Washington responds to Supreme Court striking down Roe

·4 min read

Elected officials in Washington, D.C., responded swiftly to news from the Supreme Court striking down the right to an abortion, officially overturning Roe after a draft of the opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson was leaked.

In a 5-4 decision to strike down Roe and a 6-3 decision to uphold a Mississippi restricting abortions after 15 weeks, the court held that the Constitution "does not confer a right to abortion," and "the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives." In other words, the legality of abortions will be determined state-by-state. Thirteen states already have so-called "trigger laws" on the books, meaning abortion will swiftly be outlawed in most cases with Roe overturned.

In a sign of the polarization of this issue, Democrats immediately slammed the decision, saying the ruling negates basic women's rights and will disproportionately affect poor women who will have a harder time accessing out-of-state abortions. Most Republicans and conservatives celebrated the decision as a win for the unborn.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the rights of women and all Americans "are on the ballot this November," and warned what could happen if Republicans take control of Congress.

Demonstrators protest in front of the U.S. Supreme Court moments before the Dobbs v Jackson Women's Health Organization ruling on June 24, 2022 in Washington, DC.  / Credit: BRANDON BELL / Getty Images
Demonstrators protest in front of the U.S. Supreme Court moments before the Dobbs v Jackson Women's Health Organization ruling on June 24, 2022 in Washington, DC. / Credit: BRANDON BELL / Getty Images

"With Roe now out of their way, radical Republicans are charging ahead with their crusade to criminalize health freedom," Pelosi said in a statement. "In the Congress, Republicans are plotting a nationwide abortion ban. In the states, Republicans want to arrest doctors for offering reproductive care and women for terminating a pregnancy. GOP extremists are even threatening to criminalize contraception, as well as in-vitro fertilization and post-miscarriage care."

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the court's decision "eliminates a federally protected constitutional right that has been the law for nearly half a century."

"As a result, millions of Americans are waking up in a country where they have fewer rights than their parents and grandparents," Durbin said in a statement. "The bottom line: on critical, personal choices involving a woman's right to make reproductive decisions about her own body, do you trust her or the government? The Supreme Court now says a woman's right to privacy does not extend to the most personal, private choice she will ever face."

Former President Barack Obama weighed in as well.

"Today, the Supreme Court not only reversed nearly 50 years of precedent, it relegated the most intensely personal decision someone can make to the whims of politicians and ideologues—attacking the essential freedoms of millions of Americans," he tweeted.

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said he is "deeply disappointed" that the court overturned Roe, and said he supports codifying its protections.

"It has been the law of the land for nearly 50 years and was understood to be settled precedent," Manchin said. "I trusted Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh when they testified under oath that they also believed Roe v. Wade was settled legal precedent and I am alarmed they chose to reject the stability the ruling has provided for two generations of Americans."

Republicans expressed optimism at the court's decision. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the American people are getting their "voice back."

"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."

GOP Senator Bill Cassidy, a doctor, said Friday's ruling "recognizes that an unborn child has a right to life."

"Being pro-life means being pro-mothers, pro-babies, and pro-healthy futures—a philosophy I carry with me in the Senate," Cassidy said in a statement. "This is a deeply emotional issue for many Americans, no matter which side one stands, but it is now up to individual states to enact their own policies."

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley said the court's decision "does not ban the practice of abortion but instead empowers the people, through their accountable elected representatives to make commonsense policy decisions."

With Roe no longer settled law, the Biden administration and the Democrat-led House and Senate are scrambling to figure out what they can do to protect abortion access. Durbin said the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing next month on what to do in a post-Roe world.

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