Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. What happens now?

Florida law imposing ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy set to take effect July 1

The Supreme Court has released a historic ruling Friday overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that found constitutional protection within the 12th Amendment to a woman’s right to an abortion.

The Supreme Court has released a historic ruling Friday overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that found constitutional protection within the 14th Amendment to a woman’s right to an abortion.

The majority opinion was penned by Justice Samuel Alito, with Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett joining. Chief Justice Roberts concurs with the ruling, but also said he would have upheld the Mississippi law at the center of this case without necessarily overturning Roe.

Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sototmayor and Stephen Breyer are joined in the dissent.

The decision comes as part of the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which was a challenge to Mississippi’s law which banned abortions after 15 weeks.

The challenge did not require the justices to overturn Roe. It could have ruled that a 15-week ban on abortion was permissible under the constitution — weakening Roe, but not completely removing the constitutional right to an abortion.

The decision by the court is not altogether surprising. A draft opinion from the Supreme Court, penned by Justice Samuel Alito, was leaked to the public, showing that a majority of the justices favored overturning the landmark abortion case, or at least that was the case in February when the draft opinion was written.

However, it is rare for the high court to overturn a previous ruling because of the idea of stare decisis, which means “stand by what’s decided,” according to a constitutional law professor at the University of Miami, Caroline Mala Corbin.

“As it happens, it’s in an abortion case (Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey) where the court sort of laid down the rules for when it is justifiable to overrule a previous decision,” Corbin said. “So for example, if there’s been a significant change in the facts that made a prior rule no longer make sense, or if the law has been graduating and evolving in such a way that an earlier decision really isn’t the law of the land anymore, then it might make sense to officially acknowledge that the law has shifted from what it was originally. Or, for example, if the rule the court had announced in an earlier decision was simply not workable. It was just too complicated. It was out in the real world, it was impossible for courts to actually apply and so that’s the general rule for stare decisis.”

This decision by the court is also notable because it marks the first time the high court has retracted individual rights in overturning a previous ruling.

For instance, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka overturned the court’s ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson. Plessy ruled that segregation was constitutionally permissible; however, Brown found that it was a violation of the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause, thereby expanding the rights of Black people in America.

What happens now?

Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe, that does not mean that abortion is now illegal. The ruling kicks the decision back down to the states, allowing each one to decide their own laws surrounding abortion, and potentially other reproductive rights.

As of this report, 13 states have already made moves to ban virtually all abortions should the Supreme Court overturn Roe. The legislatures of those states have passed “trigger laws,” which take effect if certain conditions are met — in this case, the overturning of Roe.

These states, according to The New York Times, include; Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.

Where does Florida stand?

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade was met with swift condemnation and equally swift praise from lawmakers in Florida.

In Florida, a 15-week abortion ban — similar to the one challenged in Dodd — is set to take effect on July 1. That law, which Gov. Ron DeSantis signed in April, faces two lawsuits challenging it.

The first was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood. This suit challenges the law on the basis that it violates Florida’s state constitution, specifically the right to privacy ensconced therein.

“In the text of the Florida constitution is a provision that says that the government cannot intrude on the Florida citizen’s right to privacy and the Florida Supreme Court has interpreted this language to cover abortion,” Corbin said.

The Florida Supreme Court first ruled on the issue in October 1989 in the case of a law requiring teenage girls to get a parent’s consent before having an abortion.

According to a Washington Post article at the time, the opinion handed down by the court, in a 6-to-1 decision, cited a 1980 amendment to the state constitution providing that “every natural person has the right to be let alone and free from governmental intrusion into (their) private life” in its ruling.

The clause can be found in Section 23 of the state constitution. It reads, in full: “Every natural person has the right to be let alone and free from governmental intrusion into the person’s private life except as otherwise provided herein. This section shall not be construed to limit the public’s right of access to public records and meetings as provided by law.”

The 1989 ruling said that the imposition of restrictions on abortion constituted an intrusion into a woman’s personal life.

“Florida’s privacy provision is clearly implicated in a woman’s decision of whether or not to continue her pregnancy,’’ the majority opinion said. ‘’We can conceive of few more personal or private decisions concerning one’s body that one can make in a lifetime, except perhaps the decision of the terminally ill in their choice of whether to discontinue necessary medical treatment.’’

Even the dissenting opinion found that the privacy clause applied to a woman’s right to an abortion. The dissent only took issue with how the court defined “viability,” believing it to extend beyond the standard set out in the 1973 Roe ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court.

“I wholeheartedly concur that Florida’s express constitutional right of privacy, article I, section 23, Florida Constitution, is implicated in this case,” Justice Parker Lee McDonald wrote in his dissent. “Specifically, I note that the privacy provision was added to the Florida Constitution by amendment in 1980, well after the decision of the United States Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade, It can therefore be presumed that the public was aware that the right to an abortion was included under the federal constitutional right of privacy and would therefore certainly be covered by the Florida privacy amendment.”

The second lawsuit comes from a synagogue, Congregation L’Dor Va-Dor of Boynton Beach.

This suit contends that Florida’s 15-week ban on abortions violates Jewish teachings, which state abortion “is required if necessary to protect the health, mental or physical well-being of the woman” and for other reasons.

“As such, the act prohibits Jewish women from practicing their faith free of government intrusion and this violates their privacy rights and religious freedom,” the lawsuit, filed in Leon County Circuit Court said.

The lawsuit added that people who “do not share the religious views reflected in the act will suffer” and that it “threatens the Jewish people by imposing the laws of other religions upon Jews.”

Under current law, Florida allows abortions up to 24 weeks.

The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.

Read the full Supreme Court opinion below:


About the Author:

Thomas Mates is a digital storyteller for News 6 and ClickOrlando.com. He also produces the podcast Florida Foodie. Thomas is originally from Northeastern Pennsylvania and worked in Portland, Oregon before moving to Central Florida in August 2018. He graduated from Temple University with a degree in Journalism in 2010.