Governor Hochul, President Biden weigh in on controversial ruling that removes Constitution right to abortion.  Shari Einhorn and Newsday White House correspondent Laura Figueroa break down the impact of the ruling. Credit: Newsday/Howard Schnapp

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court, led by a conservative majority, overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortions nationwide for nearly 50 years, handing down a ruling on Friday that was expected to launch bans and heavier restrictions on abortions in at least half of all states.

The court’s six conservative judges all ruled in favor of a Mississippi state law banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, but in rendering a decision on the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case before them, five of the conservatives also ruled in favor of striking down 1973’s Roe v. Wade decision and 1992’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision, two cases that have upheld abortion as a constitutional right.

“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” conservative Justice Samuel Alito wrote in an opinion, joined by fellow conservative justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. “The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision. This Court cannot bring about the permanent resolution of a rancorous national controversy simply by dictating a settlement and telling the people to move on.”

Chief Justice John G. Roberts, who sided with the conservatives on the Mississippi case, joined the court’s three liberal justices in opposing the reversal of the Roe and Casey decisions.

Roberts, in a separate opinion wrote: “To be clear, the questions presented in this petition do not require the Court to overturn Roe or Casey.”

The court’s three liberal justices — Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — in their dissenting opinion wrote that the decision to overturn the landmark rulings “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.”

“With sorrow — for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection — we dissent,” they wrote.

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the Supreme Court decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization to overturn Roe v. Wade. Credit: AP

Friday’s ruling was expected to launch a wave of abortion bans in conservative-leaning states, with at least 26 states already having laws on their books aimed at overturning abortions, including 13 states with “trigger bans” that were designed to go into effect as soon as Roe was overturned, according to the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion policy research group.

Some of the so-called trigger laws will go into effect immediately, while others have a 30-day transition time frame built into the legislation.

The court’s decision was not unexpected, after a draft of Alito’s opinion was leaked to the news outlet Politico last month, sparking a wave of rallies outside of the Supreme Court building that continued through Friday as activists flooded the area. Eight-foot-tall security fences were erected weeks ago in anticipation of the ruling and security surrounding the justices has been heightened following a spike in threats, including the arrest of a knife-wielding man outside of Kavanaugh’s home earlier in the month.

Friday’s monumental decision was issued by a court largely reshaped by former President Donald Trump, who appointed Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Barrett after promising on the 2016 campaign trail to only nominate jurists committed to overturning Roe v. Wade.

Read the full decision from... by Newsday

President Joe Biden, speaking from the White House, said the decision marked a “sad day for the court and for country” and called on Congress to codify the protections outlined in Roe v. Wade into federal law.

Biden acknowledged the unlikelihood that the current 50-50 split Senate could pass such a step and urged voters to “make their voices heard this fall” by electing lawmakers supportive of abortion rights.

“This fall Roe is on the ballot, personal freedoms are on the ballot,” Biden said.

The president said he recognized the limits of his executive powers on the issue, but vowed to use executive authority to preserve “a woman's access” to federally approved contraceptives and prescription drugs used to end early pregnancies and miscarriages. Biden also said the Department of Justice would protect the right of women to travel and obtain an abortion in states where it remains legal.

“My administration will use all of its appropriate, lawful powers, but Congress must act,” Biden said. “And with your vote, you can act. You can have the final word. This is not over.”

Reaction to the court’s reversal from lawmakers offered a preview of how both parties look to make the abortion issue a rallying point in the upcoming midterm election season.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) decried the decision as “one of the darkest days our country has ever seen,” and labeled the conservative majority court an “extremist MAGA court,” referring to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” 2016 campaign slogan.

“Today’s decision makes crystal clear the contrast as we approach the November elections: elect more MAGA Republicans if you want nationwide abortion bans, the jailing of women and doctors and no exemptions for rape or incest,” Schumer said in a statement. “Or, elect more pro-choice Democrats to save Roe and protect a woman’s right to make their own decisions about their body, not politicians.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R- Ky.), who played a key role in ensuring three conservative justices could be added to the court under Trump, praised the court’s decision, saying it “has corrected a terrible legal and moral error.” 

“Millions of Americans have spent half a century praying, marching, and working toward today’s historic victories for the rule of law and for innocent life,” McConnell said in a statement. “I have been proud to stand with them throughout our long journey and I share their joy today.”

New York Democrats vowed to preserve access to legal abortions in the state.

Gov. Kathy Hochul, who is running for election, called the decision a “grave injustice” and pledged the state “will always be a safe harbor for those seeking access to abortion care.”

Hochul blasted what she saw as the inconsistency of the Supreme Court upending states' rights on gun laws on Thursday by overturning New York’s concealed carry gun law, then declaring for states’ rights on abortion Friday.

“This Supreme Court, one day ago, tells states, state leaders like myself, that I don’t have complete control over who can carry a gun,” Hochul said. “But that same Supreme Court has no problem stripping away a woman’s right to control her body and allowing states to regulate her decisions.”

Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), who is also running for the Democratic nomination for governor, said in a statement he would “continue to work to ensure that New York remains a model for safe, legal and accessible abortions.”

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), who is running for the Republican nomination for governor, celebrated the court’s decision, invoking his twin daughters, who were born premature in the second trimester.

"Today is a victory for life, for family, for the Constitution, and for federalism,” Zeldin said in a statement. He added that more needed to be done in the state “to promote adoption and support mothers.”

Activists on both sides of the issue signaled Friday that the issue of abortion was far from resolved.

The president of the group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, Marjorie Dannenfelser, in a tweet told supporters: “As we celebrate, let us not grow complacent, but rather use this moment as a call to greater action to serve and save.”

Planned Parenthood Action Fund president Alexis McGill Johnson, in a statement, said the organization, which provides abortion services, “will rebuild the freedom that is ours. We're in it for the long haul.”

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