U.S. Constitution For Dummies
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The Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022, ending nearly 50 years of a woman's constitutional right to an abortion. The decision allows individual states the ability to set their own abortion laws, banning or restricting the procedure as they see fit.

The nation was expecting the landmark decision due to a leaked draft of the Supreme Court's deliberations in the related case Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. The leaked document, obtained by news outlet Politico on May 3, 2022, indicated the court's plans to overturn Roe v. Wade. At the time of the leak, about half of the states were poised to ban or severely restrict abortion, following the expected ruling.

The history of Roe v. Wade

Before the court's decision in 2022, Roe v. Wade had been the litmus test for confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court bench. No judge who came out openly against Roe v. Wade was likely to be confirmed.

In the 1973 case, the Supreme Court ruled 7–2 that women have the right to an abortion, at least during the first trimester of pregnancy. The court characterized abortion as a “fundamental” constitutional right, which means that any law aiming to restrict it is subject to the standard of strict scrutiny.

In Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1982), the high court modified Roe by giving the state the right to regulate an abortion, even in the first trimester, as long as that regulation doesn’t pose an “undue burden” on the woman’s fundamental right to an abortion. One such “undue burden” identified in Casey was any requirement for the woman to notify her husband.

A Texas law that placed certain restrictions on abortion clinics in the state was struck down by the Supreme Court, in a 5–3 vote, as placing an “undue burden” on abortion rights in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt (2016).

In Stormans Inc. v. Wiesman (2016), a five-justice majority on the court refused to hear a challenge to a Washington state law making it illegal for pharmacists to refuse to dispense contraceptive drugs. In a dissent, Justice Samuel Alito, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Clarence Thomas, wrote: “This case is an ominous sign … If this is a sign of how religious liberty claims will be treated in the years ahead, those who value religious freedom have cause for great concern.”

About This Article

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About the book author:

As a lawyer who consults with various U.S. firms on constitutional issues and as author of a text on British constitutional law, Dr. Michael Arnheim is uniquely qualified to present an unbiased view of the U.S. Constitution, what it says, what it means, and how it's been interpreted in a variety of situations.

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