U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks after the the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Dobbs v Women's Health Organization abortion case, overturning the landmark Roe v Wade abortion decision, at the White House in Washington, U.S., June 24, 2022. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

The US Supreme Court has made a landmark decision overturning the country’s liberal abortion laws. The mostly conservative Supreme Court in Washington cleared the way for stricter abortion laws on Friday – up to and including complete bans in individual US states. With that, the current abortion rights in the United States are history after almost half a century.

“The constitution does not grant a right to an abortion,” the verdict says. The decision is not a surprise: the magazine “Politico” published a draft of it at the beginning of May. It was already clear from this that the court intends to decide in this way. There was an outcry from women’s rights organizations, clinics and liberals. The verdict is now as drastic as expected.

Another 1992 ruling, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, reinforced the jurisprudence and adjusted it somewhat. The Supreme Court has now overturned these decisions. A federal abortion law proposed by the Democrats failed in the Senate in mid-May.

After the decision, protests broke out in front of the courthouse in Washington. Opponents and supporters had already gathered there before. Protests are also expected in other cities in the country. The mood was already heated after a draft of the decision became public around two months ago.

The Court, with a majority of its conservative judges, overturned the landmark “Roe v. Wade” ruling that had been in force for almost 50 years. In a landmark decision in 1973, the Supreme Court enshrined a basic constitutional right to abortion, thereby legalizing abortions nationwide. Since then, the guideline has been that abortions are permitted until the fetus is viable outside the womb. This is usually the case from about the 24th week of pregnancy.

This is a significantly larger time window than in many other states. In Germany, for example, abortions after counseling are not punishable up to twelve weeks after conception.

Conservative politicians and activists have been fighting the landmark ruling for decades. Their chances of success increased when then-President Donald Trump was able to nominate three new constitutional judges during his tenure. Since then, conservative lawyers have held a clear majority of six of the nine judges on the Supreme Court.

Trump had already announced during the 2016 election campaign that he would nominate constitutional judges who would work to end “Roe v. Wade”. In particular, he wanted to secure the votes of conservative Christians, who had been skeptical of him for a long time.

Specifically, the court overturned “Roe v. Wade” in the legal dispute over an abortion law from the southern state of Mississippi, which prohibits abortion after the 15th week. The decision does not come as a complete surprise: a draft judgment had already become public at the beginning of May.

With the end of “Roe,” there is no longer a statewide right to abortion because there is no federal law on the subject. This gives the states a free hand to ban or severely restrict abortion.

Missouri became the first US state to ban abortion immediately after the verdict. “Missouri just became the first in the country to effectively end abortion,” Midwest Attorney General Eric Schmitt said on Twitter on Friday.

In South Dakota, according to conservative governor Kristi Noem, a law that had already been prepared came into force. Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb called the state legislature on July 6 to pass an abortion ban.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, 26 and thus about half of the 50 states are likely to choose this path. 13 of these conservative-led states have already prepared corresponding laws that would come into force almost automatically if “Roe” were repealed.

In contrast, the states governed by President Joe Biden’s Democrats want to uphold the right to abortion. In the future, many women could be forced to travel to other states if they want to have an abortion. For many, this is likely to be very difficult, among other things for financial reasons.

After the verdict, the United Nations drew attention to the health risks for women. “Data shows that restricting access to abortion doesn’t discourage people from having an abortion — it only makes it more fatal,” the United Nations Population Fund said on Friday.

Abortion rights are one of the most controversial socio-political issues in the United States. After the Supreme Court ruling, it is likely to play an important role in the election campaign for the midterm elections in November. The Democrats, who are heading for a serious electoral defeat, will try to mobilize voters with a fight for abortion rights.

US President Joe Biden has called the Supreme Court’s historic decision against liberal abortion laws in the United States a “tragic error”. “It is, in my view, the realization of an extreme ideology and a tragic error on the part of the Supreme Court,” Biden said in Washington on Friday.

In recent weeks, Biden has repeatedly called for people to vote for pro-choice candidates in November. Only then can the right to abortions, previously guaranteed by “Roe v. Wade”, be enshrined in a federal law in the future.

However, there are strong doubts that abortion rights will play a decisive role in the election. Other issues – notably high inflation and other economic issues – are likely to carry greater weight.

Former US President Donald Trump has hailed the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn nationwide abortion rights as a decision from God. “God decided that,” the 76-year-old told Fox News on Friday. The step is in line with the constitution and should have happened “a long time ago”.

German politicians have reacted with horror to the decision. “This is a setback for women worldwide,” said the first parliamentary director of the SPD parliamentary group, Katja Mast, on Friday to the AFP news agency. “We must never allow fundamental women’s rights to turn into a supposedly political culture war.” Women’s right to self-determination worldwide is “inviolable”.

Family Minister Lisa Paus said she was “stunned” by the US Supreme Court’s ruling that decades later overturned America’s liberal abortion law. The Green politician wrote shocking news on Twitter on Friday.

From the point of view of the Greens, the fundamental judgment on abortion is a major setback for women’s rights and self-determination. “This means that women’s self-determination over their own bodies is becoming an ideological pawn in the USA,” said party leader Ricarda Lang in Berlin.

The first parliamentary secretary of the FDP parliamentary group, Johannes Vogel, called the US decision “terrible”. It shows that a liberal and self-determined society has to be fought for politically again and again, he wrote on Twitter. Freedom and progress can never be taken for granted.