Weeks after a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion threatened to roll back Roe v. Wade, a final decision Friday morning did just that, with a majority of justices casting votes to return authority over abortion rights to individual states.
The ruling reverses 50 years of precedent from the landmark 1973 case that gave women in the US the right under federal law to terminate a pregnancy, and a subsequent 1992 decision — Planned Parenthood v. Casey — that largely maintain the right.
The case, from Mississippi, is called Dobbs V Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Read the court’s decision here.
“The Court finds that the right to abortion is not deeply rooted in the Nation’s history and tradition,” says today’s opinion, in language very similar to the leaked draft of earlier this year.
“The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion; Roe and Casey are overruled; and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives.”
In his concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the court, in light of this decision, should reconsider precedents in cases that protected the right to contraception, sexual relations and same-sex marriage.
The Supreme Court was sealed off with a security barrier, as demonstrators on both sides of the issue gathered in anticipation of a ruling. The justices did not meet in person to announce their decisions, as they had in the past, leaving it to its website to post the opinion. Scotusblog reported the decision at about 10:10 AM ET, and broadcast networks broke into regular programming with the news.
The draft opinion, penned by Justice Samuel Alito, with Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett joining him in the majority to overturn Roe, was leaked to Politico in early May.
The final vote was a very clear 6-3, with Chief Justice Roberts concurring in part, and Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissenting.
The three justices wrote in the dissent that the majority “says that from the very moment of fertilization, a woman has no rights to speak of. A State can force her to bring a pregnancy to term, even at the steepest personal and familial costs. An abortion restriction, the majority holds, is permissible whenever rational, the lowest level of scrutiny known to the law. And because, as the Court has often stated, protecting fetal life is rational, States will feel free to enact all manner of restrictions.”
“Abortion presents a profound moral question,” Alito wrote in the majority opinion. “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.”
The nation — and Hollywood — have been bracing for this day since the unprecedented leak. The DGA, SAG-AFTRA, IATSE, WGA East, WGA West and Actors’ Equity all came out swinging. The WGA urged producers to consider not filming in states that ban abortion, and DGA president Lesli Linka Glatter was among those who spoke out strongly. UTA as well as Yelp, Starbucks, Microsoft and Amazon have said they will finance travel for employees who need to cross state lines for a procedure.
The ruling Friday will lead to a wave of abortion restrictions across the country, especially in states with so-called trigger laws or preexisting laws in place that can be easily activated or enforced by conservative legislators.
The Center for Reproductive Rights had calculated if the Supreme Court were to limit or overturn Roe, abortion would remain accessible in 25 states and likely would be prohibited in 25 states and three territories — including Georgia, a key Hollywood production hub.
The others are Alabama, American Samoa, Arizona, Arkansas, Guam, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, the Northern Mariana Islands, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. The nonprofit civil rights also said “concern is warranted” in New Hampshire, New Mexico, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands and Virginia, where abortion rights are not protected by state law.
The ruling also brings abortion back to the fore in Georgia, a center of movie and TV production.
The state had already weathered a battle over choice that created an uproar among executives and creatives. A law passed by Georgian pols and signed by Gov. Brian Kemp in 2020 banned abortion after six weeks — before most women know they’re pregnant. Producers from Netflix, Disney, WarnerMedia (now Warner Bros Discovery), NBCUniversal, AMC Networks, Sony, CBS and Viacom (not yet merged) publicly questioned whether they would remain in Georgia if the ban went into effect. JJ Abrams and Jordon Peele, Peter Chernin, Alyssa Milano, Christine Vachon, David Simon and others spoke out.
The furor died down after the law was blocked by federal judge in the summer of 2020 as unconstitutional. A state appeals court later stayed the case pending this Supreme Court decision on Dobbs.
Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos, then chief content officer, had said the streaming giant would “rethink our entire investment in Georgia” if legislation known as the “heartbeat bill” became state law. It outlawed most abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected.
“We have many women working on productions in Georgia, whose rights, along with millions of others, will be severely restricted by this law,” Sarandos said. “It’s why we will work with the ACLU and others to fight it in court. Given the legislation has not yet been implemented, we’ll continue to film there — while also supporting partners and artists who choose not to. Should it ever come into effect, we’d rethink our entire investment in Georgia.”
Bob Iger, then the CEO of The Walt Disney Co., said that if the abortion ban took effect, “I don’t see how it’s practical for us to continue to shoot there.
More to eat.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism