Samuel Larreal / Staff Writer
The Supreme Court on Friday voted 6-3 to overturn the landmark ruling on Roe v. Wade, officially ending the constitutional protection against state legislation that restricts or bans abortion and other reproductive services.
This decision overturns a 50-year legal precedent providing women the right to access safe abortions.
Before the release of a leaked decision in May of this year, 13 state legislatures had previously put in place abortion restrictions to come into effect immediately after this ruling is enacted.
It is also the first occasion in which a constitutional right granted by the Supreme Court has been overturned in United States history.
Roughly half of states, including Florida, are likely to ban abortions outright in coming months.
“This is a very huge and devastating decision for women and families around the country,” said Melba Pearson, an attorney specializing in civil rights and criminal law. “The statistics have been clear that more than half of Americans support abortion access and support the ability to choose.”
According to Pearson, Florida is likely to further restrict or completely ban abortions in the upcoming legislative session next Spring.
“I would not be surprised at all if it happens in the next legislative session. There was already discussion before this decision came down of submitting legislation that would ban abortion at six weeks,” she said. “And I think that there is a distinct possibility that a bill will be filed mimicking the Oklahoma bill to have a total ban on abortions”
In the now likely case of Florida restricting abortions, people requiring access to this medical procedure will need to cross state borders in order to terminate a pregnancy. This would make the process especially unfeasible for low income families and individuals.
“There are people who will be forced into situations where they may have to carry a child as a result of sexual assaults or abuse. And it strips away at the agency that people that give birth have over their bodies,” said Pearson.
This new precedent provides the possibility for the further overturning of other civil rights based on the same legal grounds of Roe V. Wade, such as the same-sex relationship and marriage rulings.
“The right to aborition is grounded in the legal concept of individual liberty. That also was the basis for rights like same sex marriage, interracial marriage, and access to contraception,” said Howard M. Wasserman, a professor of law and associate dean for research and faculty development at FIU Law.
“The majority of judges tried to say that the right to abortion is different, and that other civil rights based on individual liberty are not at stake,” Wasserman said. “But in the case of these rights being challenged in the Supreme Court, and if those rights are as narrowly interpreted as the Court did today, those rights also could be overruled.”
Justice Clarence Thomas, appointed by President George H.W. Bush in 1991, wrote in his concurrence that substantive due process – the legal basis behind the constitutional right to same-sex marriage, access to contraception and abortion rights – must be re-examined.
“As I have previously explained, ‘substantive due process’ is an oxymoron that ‘lacks any basis in the Constitution,” Thomas wrote.
For Grisel d’Elena, professor of religious studies at FIU with a focus on the intersection of women, religion and politics, the right to terminate an abortion is not only a political but a personal issue.
“Today the United States went back 50 years in time,” she said.
“I had two ectopic pregnancies in my 20s, which left me unable to carry children for the rest of my life. If abortion was illegal at the time, I would be dead. My children who were alive when I was pregnant, they would have been left motherless.”
According to d’Elena, the U.S. is experiencing the consequences of a lack of representation in positions of power.
“You have to look at the fact that white men only make up 31%of the US population, but they hold 65% of government roles,” she said. “And the same thing happens with Christian beliefs and practices. About 60% of the population who identify as Christian, yet 88% of members of Congress are Christian.”
This lack of political representation is related to a fundamental lack of political participation in local spaces, according to D’Elena.
“Everyone needs to vote for the people who become judges, for the people who become senators, for the people who become state representatives. Because if we continue to ignore these local elections the interests of many will continue to be ignored.”
Pearson believes that the U.S. will experience significant consequences after this decision.
“There’s going to be a scramble of different providers and organizations figuring out the landscape of what to do next. And really organizing to make sure that people know where it is still legal. States like North Caroline, New York, or Illinois,” she said.