Alito’s decision is beautifully written and perfectly argued, but it’s long. Here’s a condensed version with commentary.
Wolf Howling read through all 98 pages in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. He came away impressed with the legal reasoning and the accurate legal history. In terms of sheer legal intellectualism, the case is a tour de force and runs rings around Roe v. Wade, which was always an entirely political decision and, therefore, was a combination of legal garbage and historic dishonesty.
For my convenience, because I still haven’t had the chance to sit down and read it, he copied in a document what he thought were the most important parts and, within those parts, he highlighted the most important sentences. He occasionally interlineated his own comments. I’ve reproduced below what he wrote me.
The main caveat is that the text came from a PDF made using the scanned pages from the draft decision. That type of “PDF to text” transformation always brings with it lots of errors. I’ve corrected the most egregious but didn’t even bother to try to correct problems with Latin terms, case names, or legal abbreviations:
Highlights of the Alito Opinion
[Everything below is a direct quotation from a PDF scan of the original document, except for those materials set off in square brackets and identified as a “Wolf Howling comment”.]
We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled. The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision, including the one on which the defenders of Roe and Casey now chiefly rely—the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. That provision has been held to guarantee some rights that are not mentioned in the Constitution, but any such right must be “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition” and “implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.” Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U. S. 702, 721 (1997) (internal quotation marks omitted) The right to abortion does not fall within this category.
Until the latter part of the 20th century, such a right was entirely unknown in American law. Indeed, when the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted, three quarters of the States made abortion a crime at all stages of pregnancy. The abortion right is also critically different from any other right that this Court has held to fall within the Fourteenth Amendment’s protection of “liberty.” Roe’s defenders characterize the abortion right as similar to the rights recognized in past decisions involving matters such as intimate sexual relations, contraception, and marriage, but abortion is fundamentally different, as both Roe and Casey acknowledged, because it destroys what those decisions called “fetal life” and what the law now before us describes as an “unborn human being”.
Stare decisis, . . . does not compel unending adherence to Roe’s abuse of judicial authority. 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 enflamed debate and deepened division. [Comment from Wolf Howling: Alito neglects to identify here the true elephant in the room: that an activist court vastly overstepped its authority by amending the Constitution. ]
It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives. “The permissibility of abortion, and the limitations, upon it, are to be resolved like most important questions in our democracy: by citizens trying to persuade one another and then voting.” Casey, 505 U.S. at 979 (Scalia, J, concurring in the judgment in part and dissenting in part). That is what the Constitution and the rule of law demand.
Roe, however, was remarkably loose in its treatment of the constitutional text. It held that the abortion right, which is not mentioned in the Constitution, is part of a right to privacy, which is also not mentioned. See 410 U.S, at 152-153. And that privacy right, Roe observed, had been found to spring from no fewer than five different constitutional provisions—the First, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Id, at 152. The Court’s discussion left open at least three ways in which some combination of these provisions could protect the abortion right.
One possibility was that the right was “founded . . . in the Ninth Amendment’s reservation of rights to the people.” d., at 13.
Another was that the right was rooted in the First, Fourth, or Fifth Amendment, or in some combination of those provisions, and that this right had been “incorporated” into the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment just as many other Bill of Rights provisions had by then been incorporated. Ibid; see also McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U.S. 742, 763-766 (2010) (plurality opinion) (discussing incorporation).
And a third path was that the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments played no role and that the right was simply a component of the “liberty” protected by the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. 410 U.S, at 153. Roe expressed the “feeling” that the Fourteenth Amendment was the provision that did the work, but its message seemed to be that the abortion right could be found somewhere in the Constitution and that specifying its exact location was not of paramount importance.
The Casey Court did not defend this unfocused analysis and instead grounded its decision solely on the theory that the right to obtain an abortion is part of the “liberty” protected by the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. We discuss this theory in depth below, but before doing so, we briefly address one additional constitutional provision that some of respondents’ amici have now offered as yet another potential home for the abortion right: the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.
Neither Roe nor Casey saw fit to invoke this theory, and it is squarely foreclosed by our precedents, which establish that a State’s regulation of abortion is not a sex based classification and is thus not subject to the “heightened scrutiny” that applies to such classifications.” The regulation of a medical procedure that only one sex can undergo does not trigger heightened constitutional scrutiny unless the regulation is a “mere pretext designed to effect an invidious discrimination against members of one sex or the other.” Geduldig v. Aiello, 417 U. S. 484, 496 n. 20 (1974). And, as the Court has stated, the “goal of preventing abortion” does not constitute “invidiously discriminatory animus against women.” Bray v. Alexandria Women’s
The underlying theory on which this argument rests— that the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause provides substantive, as well as procedural, protection for “liberty’—has long been controversial. But our decisions have held that the Due Process Clause protects two categories of substantive rights. The first consists of rights guaranteed by the first eight amendments. Those amendments originally applied only to the federal government, Barron ex rel. Tiernan v. Mayor of Baltimore, T Pet. 243, 247-251 (1833) (opinion of Marshall, C.J), but this Court has held that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment “incorporates” the great majority of those rights and thus makes them equally applicable to the States. See McDonald, 561 U.S, at 763-767 & nn. 12-13.
The second category—which is the one in question here—comprises a select list of fundamental rights that are not mentioned anywhere in the Constitution. In deciding whether a right falls into either of these categories, the Court has long asked whether the right is “deeply rooted in [our] history and tradition” and whether it is essential to our Nation’s “scheme of ordered Liberty.” Timbs v. Indiana, 586 U.S. __ (2019) (slip op. at 3) (internal quotation marks omitted); McDonald, 561 U. S., at 764; Gluchsberg, 521 U.S. at 721 (1997). [Comment from Wolf Howling: Interestingly enough, this use of “substantive due process” is not ipso facto activist. Many federalists argued that they did not want to list individual rights as part of the Constitution because it was impossible to build a comprehensive list and any list that was less than comprehensive would later be deemed a summation of all possible rights, ignoring other “rights” of the people that existed at common law of Britain and the U.S. before 1787. ]
And in conducting this inquiry, we have engaged in a careful analysis of the history of the right at issue. Justice Ginsburg’s opinion for the Court in Timbs v. Indiana, supra, is a recent example. In concluding that the Eighth Amendment’s protection against excessive fines is “fundamental to our scheme of ordered liberty” and “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition,” 568 U.S, at __ (slip op., at 7) (citation omitted), her opinion traced the right back to Magna Carta, Blackstone’s Commentaries, and 35 of the 37 state constitutions in effect at the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment. 1d. at __ (slip op., at 3).
