Historic turning point in the United States, the Supreme Court revokes the right to abortion

by Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday overturned the 1973 Roe vs. Wade ruling that paved the way for the legalization of abortion in the United States, handing a historic victory to Republicans and religious conservatives who want to limit or deny this right.

“It’s a sad day for the Supreme Court and the country,” reacted President Joe Biden, saying that the decision of the guarantor institution of the American Constitution brought the United States back 150 years.

The Court, where the conservatives sit in force, voted by five votes against four for the cancellation of the Roe judgment and at the same time validated by six votes against three a Republican law from Mississippi prohibiting abortion after fifteen weeks of pregnancy. President of the Court, John Roberts, said in a separate opinion that he had simply voted in favor of the Mississippi law, challenging the Court to rule on whether abortion was or not a federal right.

The judges in favor of the revocation of the Roe decision considered that this text authorizing the voluntary termination of pregnancy at the federal level was an erroneous decision, because the Constitution of the United States makes no specific mention of the right to abortion.

On January 22, 1973, the American Supreme Court recognized the right to abortion as a constitutional right, based on respect for privacy. The Roe vs. Wade decision authorized abortions as long as the fetus is not viable – between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy.

In 1992, the Court had also, in a judgment entitled “Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania vs. Casey”, reaffirmed the right to abortion and prohibited laws imposing obstacles to access to abortion.

Friday’s decision means each state is now free to decide whether or not to allow abortion.

In the process, Missouri announced that it was banning abortion. Twenty-five other states could follow.

On the contrary, a dozen liberal states authorize the right to abortion.

In his televised address, Joe Biden lamented a “dramatic error” by the Supreme Court and called on Americans to elect Democratic representatives and senators in the midterm elections in November in a bid to restore the right to abortion at the level federal.

“Congress must act (…). The fight is not over,” said the head of the White House.

“Voters must make their voices heard. This fall, they must elect more senators and representatives who will codify women’s right to choose


At the beginning of May, the draft decision reconsidering the Roe vs Wade case, written by conservative judge Samuel Alito, had leaked in the press, provoking strong political reactions and demonstrations.

The decision voted on Friday hardly differs from the original version.

“The Constitution makes no mention of abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision,” wrote Samuel Alito.

“Roe was absolutely wrong from the start. His reasoning was exceptionally weak and the decision had damaging consequences. And far from installing a national consensus on the abortion issue, Roe and Casey inflamed the debate and deepened the divisions “, he added.

One of the Court’s conservative judges, Brett Kavanaugh, however, seemed to reject the idea, defended by anti-abortion activists, of including in the Constitution a ban on abortion throughout the United States. United.

“The Constitution neither prohibits nor legalizes abortion,” wrote this judge, who could play a pivotal role in future court decisions on abortion.

Brett Kavanaugh added that Friday’s ruling does not allow states to prevent their residents from traveling to another state for an abortion, or retroactively punish abortions.

In their dissenting opinion, also made public, the Court’s three progressive justices – Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan – held that “whatever the exact scope of future laws, an outcome of today’s decision is certain: the limitation of women’s rights, and of their status as free and equal citizens”.

As a result of this decision, they pointed out, “from the first moment of fertilization, a woman has no right to speak”.


Many reactions immediately welcomed the decision. A crowd of anti-abortion activists gathered for days outside the seat of the Supreme Court let their joy burst out.

“I’m thrilled,” said Emma Craig, an activist with Pro Life San Francisco. “Abortion is the greatest tragedy of our generation and fifty years from now we will look back in shame on fifty years under Roe vs Wade.”

Former Republican President Donald Trump, who promised during his 2016 campaign to appoint a majority of judges in favor of overturning Roe vs. Wade, hailed a decision “restoring rights to states where they would have always had to stay”.

In the Vatican, the Pontifical Academy for Life also welcomed the court’s decision. “The fact that a great country with a long democratic tradition has changed its position on this issue concerns the whole world,” she said.

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the “Republican-controlled Supreme Court” had achieved its “dark and extreme goal of wresting away women’s right to make reproductive health decisions for themselves.” .

Former President Barack Obama said the “intensely personal” decision to have an abortion was now subject “to the whims of politicians and ideologues, attacking the basic freedoms of millions of American women”.

Abroad, French President Emmanuel Macron declared that abortion, a “fundamental right”, must be “protected” and expressed his solidarity with American women. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lamented a “terrifying” decision and his British counterpart Boris Johnson regretted “a big step backwards”.

World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus expressed disappointment. “Women’s rights must be respected, I would have expected America to protect such rights,” he said.

A majority of Americans support abortion rights, polls show, but overturning the Roe ruling has been a stated goal of Christian conservatives and pro-life activists for decades , which hold annual marches in Washington.

(Report Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung, with the contribution of Katanga Johnson and Rose Horowitch, French version Tangi Salaün, Dagmarah Mackos and Jean-Stéphane Brosse, edited by Sophie Louet)

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