Friday's ruling marks a watershed moment for the Catholic Church and the wider pro-life movement in the United States, which have painstakingly sought Roe’s reversal since the landmark 7-2 decision was handed down on Jan. 19, 1973.
"America was founded on the truth that all men and women are created equal, with God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said in a joint statement following the opinion's release.
"This truth was grievously denied by the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade ruling, which legalized and normalized the taking of innocent human life," the Catholic bishops continued. "We thank God today that the Court has now overturned this decision." Gomez is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and Lori is chairman of the USCCB's Committee on Pro-Life Activities.
"Today’s decision is also the fruit of the prayers, sacrifices, and advocacy of countless ordinary Americans from every walk of life. Over these long years, millions of our fellow citizens have worked together peacefully to educate and persuade their neighbors about the injustice of abortion, to offer care and counseling to women, and to work for alternatives to abortion, including adoption, foster care, and public policies that truly support families," the statement continued.
"We share their joy today and we are grateful to them. Their work for the cause of life reflects all that is good in our democracy, and the pro-life movement deserves to be numbered among the great movements for social change and civil rights in our nation’s history."
Decision conforms to leaked draft
The outcome of Dobbs came as little surprise, since the final opinion substantially resembled a draft written by Alito in February that was leaked to the press on May 2.
In Roe v. Wade, the court ruled that states could not ban abortion before viability, which the court determined to be 24 to 28 weeks into pregnancy. Nearly 20 years later, the court upheld Roe in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The 1992 ruling said that while states could regulate pre-viability abortions, they could not enforce an “undue burden,” defined by the court as “a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus.”
Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act, the subject of the Dobbs case, directly challenged both decisions, because it bans abortion weeks after 15 weeks, well before the point of viability.
"Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences. And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have inflamed debate and deepened division," the opinion states.
"It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people's elected representatives," the opinion states.
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Roberts writes own opinion
In his opinion concurring in the judgment, Roberts called for a narrower ruling.
"The Court’s decision to overrule Roe and Casey is a serious jolt to the legal system—regardless of how you view those cases," his opinion reads. "A narrower decision rejecting the misguided viability line would be markedly less unsettling, and nothing more is needed to decide this case."
"My point is that Roe adopted two distinct rules of constitutional law: one, that a woman has the right to choose to terminate a pregnancy; two, that such right may be overridden by the State’s legitimate interests when the fetus is viable outside the womb," he added at another point. "The latter is obviously distinct from the former. I would abandon that timing rule, but see no need in this case to consider the basic right."
This is a developing story.
Katie Yoder is a correspondent in CNA's Washington, D.C. bureau. She covers pro-life issues, the U.S. Catholic bishops, public policy, and Congress. She previously worked for Townhall.com, National Review, and the Media Research Center.
Shannon Mullen is the Editor-in-Chief of CNA. He previously worked as a features writer, investigative reporter, and editor with the Asbury Park (N.J.) Press. He has received numerous national reporting awards and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.