A similar inquiry was undertaken in McDonald, supra, which held that the Fourteenth Amendment protects the right to keep and bear arms. The lead opinion surveyed the origins of the Second Amendment, the debates in Congress about the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment, the state constitutions in effect when that Amendment was ratified (at least 22 of the 37 States protected the right to keep and bear arms), federal laws enacted during the same period, and other relevant historical evidence. 561 U.S, at 767-777. Only then did the opinion conclude that “the Framers and ratifiers of the Fourteenth Amendment counted the right to keep and bear arms among those fundamental rights necessary to our system of ordered liberty.” 561
Historical inquiries of this nature are essential whenever we are asked to recognize a new component of the “liberty” protected by the Due Process Clause because the term “liberty” alone provides little guidance. “Liberty” is a capacious term. As Lincoln once said: “We all declare for Liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing” In a well-known essay, Isaiah Berlin reported that “[h]istorians of ideas” had catalogued more than 200 different senses in which the terms had been used. In interpreting what is meant by the Fourteenth Amendment’s reference to “liberty,” we must guard against the natural human tendency to confuse what that Amendment protects with our own ardent views about the liberty that Americans should enjoy. That is why the Court has long been “reluctant” to recognize rights that are not mentioned in the Constitution. Collins v. Harker Heights, 503 U. S. 115,125 (1992).
“Substantive due process has at times been a treacherous field for this Court,” Moore v. East Cleveland, 431 U.S. 494, 503 (1977) (plurality opinion), and it has sometimes led the Court to usurp authority that the Constitution entrusts to the people’s elected representatives. Sec Regents of Univ. of Mich. v. Ewing, 474 U. S. 214, 225~ 226 (1985). As the Court cautioned in Glucksberg, “[w]e must… exercise the utmost care whenever we are asked to break new ground in this field, lest the liberty protected by the Due Process Clause be subtly transformed into the policy preferences of the Members of this Court.” 521 U. S., at 720 (internal citation and quotation marks omitted). On occasion, when the Court has ignored the “[a]ppropriate limits’ imposed by “respect for the teachings of history,” Moore, 431 U.S., at 503, it has fallen into the freewheeling judicial policymaking that characterized discredited decisions such as Lochner v. New York, 198 U. S. 45, 25 (1905).
The Court must not fall prey to such an unprincipled approach. Instead, guided by the history and tradition that ‘map the essential components of our Nation’s concept of ordered liberty, we must ask what the Fourteenth Amendment means by the term “liberty.” When we engage in that inquiry in the present case, the clear answer is that the Fourteenth Amendment does not protect the right to an abortion.
Until the latter part of the 20th century, there was no support in American law for a constitutional right to obtain an abortion. Zero. None. No state constitutional provision had recognized such a right. . . .
Not only was there no support for such a constitutional right until shortly before Roe, but abortion had long been a crime in every single State. . . .
We begin with the common law, under which abortion was a crime at least after “quickening’—i.e., the first movement of the fetus in the womb, which usually occurs between the 16th and 18th week of pregnancy. The “eminent common-law authorities (Blackstone, Coke, Hale, and the like),” Kahler v. Kansas, 589 U.S. __, —_ (2020) (slip op., at 7), all describe abortion after quickening as criminal. Henry de Bracton’s 13th-century treatise explained that if a person has “struck a pregnant woman, or has given her poison, whereby he has caused an abortion, if the foetus be already formed and animated, and particularly if it be animated, he commits homicide.” H. Bracton, De Legibus et Consuctudinibus Angliae 279 (T. Twiss ed. 1879); see also 1 Fleta ch. 20, reprinted in 53 Selden Soc’y 60-61 (HG. Richardson & G.0 Sayles eds. 1953)
1 Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England *129— *130 (7th ed. 1775) (Blackstone). English cases dating all the way back to the 13th century corroborate the treatises’ statements that abortion was a crime. See generally J. Dellapenna, Dispelling the Myths of Abortion History 126 & n. 16, 134-142, 188-194 & nn.84-86 (2005) (Dellapenna); J. Keown, Abortion, Doctors, and the Law 3-12 (1988) (Keown). In 1732, for example, Eleanor Beare was convicted of “destroying the Foetus in the Womb” of another woman and “there-by causing her to miscarry.” For that crime and another “misdemeanor,” Beare was sentenced to two days in the pillory and three years’ imprisonment
That the common law did not condone even pre-quickening abortions is confirmed by what one might call a protofelony-murder rule. Hale and Blackstone explained a way in which a pre-quickening abortion could rise to the level of a homicide.
Hale wrote that if a physician gave a woman “with child” a “potion” to cause an abortion, and the woman died, it was “murder” because the potion was given “unlawfully to destroy her child within her.” 1 Hale 129-130 (emphasis added). As Blackstone explained, to be “murder” a killing had to be done with “malice aforethought, either express or implied.” 4 Blackstone 198, 199. In the case of an abortionist, Blackstone wrote, “the law will imply [malice]” for the same reason that it would imply malice if a person who intended to kill one person accidentally killed a different person: “[I]f one shoots at A and misses him, but kills B, this is murder; because of the previous felonious intent, which the law transfers from one to the other….”
