gay marriage. Thomas listed these cases and others in a list of ones he would like to “reconsider” now that the Court has overturned Roe.

The dissent opinion authored jointly by the Court’s three liberal justices closed with a mournful note and fear for what the majority might do next. Almost always, Supreme Court dissents end with some variation of “I respectfully dissent.” This one, atypically, closes with sorrow rather than respect.

This latest ruling comes amid a series of activist decisions by the Court that promise to significantly alter American life. In the dissent opinion, Justice Sotomayor explicitly shares her fear that the conservative Court will continue its activist project.

The public’s response was immediate. In Washington, D.C., protestors crowded around the Supreme Court building throughout the day. Online, many posted about their fears now that abortion is no longer constitutionally guaranteed.

According to Pew Research, about 6 in 10 Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

Some right-leaning posters appeared to rejoice, thanking former President Donald Trump for appointing three of the six justices who voted to overturn Roe v. Wade — while also criticizing the media.

Alongside the viral debate, many shared a skepticism about the legitimacy of the Court and the kind of power it holds.

The ruling led to grim forecasts from some about the capacity of the American government to maintain legitimacy in the eyes of the public.

Senator Joe Manchin, the conservative Democrat from West Virginia who has frequently used his position as the fiftieth vote in the Democratic majority to obstruct the mainstream party’s agenda, shared his “alarm” at the actions of justices he voted to confirm. During confirmation hearings, all the justices who voted to overturn Roe on Friday said they wouldn’t overturn it, and Manchin claims to have believed them at the time. His remarks were widely mocked and parodied by users on Twitter.

Reactions and memes will continue to flow in as people deal with what this historic ruling will mean for them and their communities, and discussions on the topic will undoubtedly dominate much of the web in the near future.

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