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Last week, the Supreme Court delivered two blockbuster opinions. The first, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen, struck down a New York state law provision that required any person who wished to carry a concealed handgun in public to first demonstrate to a public official that they had “proper cause” to do so for self-defense. In practice, this meant that applicants had to show that they faced a special risk above and beyond the ordinary risks that everyone runs in society. The second, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, put an end to the forty-nine-year period in which Roe v. Wade (1973) guaranteed a constitutional right to abortion.
The response to both these decisions was strong and emphatic—from both sides. However, because the six conservative justices stuck together for both decisions, the left howled far louder than the right. Sadly, advocates on both sides treated their positions as self-evident truths, ignoring difficult conceptual and administrative challenges. Thus, in Dobbs, there was no middle ground. Forces on the right took great pleasure in concluding that Dobbs is a “triumph of democracy, constitutionalism, and courage,” and that the court rightly rejected living constitutionalism and returned the question of abortion rights to the people. The liberal dissenters asked not whether the people had the right to regulate abortion but rather whether each woman had the right to decide for herself whether to have a baby. By throwing the issue back into the hands of legislatures, the Supreme Court gave only modest comfort to many states, such as Illinois, that decided to protect Roe, while others—like Indiana, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Iowa—sought to reinstate restrictions that could turn the clock back beyond the bad old days before Roe.
Bruen reversed those roles: progressives thought legislative discretion should control, while conservatives took the view that the Second Amendment gives the right to bear firearms strong constitutional protection.
The Supreme Court of the United States has overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, ending a 49-year-long interpretation that abortion is a constitutional right. Now individual states have the power to allow, limit, or ban the practice altogether.
“We end this opinion where we began,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the 6-3 opinion (PDF). “Abortion presents a profound moral question. 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 case decided today was Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which focused on a Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The state asked the Supreme Court to strike down a lower court ruling that stopped the legislation from taking effect.