The original ground for drawing a distinction between pre- and post-quickening abortions is not entirely clear, but some have attributed the rule to the difficulty of proving that a pre-quickening fetus was alive. At that time, there were no scientific methods for detecting pregnancy in its early stages, and thus, as one court put it in 1872: “[U]ntil the period of quickening there is no evidence of life; and whatever may be said of the feotus, the law has fixed upon this period of gestation as the time when the child is endowed with life” because “foetal movements are the first clearly marked and well defined evidences of life” Fans. People, 49 N.Y. 86, 90 (1872)
At any rate, the original ground for the quickening rule is of little importance for present purposes because the rule was abandoned in the 19th century. During that period, treatise writers and commentators criticized the quickening distinction as “neither in accordance with the result of ‘medical experience, nor with the principles of the common law.” 1 F. Wharton, The Criminal Law of the United States §1220, at 606 (4th rev. ed. 1857); see also J. B. Beck, Researches in Medicine and Medical Jurisprudence 26-28 (2d ed. 1835) (describing the quickening distinction as “absurd” and “injurious’)* In 1803, the British Parliament made abortion a crime at all stages of pregnancy and authorized the imposition of severe punishment. See Lord Ellenborough’s Act, 43 Geo. 3 c. 58. One scholar has suggested that Parliament’s decision “may partly have been attributable to the medical man’s concern that fetal life should be protected by the law at all stages of gestation.” Keown 22.
In this country during the 19th century, the vast majority of the States enacted statutes criminalizing abortion at all stages of pregnancy. See Appendix A (listing state statutory provisions in chronological order).* By 1868, when the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified, three-quarters of the States, 28 out of 37, had enacted statutes making abortion a crime even if it was performed before quickening See Appendix A. Of the nine States that had not yet criminalized abortion at all stages, all but one did so by 1910. bid. The trend in the territories that would become the last 13 States was similar: all of them criminalized abortion at all stages of pregnancy between 1850 (the Kingdom of Hawaii) and 1919 (New Mexico). See Appendix B; see also Casey, 505 U.S, at 952 (Rehnquist, C. J, dissenting); Dellapenna 817-319.
. . .
The inescapable conclusion is that a right to abortion is not deeply rooted in the Nation’s history and traditions. On the contrary, an unbroken tradition of prohibiting abortion on pain of criminal punishment persisted from the earliest days of the common law until 1973. The Court in Roe could have said of abortion exactly what Glucksberg said of assisted suicide: “Attitudes toward [abortion] have changed since Bracton, but our laws have consistently condemned, and continue to prohibit, [that practice].” Glucksberg, 521 U.S, at 719.
But as we have seen, great common-law authorities like Bracton, Coke, Hale, and Blackstone all wrote that a post-quickening abortion was a crime—and a serious one at that, Moreover, Hale and Blackstone (and many other authorities following them) asserted that even a pre-quickening abortion was “unlawful” and that, as a result, an abortionist was guilty of murder if the woman died from the attempt.
Instead of following these authorities, Roe relied largely on two articles by a pro-abortion advocate who claimed that Coke had intentionally misstated the common law because of his strong anti-abortion views” These articles have been discredited, and it has come to light that even members of Jane Roe’s legal team did not regard them as serious scholarship. An internal memorandum characterized this author’s work as donning “the guise of impartial scholarship while advancing the proper ideological goals. Continued reliance on such scholarship is unsupportable.” [Comment from Wolf Howling: So fraud was used to drive public policy and the law. When will we begin to apply the same standards of fraud to science and the law that we currently apply to securities?]
The Solicitor General next suggests that history supports an abortion right because the common law’s failure to criminalize abortion before quickening means that “at the Founding and for decades thereafter, women generally could terminate a pregnancy, at least in its early stages.” Id, at 26-27; see also Brief for Respondents 21. But the insistence on quickening was not universal, see Mills, 13 Pa. at 633; State v. Slagle, 83 N. C. 630, 632 (N. C. 1880), and, regardless, the fact that many States in the late 18th and early 19th century did not criminalize pre-quickening abortions does not mean that anyone thought the States lacked the authority to do so. When legislatures began to exercise that authority as the century wore on, no one, as far as we are aware, argued that the laws they enacted violated a fundamental right.
That is not surprising since common-law authorities had repeatedly condemned abortion and described it as an “unlawful” act without regard to whether it occurred before or after quickening. See supra, at__
Another amicus brief relied upon by the respondents (see Brief for Respondents 21) tries to dismiss the significance of the state criminal statutes that were in effect when the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted by suggesting that they were enacted for illegitimate reasons. According to this account, which is based almost entirely on statements made by one prominent proponent, important motives for the laws were the fear that Catholic immigrants were having more babies than Protestants and that the availability of abortion was leading white Protestant women to “shirk their maternal duties.” Brief for Amici Curiae American Historical Association and Organization of American Historians 20. Resort to this argument is a testament to the lack of any real historical support for the right that Roe and Casey recognized.
This Court has long disfavored arguments based on alleged legislative motives. See, e.g., City of Erie v. Pap’s AM, 529 U.S. 217, 292 (2000) (plurality); Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. v. F.C.C., 512 U. S. 622, 652 (1994); United States v. O’Brien, 391 U. S. 367, 383 (1968); Arizona v. California, 283 U.S. 423, 455 (1931) (collecting cases). ‘The Court has recognized that inquiries into legislative motives “are a hazardous matter.” O’Brien, 391 U.S, at 383. Even when an argument about legislative motive is backed by statements made by legislators who voted for a law, we have been reluctant to attribute those motives to the legislative body as a whole. “What motivates one legislator to ‘make a speech about a statute is not necessarily what motivates scores of others to enact it.” Ibid. [Comment from Wolf Howling: This is a double-edged sword, for the original intent of those who enacted our Constitution and amendments is the entire basis for originalism. Failure to investigate the intent and just looking to loosely defined words can lead to ludicrous outcomes, such as the Gorsuch decision redefining “sex” in Title VII.]
Here, the argument about legislative motive is not even based on statements by legislators, but on statements made by a few supporters of the new 19th century abortion laws, legislators whose votes were responsible for the enactment of those laws. Recall that at the time of the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment, over three quarters of the States had adopted statutes criminalizing abortion (usually at all stages of pregnancy), and that from the early 20th century until the day Roe was handed down, every single State had such a law on its books. Are we to believe that the hundreds of lawmakers whose votes were needed to enact these laws were motivated by hostility to Catholics and women? There is ample evidence that the passage of these laws was instead spurred by a sincere belief that abortion kills a human being. Many judicial decisions from the late 19th and early 20th centuries made that point. . . .
