A month after releasing its landmark decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court officially transmitted its judgment to the lower courts on Tuesday, a move that will likely trigger more state abortion restrictions to go into effect.
Supreme Court rules state that after an opinion is rendered, the court sends out a certified copy of the judgment prepared and signed by the court’s clerk. The process usually takes about a month.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, some states including Idaho, Tennessee and Texas were waiting for this official word to come before enacting some of their laws to restrict abortions.
More than half the states have laws that ban or severely restrict abortion rights, according to Guttmacher, a nonprofit that tracks abortion access across the country and supports abortion access. Some states had laws on the books that were enacted before Roe, others have so-called trigger laws – meant to take effect automatically if Roe were ever overturned, although they had different timing mechanisms.
On June 24, in the midst of the most important term in decades, Justice Samuel Alito penned the majority opinion holding that Roe, a landmark 1973 decision guaranteeing a constitutional right to abortion was “egregiously wrong from the start.”
“Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences,” Alito said in an opinion joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. The opinion was nearly identical to a draft version that had been leaked to Politico in May in an unprecedented breach of court protocols.
The opinion reversed nearly 50 years of precedent and forever changed the landscape of reproductive health. Going forward, abortion rights will be determined by the states unless Congress acts.
The court’s opinion prompted an angry and rare joint dissent from the court’s three liberal justices. “With sorrow – for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection – we dissent,” they said.
Chief Justice John Roberts took a middle ground position and wrote a solo concurrence. He agreed that Mississippi’s abortion law banning the procedure after 15 weeks should be allowed to go into effect, but he said the court should stop short of overturning Roe.
The high court’s decision has prompted demonstrations across the country, including several protests at the homes of some of the justices in the majority. President Joe Biden said the decision casts a “dark shadow.”
“The health and life of women in this nation are now at risk,” Biden said after the decision came down.
Since the court struck down Roe, legal fights are underway in several states with supporters of abortion rights seeing some success in temporarily blocking bans in at least five states, including Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan and Utah.
This story has been updated with additional details.