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the supreme court today struck down the legal right to abortion in the United States, returning the ability to regulate the procedure to states, more than half of which have vowed to ban it. The decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization explicitly overrides the landmark 1973 case Roe vs. Wadethat guaranteed the right to abortion, prior to fetal viability, throughout the country.
“Resolved: The Constitution does not confer the right to abortion; Roe and Casey are overruled; and the authority to regulate abortion be returned to the people and their elected representatives”, Judge Samuel Alito wrote for a majority. The decision was 6-3, with the court’s three liberal justices disagreeing.
The decision, which will launch the advent of “trigger laws” in 13 states, had been anticipated since a preview version leaked in May. As it goes into effect, it promises to roll back 50 years of profound changes in the lives of women in the United States, and in the structures and well-being of families, created by Roe.
Since the early 1970s, the marriage rate for American women has been cut in half and their degree attainment has quadrupled. The number of women without children has more than doubled, and the number of women who quit their jobs because they are raising children is half what it was.
Bottom line: For the past 50 years, because of access to safe, legal abortion, women have been able to make life-changing decisions. now that Roe is overridden, some of those options, and some of those life paths, might not be available anymore.
“The ability to determine when to have children is a cornerstone of the modern family,” says Philip N. Cohen, a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland, who argued in the new republic In May that the right to abortion is a fundamental component of democracy. “The right to abortion is central to women’s progress and is part of a package of self-determination and autonomy that are fundamental to women’s lives.”
It is important to say at the outset that the Roe The January 1973 decision does not represent a single moment when all of abortion access in the US changed, as if a switch had been thrown. Before Roe, the decision had been up to state legislatures, as it will be again. In the late 1960s, 11 states relaxed what had been blanket abortion bans to allow occasional exceptions, after scrutiny by some kind of medical committee, for rape or incest or to preserve women’s lives. Most significantly, in 1970 Washington, DC and five states (Alaska, California, Hawaii, New York, and Washington) legalized abortion, both for their own residents and for any woman wealthy enough to make it there.
What happened in those states during the three years prior to the Roe The decision provides economists and social scientists with a natural experiment in the effects of legal access to safe abortion. Alaska, Hawaii, and Washington state were obviously hard to get to; for the most part, only its residents benefited from legalization there. But California, New York, and Washington, DC, were population centers served by many transportation routes. The national data of the time are incomplete; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began counting abortions in 1969, but only about half the states participated. This state data shows that abortions increased after local legalization and fell after Roe legalized them nationwide. The natural conclusion is that women initially flocked to states where abortions were available, but no longer needed to afterward. Roe.