Supporters of Roe and Casey contend that the abortion right is an integral part of a broader entrenched right. Roe termed this a right to privacy, 410 U. S,, at 164, and Casey described it as the freedom to make “intimate and personal choices” that are “central to personal dignity and autonomy,” 505 U.S, at 851. Casey elaborated: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” Id., at 851. The Court did not claim that this broadly framed right is absolute, and no such claim would be plausible. While individuals are certainly free to think and to say what they wish about “existence,” “meaning,” the “universe,” and “the mystery of human life,” they are not always free to act in accordance with those thoughts. License to act on the basis of such beliefs may correspond to one of the many understandings of “liberty,” but it is certainly not “ordered liberty.” . . . Ordered liberty sets limits and defines the boundary between competing interests. [Comment from Bookworm: Taken to its logical conclusion, Casey basically said that, if I get you in a locked room, I can experiment with the mystery of human life by killing you. Yay, me!]
Nor does the right to obtain an abortion have a sound basis in precedent. Casey relied on cases involving the right to marry a person of a different race, Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1(1967); the right to marry while in prison, Turnerv. Saftey, 482 U. S. 78 (1987); the right to obtain contraceptives, Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965), Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U. S. 438 (1972), Carey v. Population Services International, 431 U. S. 678 (1977); the right to reside with relatives, Moore v. Fast Cleveland, 431 U. S. 494 1977); the right to make decisions about the education of one’s children, Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U. S. 510 (1925), Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U. S. 390 (1925); the right not to be sterilized without consent, Skinner v. Oklahoma ex rel. Williamson, 316 U. S. 535 (1942); and the right in certain circumstances not to undergo involuntary surgery, forced administration of drugs, or other substantially similar procedures, Winston v. Lee, 470 U. S. 753 (1985), Washington v. Harper, 494 U. S. 210 (1990), Rochin v. California, 342 U. S. 165 (1952).
Respondents and the Solicitor General also rely on post-Casey decisions like Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U. S. 558 (2008) (right to engage in private, consensual sexual acts), and Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U. S. 644 (2015) (right to marry a person of the same sex). See Brief for Respondents 18; Brief for United States as Amicus Curiae 23-24. ‘These attempts to justify abortion through appeals to a broader right to autonomy and to define one’s “concept of existence” prove too much. Casey, 505 U. S., at 851. Those criteria, at a high level of generality, could license fundamental rights to illicit drug use, prostitution, and the like. See Compassion in Dying v. Washington, 85 F.3d 1140, 1444 (CA9 1996) (O’Scannlain, J., dissenting from denial of rehearing en banc). None of these rights has any claim to being deeply rooted in history. Id., at 1440, 1445.
What sharply distinguishes the abortion right from the rights recognized in the cases on which Roc and Casey rely is something that both those decisions acknowledged: Abortion destroys what those decisions call “potential life” and what the law at issue in this case regards as the life of an “unborn human being.” See Roe, 410 U. S., at 159 (abortion is “inherently different”); Casey, 505 U.S. at 852 (abortion is “a unique act’). None of the other decisions cited by Roe and Casey involved the critical moral question posed by abortion. They are therefore inapposite. They do not support the right to obtain an abortion, and by the same token, our conclusion that the Constitution does not confer such a right does not undermine them in any way. [Comment from Wolf Howling: Yes, it is different as to the nature of the subject at issue, but the logic and reasoning of this decision leads inexorably to the conclusion that all of these activist decisions, regardless of the subject matter, should be overturned. The only differences are prudential, not legal.]
Defenders of Roe and Casey do not claim that any new scientific learning calls for a different answer to the underlying moral question, but they do contend that changes in society require the recognition of a constitutional right to obtain an abortion. Without the availability of abortion, they maintain, people will be inhibited from exercising their freedom to choose the types of relationships they desire, and women will be unable to compete with men in the workplace and in other endeavors. Americans who believe that abortion should be restricted press countervailing arguments about modern developments. They note that attitudes about the pregnancy of unmarried women have changed drastically; that federal and state laws ban discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, that leave for pregnancy and childbirth are now guaranteed by law in many cases, that the costs of medical care associated with pregnancy are covered by insurance or government assistance; that States have increasingly adopted babies anonymously; and that a woman who puts her newborn up for adoption today has little reason to fear that the baby will not find a suitable home. They also claim that many people now have a new appreciation of fetal life and that when prospective parents who want to have a child view a sonogram, they typically have no doubt that what they see is their daughter or son.
Both sides make important policy arguments, but supporters of Roe and Casey must show that this Court has the authority to weigh those arguments and decide how abortion may be regulated in the States. They have failed to make that showing, and we thus return the power to weigh those arguments to the people and their elected representatives…. [Comment from Wolf Howling: Bingo. Stated another way, the Supreme Court is not an elected legislative body with the power to make public policy. The Court is only empowered to define the Constitutional boundaries within which the legislature may create public policy.]
We next consider whether the doctrine of stare decisis counsels continued acceptance of Roe and Casey. Stare decisis plays an important role in our case law, and we have explained that it serves many valuable ends. It protects the interests of those who have taken action in reliance on a past decision. See Casey, 505 U. S,, at 856 (plurality opinion); sec also Payne v. Tennessee, 501 U. S. 808, 828 (1991). It “reduces incentives for challenging settled precedents, saving parties and courts the expense of endless relitigation.” Kimble v. Marvel Entertainment, LLC, 576U. S. 446, 455 (2016). It fosters “evenhanded” decision making by requiring that like cases be decided in a like manner. Payne v. Tennessee, 501 U.S. 808, 827 (1991). It “contributes to the actual and perceived integrity of the judicial process.” Ibid. And it restrains judicial hubris and reminds us to respect the judgment of those who grappled with important questions in the past. “Precedent is a way of accumulating and passing down the learning of past generations, a font of established wisdom richer than what can be found in any single judge or panel of judges.” N. Gorsuch, A Republic If You Can Keep It 217 (2019).
