On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court of the United States decided the Constitution does not confer a right to an abortion which overturned rulings for Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania, thus returning the power to make decisions on abortion to the states. This is in response to Dobbs, State Health Officer of the Mississippi Department of Health v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
“Roe was also egregiously wrong and on a collision course with the Constitution from the day it was decided,” Justice Alito states in the released opinion.
Here is a quick look at other rights not listed in the constitution. Rights like innocent until proven guilty, the right to a fair trial, the right to a jury of your peers, the right to vote, the right to travel, judicial review, the right to marriage, the right to procreate and the right to privacy, to name a few. Based on this reasoning, does that mean all of these rights are now invalid?
Alito’s opinion relied heavily on historical context for the ruling. The opinion utilized corroboration from the 13th century, before the United States was even a thought, as well as citing 17th century law, and Laws of England to prove that abortion, historically, was a crime. How is it possible to make such a fundamental decision that affects every single woman in the United States based on archaic laws not founded in this country?
Using the constitution as a base for ruling on what many perceive to be human rights has historically shown the United States to be flawed. The Constitution defines slaves and indigenous people as 3/5 of a person. It wasn’t until 1864 when our governing body decided that it would be okay to abolish slavery. It took fifteen amendments, in 1869, to prohibit the denial of the right to vote based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude. It took nineteen amendments, in 1919, to prohibit the denial of the right to vote based on sex. Mississippi ratified the 13th amendment to abolish slavery in 2013.
The opinion goes on to say that because States have adopted “safe haven” laws there is little reason to fear that the baby will not find a suitable home. The 424,000 American children in foster care beg to differ.
Alito assures that women are not without electoral or political power. He referenced the 2020 election where women made up 51.5% of the population of Mississippi, constituting 55.5 percent of the voters who cast ballots. 2020 was a record-breaking year across the country. While I hope it becomes a trend, basing a ruling on one abnormal year in history is a stretch at best.
By sending the issue to the states, women are now held to the whim of a political party in charge. Women will be denied the care they need based on laws that existed more than 50 years ago. Immediately following the ruling, trigger laws took effect that ranged from an outright abortion ban in Oklahoma, to restrictive gestational periods in 26 states. Most of the laws listed in the ruling are from the 1800s. Many of those laws weren’t outlawing aborting for moral or religious reasons, but because the medical professionals of that time wanted to ensure that midwives and under-educated people were not killing women in back alleys.
The Supreme Court of the United States has put their weight behind states’ right to decide the value of a woman’s life and it’s just beginning. Justice Thomas has already stated that contraception and same-sex marriage should be revisited as well. It’s curious to me that he didn’t include Virginia v. Loving in his opinion because the ability to marry someone from a different race is also not covered by the constitution and was considered illegal prior to the ruling.
The Constitution is not a perfect document. If it were, no amendments would ever have been necessary. It was created by men of their time, to govern a country in its infancy. The amount of laws not covered in the constitution that we live by far outweigh the number of amendments provided. Overturning Roe v. Wade, without having something in place to protect the lives and reproductive health of women, is their reminder to women everywhere that it is the Court’s opinion that a woman’s sole purpose is to repopulate the country.
What will it take for women to band together and assert our right as equal citizens where no laws regulate our bodies. You know… like men.