We have long recognized, however, that stare decisis is “not an inexorable command,” Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 233 (2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted), and it “is at its weakest when we interpret the Constitution,” Agostini v. Felton, 521 U.S. 208, 235 (1997). It has been said that it is sometimes more important that an issue “be settled than that it be settled right.” Kimble, 576 U.S, at 455 (emphasis added) (quoting Burnet v. Coronado Oil & Gas Co, 285 U.S. 393, 406 (1982) (Brandeis, J., dissenting). But when it comes to the interpretation of the Constitution—the “great charter of our liberties,” which v. Hunter’s Lessee, 1 Wheat. 304, 326 (1816) (opinion of Story, J)—we place a high value on having the matter “settled right.”
In addition, when one of our constitutional decisions goes astray, the country is usually stuck with the bad decision unless we correct our own mistake. An erroneous constitutional decision can be fixed by amending the Constitution, but our Constitution is notoriously hard to amend. See U.S. Const., art. V; Kimble, 576 U. S. at 456. Therefore, in appropriate circumstances we must be willing to reconsider and if necessary, overrule constitutional decisions.
‘Some of our most important constitutional decisions have overruled prior precedents. We mention three. In Brown. v. Board of Education, the Court repudiated the “separate but equal” doctrine, which had allowed States to maintain racially segregated schools and other facilities. 347 U.S. 483, 488 (1954). In so doing, the Court overruled the infamous decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U. S. 537 (1896), along with six other Supreme Court precedents that had applied the separate-but-equal rule. See Brown, 347 U.S., at 491.
In West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish, 300 U. S. 879 (1937), the Court overruled Adkins v. Children’s Hospital of D. C., 261U. 8.525 (1923), which had held that a law setting minimum wages for women violated the “liberty” protected by the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. Id., at 545. West Coast Hotel signaled the demise of an entire line of important precedents that had protected an individual liberty right against state and federal health and welfare legislation. See Lochner v. New York, 198 U.S. 45 (1905) (holding invalid a law setting maximum working hours); Coppage v. Kansas, 236 U.S. 1 (1915) (holding invalid a law banning contracts forbidding employees to join union); Jay Burns Baking Co. v. Bryan, 264 U.S. 504 (1924) (holding invalid laws fixing the weight of loaves of bread)
Finally, in West Virginia Bd. of Ed. v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943), after the lapse of only three years, the Court overruled Minersuille School Dist. v. Gobilis, 310 U. S. 536 (1940), and held that public school students could not be compelled to salute the flag in violation of their sincerely beliefs. Barnette stands out because nothing had changed during the intervening period other than the Court’s belated recognition that its earlier decision had been seriously wrong. On many other occasions, this Court has overruled important constitutional decisions. (We include a partial list in the footnote that follows.)
[There were so many problems with the “PDF to text” process that I didn’t bother even to try to correct the errors in this paragraph.] See, eg, Obergefell v. Hodge, supra (igh to same-sex marriage) (overruling Bakerv.Nelson, 409 US. 810 (1972); iizens United v. Fed: eral Election Comm’n, 558 US. 310 (2010) (right to engage in campaign related speach) overruling Austin v. Michigan Chamber ofCommerce, 4940S. 652 1990), andpstilly overruling McConnel v. Federal Flee. tion Comm, 540 U.S. 98 (2003); Monte v. Louisiana, 556 U.S. 118 (2009)SisthAmendment righ to counsel) overruling Michigan v. Jack. son, 475 U.S. 625 (1966); Crawford v. Washington, 541 US. 36 2004)Sixth Amendment ight toconfrontwitnesses) (overruling Ohio. Roberts, 48 U. 5. 56 (1980); Lawrence v. Tezas, 539 US. 558 (2003) (right 0 ongage in consensual, same-sex intimacy one’s home) overulingBowersv. Hardwick, 478U. S. 186 (1986); Ring v. Arion, 536 U.S 5842002) (SiathAmendment right 0jury trial incapitalprosecutions) (overruling Walton . Arizona, 497 U.S. 639 1990);Agosto . Felton, 521 U.S. 20 (1997) (evaluating whether government aidvilates tho Es. tablishment Clause) overruling Aguilarv. Fllon, 473 U.S. 102 (1585), and School Dit of City of Grand Rapids v. Bal, 473 U. 5. 373 (1983); ‘Seminole TribeofFlo. v. Florida, 517 U.S. 442 (1996) Gack of congres. sional power under the Indian Commerce Clase to abrogate states Eloventh Amendmentimmunity)(overruling Pennsyloaniav.Union Gos Co./491 U.S. 1 (1959); Paynev. Tennesse, 501 US, 808 (1991) (he Eighth Amendment does no orct apor 50bartothe admissionof victim impact ovidonce during tho ponaly phase ofa capital tra) (overruling Boothv. Maryland, 483 U.S. 496 1957), and South Carolinav. Gathers, 490 U.S. 805 (1989):Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79(195) the Equal Protection Clause guaranioes the defendant that the State wil no exclude membersaf his rao from the jury veriro on sccountof ace) (ver ruling Suain v. Alabama, 380 U. 8. 202 (1965); Garcia v. San Antonio ciple that the Commerce Clause does not empower Congress to enforce requirements, such as minimum wage laws, against the States in areas of traditional governmental functions”) (overruling National League of Cities v. Usery, 426 U. S. 833 (1976) lino v. Gates, 462 US. 213 (1983) (the Fourth Amendment requires a totality ofthe circumstances approach for determining whether an informants ip establishes proba: blo cause) overrulingAguilar v. Texas, 78 U.S. 108 (1964) and Spinelli v. United States, 393 U.S. 410 (1969); United States v. Scot, 437 US. 82 (197) (the Double Jeopardy Clauss doss nt apply to Governmont appeals from orders granting defense motions o torminata a rial before verdict) overrulingUnitedStatesv. Jenkins, 120 U.S. 358 (1975); Craig. v. Boren, 429 Us. 190 (1976) (gondr-based classifications are subjot to intermediato scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause) (overruling Goesaert v. Cleary, 335 U.S. 464 (1948); Taylor v. Louisiana, 419 US. 522 (1975) Gury system which operates to exclude women from jury ser. vice violates the defendant’ Sisth and Fourteenth Amendment right to ‘an impartial jury) (overrulingHoyt v. Florida, 368 U.S. 57 (1961); Brandenburgv. Ohio, 395 US. 444 (1969) (per curiam) (the mero advocacy of violence is protected undor tho First Amendment unless it s directed to incite or produce imminent lawloss action) (overruling Whitneyv. Cali fornia, 274 U. S. 357 (1927);Katz v. United States,389 U.S, 347 (1967) (Fourth Amendment ‘protects people, not places” and extends to what s person “secks to prosere as private”) (overruling Olmstead v. United. States, 277 U.S. 438 (1928) and Goldman v. United States, 316 U.S. 129 (1942); Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966) (procedural safopuards to protect the Fiflh Amendment privilege againstself incrimination) (overruling Crooker v. California, 51 U. S. 433 (1958), and Cicenia v. La. Gay, 357 U. 5. 504 (1958); Malloyv.Hogan, 378 U.S. 1 (1964) (the Fifth Amendment priviego against solf-incrimination is also protected by the FourteenthAmendmentagainst abridgement by the States) (overruling Twining v. New dersey, 211 U. S.78 (1908) and Adamson v. California, 332 U. 8. 46 (1947); Wesberry v. Sanders, 376 USS. 1 (1964) (conressional districts should be apportioned so that “us neazly as practicable one man’s vote in a congressional elocion i to be worth as much as an. other’s) (overruling in effect Colegrove v. Green, 328 U. 8. 549 (1946); Gideonv. Wainuright, 372 US. 335 (1963) (ight tocounsel for indigent defendant in a criminal prosecution in state court under the Sixth aud. Fourtoenth Amendments) (overruling Betts v. Brady, 316 U. S. 465 (1942); Baker v. Carr, 369 US. 185 (1962) (dora courts have jurisdic tiontoconsiderconstitutional challengesto stateredistrictingplans) of fctively overruling in part Colegrove v. Green, 328 U. S. 549 (1946) Mapp v. Ohio, 357 U.S. 643 (1961) (the exclusionary rule regarding the ment applics to the States) (overruling Wolf v. Colorado, 398 U. 5. 25 (1949): Smith v. Alluright, 321 US. 640 (194) (eacal rosticions on the right to vote in primary elections violates the Equal Protaction Clauseof the Fourteenth Amendment) (ovorruling Grovey v. Tounsend, 295 U. S. 45 (1935); United Statesv. Darby, 312 U.S. 100 (1941) (con grossional power to rogulate employment conditions under the Com. morca Clause) (overruling Hammerv. Dageniart, 247 U.S. 251 (1918); ErieR. Co.. Tompkins, 304 US. 64 (1938) (Congross doos not have the power todeclare substantive ruleofcommon la:a federal courtsitting indiversityjurisdiction mustapply the substantive tatelaw)overruling Suiftv. Tyson, 1 U.S. (16 Pet)1 (1842)
The nature of the Court’s error.
An erroneous interpretation of the Constitution is always important, but some are ‘more damaging than others. ‘The infamous decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, supra, was one such decision. It betrayed our commitment to “equality under law.” [d., at 562 (Harlan, J. dissenting). It was “egregiously wrong” on the day it was decided, see Ramos, supra (KAVANAUGH, J, concurring in par) (lip op., at 7), and as the Solicitor General agreed at oral argument, it should have been overruled at the earliest opportunity, see Oral Arg. Tr, 92:20-93:17. .
Roe was also egregiously wrong and deeply damaging. For reasons already explained, Roe’s constitutional analysis was far outside the bounds of any reasonable interpretation of the various constitutional provisions to which it vaguely pointed. Roe was on a collision course with the Constitution from the day it was decided, and Casey perpetuated its errors, and the errors do not concern some arcane corner of the law of litle importance to the American people. Rather, wielding nothing but “raw judicial power,” Roe, 410 U. S., at 222 (White, J., dissenting), the Court usurped the power to address a question of profound moral and social importance that the Constitution unequivocally leaves for the people.
Casey described itself as calling both sides of the national controversy to resolve their debate, but in doing so, Casey necessarily declared a winning side. Those on the losing side—those who sought to advance the state’s interest in fetal life—could no longer seek to persuade their elected representatives to adopt policies consistent with. their views. The Court short-circuited the democratic process by closing it to the large number of Americans who dissented in any respect from Roe. “Roe fanned into Life an issue that has inflamed our national politics in general, and has obscured with its smoke the selection of Justices to this Court in particular, ever since.” Casey, 505 U.S, at 995-996 (Scalia, J, concurring in part and dissenting in part). Together, Roe and Casey represent an error that cannot be allowed to stand.
As the Court’s landmark decision in West Coast Hotel illustrates, the Court has previously overruled decisions that wrongly removed an issue from the people and the democratic process. As Justice White later explained, “decisions that find in the Constitution principles or values that cannot fairly be read into that document usurp the people’s authority, for such decisions represent choices that the people have never made and that they cannot disavow through corrective legislation. For this reason, it is essential that this Court maintain the power to restore authority to its proper ‘possessors by correcting constitutional decisions that, on reconsideration, are found to be mistaken.” Thornburgh, 476 U.S, at 787 (White, J., dissenting). [Comment from Wolf Howling: This does not go far enough. The Court should never declare Constitutional law on issues not stated with clarity in the Constitution or its amendments.]
In part II of this opinion, we explained why Roe was incorrectly decided, but that decision was more than just wrong. It stood on exceptionally weak grounds.
Roe found that the Constitution implicitly conferred a right to obtain an abortion, but it failed to ground its decision in text, history, or precedent. It relied on an erroneous historical narrative; it devoted great attention to and presumably relied on matters that have no bearing on the ‘meaning of the Constitution; it disregarded the fundamental difference between the precedents on which it relied and the question before the Court; it concocted an elaborate set of rules, with different restrictions for each trimester of pregnancy, but it did not explain how this veritable code could be teased out of anything in the Constitution, the history of abortion laws, prior precedent, or any other cited source; and its most important rule (that States cannot protect fetal life prior to “viability”) was never raised by any party and has never been plausibly explained.
Roe’s reasoning quickly drew scathing scholarly criticism, even from supporters of broad access to abortion. The Casey plurality, while reaffirming Roe’s central holding, pointedly refrained from endorsing most of its reasoning. It revised the textual basis for the abortion right, silently abandoned Roe’s erroneous historical narrative, and jettisoned the trimester framework. But it replaced that scheme with an arbitrary “undue burden” test and relied on an exceptional version of stare decisis that, as explained below, this Court had never before applied and has never invoked since.
Roe’s failure even to note the overwhelming consensus of state laws in effect in 1868 is striking, and what it said about the common law was simply wrong. Relying on two discredited articles by an abortion advocate, the Court erroneously suggested—contrary to Bracton, Coke, Hale, Blackstone, and a wealth of other authority—that the common law had probably never really treated post-quickening abortion as a crime. See id, at 136 [I]t now appear[s] doubtful that abortion was ever firmly established as a common-law crime even with respect to the destruction of a quick fetus”). This erroneous understanding appears to have played an important part in the Court’s thinking because the opinion cited “the lenity of the common Law” as one of the four factors that informed its decision. /d., at 165.–
Finally, after all this, the Court turned to precedent. Citing a broad array of cases, the Court found constitutional “right of personal privacy,” id., at 152, but it conflated two very different meanings of the term: the right to shield information from disclosure and the right to make and implement important personal decisions without governmental interference. See Whalen v. Roe, 429 U.S. 589, 599-600 (1977).
Only the cases involving this second sense of the term could have any possible relevance to the abortion issue, and some of the cases in that category involved personal decisions that were obviously very, very far afield. See Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510 (1925) (right to send children to religious school); Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390 (1937) (right to have children receive German language instruction).
‘What remained was a handful of cases having something to do with marriage, Loving v. Virginia, 388 U. S. 1 (1967) (right to marry a person of a different race), or procreation, Skinner v. Oklahoma, 316 U. S. 535 (1942) (right not to be sterilized); Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U. S. 479 (1965) (right of married persons to obtain contraceptives); Kisenstadt v. Baird, 405 USS. 438 (1972) (same, for unmarried persons). But none of these decisions involved what is distinctive about abortion: its effect on what Roe termed “potential life.”
When the Court summarized the basis for the scheme it imposed on the country, it asserted that its rules were “consistent with” the following: (1) “the relative weights of the respective interests involved,” (2) “the lessons and examples of medical and legal history,” (3) the lenity of the common law,” and (4) “the demands of the profound problems of the present day.” Id, at 165.
Put aside the second and third factors, which were based on the Court’s flawed account of history, and what remains are precisely the sort of considerations that legislative bodies often take into account when they draw lines that accommodate competing interests. The scheme Roe produced looked like legislation, . . .
All in all, Roe’s reasoning was exceedingly weak, and academic commentators, including those who agreed with the decision as a matter of policy, were unsparing in their criticism. John Hart Ely famously wrote that Roe was “not constitutional law and gave almost no sense of an obligation to try to be.” Ely 947. Archibald Cox, who served as Solicitor General under President Kennedy, commented that Roe “read[s] like a set of hospital rules and regulations” that “[njeither historian, layman, nor lawyer will be persuaded …. are part of… the Constitution.” Archibald Cox, The Role of the Supreme Court in American Government 113-114 (1976). Laurence Tribe wrote that “even if there is a need to divide pregnancy into several segments with Lines that clearly identify the limits of governmental power, ‘interest-balancing of the form the Court pursues fails to Justify any of the lines actually drawn.” Tribe 5. Mark Tushnet termed Roe a “totally unreasoned judicial opinion.” M. Tushnet, Red, White, and Blue: A Critical Analysis of Constitutional Law 54 (1988). See also P. Bobbitt, Constitutional Fate 157 (1982); A. Amar, Foreword: The Document and the Doctrine, 114 Harv. L. Rev. 26, 110 (2000). . . .
. . . Justice White complained that the Court was engaging in “unrestrained imposition of its own extraconstitutional value preferences.” Thornburgh, 476 U. S., at 794 (White, J, dissenting). And the United States as amicus curiae asked the Court to overrule Roe five times in the decade before Planned Parenthood v. Casey, see 505 U. S., at 844 (plurality opinion), and then asked the Court to overrule it once more in Casey itself. [Comment from Wolf Howling: The larger danger to the left is that the reasoning of this decision is a stake in the heart of all prior and future acts of judicial activism—the very thing the progressive left has relied upon for a century to advance its ideological cause.]
Problems begin with the very concept of an “undue burden.” As Justice Scalia noted in his Casey dissent, determining whether a burden is “due” or “undue” is “inherently standardless.” 505 U. S., at 992 (Scalia, J. dissenting); see also June Medical Services, LLC, 591 U.S. at _ (GORSUCH, J. dissenting) (slip op., at 17) (‘Whether a burden is deemed undue depends heavily on which factors the judge considers and how much weight he accords them.” internal quotation marks and alterations omitted). . . .
‘The experience of the Courts of Appeals provides further evidence that Casey’s “line between” permissible and unconstitutional restrictions “has proved to be impossible to draw with precision.” Janus, 585 U.S., at _ (slip op., at 38),…. [Comment from Wolf Howling: Subjective, not objective, test.]
Casey’s “undue burden” test has proven to be unworkable. “[Plucked from nowhere,” 505 U.S., at 965 (Rehnquist, C.J., dissenting in part), it “seems calculated to perpetuate give-it-a-try litigation” before judges assigned an unwieldy and inappropriate task. Lehnert v. Ferris Faculty Assn., 500U. S.507, 551 (1991) (Scalia, J., concurring in the judgment in part and dissenting in part). Continued adherence to that standard would undermine, not advance, the “evenhanded, predictable, and consistent development of legal principles.” Payne, 501 U. S., at 821.
The Courts abortion cases have diluted the strict standard for facial constitutional challenges. They have ignored the Court’s third-party standing doctrine. They have disregarded standard res judicata principles$! They have flouted the ordinary rules on the severability of unconstitutional provisions,* as well as the rule that statutes should be read where possible to avoid unconstitutionality And they have distorted First Amendment doctrines. When vindicating a doctrinal innovation requires courts to engineer exceptions to longstanding background rules, the doctrine “has failed to deliver the ‘principled and intelligible’ development of the Law that stare decisis purports to secure.” June Medical, 591 U.S. at __ (THOMAS, J., dissenting) (slip op., at 19) (quoting Vasquez v. Hillery, 474 U.S. 254, 265 (1986).
We last consider whether overruling Roe and Casey will upend substantial reliance interests. , , ,
. . . In Casey, the controlling opinion conceded that those traditional reliance interests were not implicated because getting an abortion is generally “unplanned activity,” and “reproductive planning could take virtually immediate account of any sudden restoration of state authority to ban abortions.” 505 U.S. at 856. For these reasons, we agree with the Casey plurality that conventional, concrete reliance interests are not present here.
Our decision returns the issue of abortion to those legislative bodies, and it allows women on both sides of the abortion issue to seek to affect the legislative process by influencing public opinion, lobbying legislators, voting, and running for office. Women are not without electoral or political power.
It is noteworthy that the percentage of women who register to vote and cast ballots is consistently higher than the percentage of men who do s0.% In the last election in November 2020, women, who make up around 51.5% of the population of Mississippi, constituted 55.5% of the voters who cast ballots.*”
Unable to show concrete reliance on Roe and Casey themselves, the Solicitor General suggests that overruling those decisions would “threaten the Court’s precedents holding. that the Due Process Clause protects other rights.” Brief for United States as Amicus Curiae 26 (citing Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U. 8. 644 (2015); Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U. S. 558 (2008); Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U. S. 479 (1965)). That is not correct for reasons we have already discussed. [Comment from Wolf Howling: No! It is correct if you adopt the logic of Alito’s originalist arguments.]
As even the Casey plurality recognized, “[aJbortion is a unique act” because it terminates “life or potential life.” 505 U.S, at 852; see also Roe, 410 U. 8., at 159 (abortion is “inherently different from marital intimacy,” “marriage,” or “procreation”). And to ensure that our decision is not misunderstood or mischaracterized, we emphasize that our decision concerns the constitutional right to abortion and no other right. Nothing in this opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion. mv Having shown that traditional stare decisis factors do not. weigh in favor of retaining Roe or Casey, we must address one final argument that featured prominently in the Casey plurality opinion. The argument was cast in different terms, but stated simply, it was essentially as follows. The American people’s belief in the rule of Law would be shaken if they lost respect. for this Court as an institution that decides important cases based on principle, not “social and political pressures.” Casey, 505 U. S., at 865. [Comment from Wolf Howling: The irony is dripping]
There is a special danger that the public will perceive a decision as having been made for unprincipled reasons when the Court overrules a controversial “watershed” decision, such as Roe. Id., at 866-867. A decision overruling Roe would be perceived as having been ‘made “under fire” and as a “surrender to political pressure,” id, at 867, and therefore the preservation of public approval of the Court weighs heavily in favor of retaining Roe, see id., at 869.
This analysis starts out on the right foot but ultimately veers off course. The Casey plurality was certainly right that it is important for the public to perceive that our decisions are based on principle, and we should make every effort to achieve that objective by issuing opinions that carefully show how a proper understanding of the law leads to the results we reach. But we cannot exceed the scope of our authority under the Constitution, and we cannot allow our decisions to be affected by any extraneous influences such as concern about the public’s reaction to our work. Cf. Texas v. Johnson, 491 U. 8. 397 (1989); Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954). That is true both when we initially decide a constitutional issue and when we consider whether to overrule a prior decision.
As Chief Justice Rehnquist explained, “The Judicial Branch derives its legitimacy, not from following public opinion, but from deciding by its best lights whether legislative enactments of the popular branches of Government comport with the Constitution. The doctrine of stare decisis is an adjunct of this duty and should be no more subject to the vagaries of public opinion than is the basic judicial task” Casey, 505 U. S., at963 (Rehnquist, C. J.)
In suggesting otherwise, the Casey plurality went beyond this Court’s role in our constitutional system. “The Casey plurality “called the contending sides of a national controversy to end their national division,” and claimed the authority to impose a permanent settlement of the issue of a constitutional abortion right simply by saying that the matter was closed. Id, at 867. That unprecedented claim exceeded the power vested in us by the Constitution. As Hamilton famously put it, the Constitution gives the judiciary “neither Force nor Will” The Federalist No. 78, p. 523 (J. Cooke ed. 1961). Our sole authority is to exercise ‘judgment’—which is to say, the authority to judge what the law means and how it should apply to the case at hand. Ibid.
The Court has no authority to decree that an erroneous precedent is permanently exempt from evaluation under traditional stare decisis principles. A precedent of this Court is subject to the usual principles of stare decisis under which adherence to precedent is the norm but not an inexorable command. If the rule were otherwise, erroneous decisions like Plessy and Lochner would still be the law. That is not how stare decisis operates.
‘The Casey plurality also misjudged the practical limits of this Court’s influence Roe certainly did not succeed in ending division on the issue of abortion. On the contrary, Roe “inflamed” a national issue that has remained bitterly divisive for the past half-century. See Casey, 505 U.S, at 995 (Scalia, J., dissenting); see also R. B. Ginsburg, Speaking in a Judicial Voice, 67 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 1185, 1208 (1992) (Roe may have “halted a political process,” “prolonged divisiveness,” and “deferred stable settlement of the issue.’). And for the past 30 years, Casey has done the same. Neither decision has ended debate over the issue of a constitutional right to obtain an abortion. Indeed, in this case, 26 States expressly ask us to overrule Roe and Casey and to return the issue of abortion to the people and their elected representatives. This Court’s inability to end debate on the issue should not have been surprising. This Court cannot bring about the permanent resolution of a rancorous national controversy simply by dictating a settlement and telling the people to move on. Whatever influence the Court may have on public attitudes must stem from the strength of our opinions, not an attempt to exercise “raw judicial power.” Roe, 410 U.S, at 222 (White, J., dissenting).
We do not pretend to know how our political system or society will respond to today’s decision overruling Roe and Casey. And even if we could foresee what will happen, we would have no authority to let that knowledge influence our decision. We can only do our job, which is to interpret the law, apply longstanding principles of stare decisis, and decide this case accordingly. We therefore hold that the Constitution does not confer a right to abortion. Roe and Casey must be overruled, and the authority to regulate abortion must be returned to the people and their elected representatives.