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A 6-to-3 ruling struck down 50 years of precedent on abortion rights, effectively tossing access to reproductive health to individual states. Without a national standard, the right to an abortion now largely hinges on where one calls home, whether one can travel somewhere that has protections of those rights, and what seesawing state legislators decide is acceptable between elections. As The New York Times editorial board writes: “Constitutional rights are meaningless unless they apply across the entire country.”
As Washington and state capitals wrangle with the new realities, it’s worth listening to some sage voices who have spent time considering Roe’s impact and, especially in the weeks since the leak of a draft of the Dobbs v. Jackson ruling, what a post-Roe world will look like. (The Senate plans a July 12 hearing for that very question.) Although there is very little unanimity about the wisdom of the ruling, there is agreement on this: Friday’s ruling fundamentally changes America and sets up huge and sprawling consequences, not just for abortion rights but also potentially on contraception, marriage, and privacy.
Here are some insights on this historic day from a variety of women, including the writers featured on TIME’s latest cover:
“The fall of Roe exposes a crack in the foundation of mainstream liberal feminism that has dominated the past decade. This version of feminism—is it the fourth wave?—has been preoccupied with individual achievements, feel-good symbolism, and cultural representation. It has, in turn, paid too little attention to the thorny mechanics of federal courts and state legislative races. Many fourth wavers presumed that reproductive rights were basically secure, and that therefore the remaining obstacles for women were not legal or political but cultural and emotional.”
— Charlotte Alter, TIME correspondent
“In all the fury and emotion of this moment, historians are rightly cautioning against any suggestion that the U.S. may be on the precipice of another Civil War. But it is worth noting that a decision that rolls back a major civil right will have the nearly immediate effect of re-creating a starkly bifurcated map of America: about half of the states will ban abortion entirely or severely restrict it, while the other half will likely either strengthen access or preserve the status quo. What’s clear now is that the period that we are entering will look not like 1972. Rather, it will be a futuristic steampunk version of the American past, as warring factions battle over new technologies and clash against new state laws that aim to dictate whose lives have value within their borders.”
— Abigail Abrams, TIME staff writer
“The hypocrisy and intellectual dishonesty of the court’s right-wing justices lead to the conclusion that they have simply appointed themselves super-legislators free to impose a view of the United States as a White, Christian and male-dominated society despite the values, beliefs and choices of a majority of 330 million modern Americans.
“To understand how radical the court’s decision is, one need only consider Justice Clarence Thomas’s concurrence, where he says the quiet part out loud: He’d sweep away 14th Amendment substantive due process—birth control, gay marriage, all of it. And that is where we are heading, for in a sense Thomas is right. There is no bright line between destroying the expansive view of liberty in the 14th Amendment, when abortion is at issue, and destroying it for all other intimate decisions. The right-wing majority’s willingness to countenance an all-powerful state that interferes with every aspect of our lives is breathtaking.”
— Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post columnist
“As a pro-life advocate, I lament with those who feel they have lost a basic human right, as well as moral agency and hope for the future. But for me it is Roe that brought these losses.
“Roe stripped from the prenatal child the right to continue to live and grow, safe and free from intentional harm. If you believe, as I do, that abortion unjustly ends the life of a being that is fully human, a life that exists independently of the will of the mother, is self-organizing and unique, developing yet complete in itself, then you will understand Roe not as a ruling that liberates but as one that dehumanizes, first the fetus, then the rest of us.”
— Karen Swallow Prior, writing for The New York Times
“The mainstream pro-choice movement has largely ignored the growing criminalization of pregnancy, just as it has generally ignored the inadequacy of Roe. (It took Joe Biden, who campaigned on making Roe the ‘law of the land,’ more than a year to say the word “abortion” on the record after he became President; the Democrats, given the chance to override the filibuster and codify Roe in May, predictably failed to do so.) Many of those who support the right to abortion have tacitly accepted that poor and minority women in conservative states lost access to abortion long before this Supreme Court decision, and have quietly hoped that the thousands of women facing arrest after pregnancy, miscarriage, stillbirth, or even healthy deliveries were unfortunate outliers.”
— Jia Tolentino, New Yorker staff writer
“The coming devastation will not be limited to those seeking abortion. Overruling Roe will also harm those experiencing pregnancy complications and pregnancy loss. We are about to learn in real time that abortion is reproductive health care because without it, pregnant patients across the spectrum will suffer.”
— Greer Donley and Jill Weiber Lens, writing for TIME
“‘Demonstrably erroneous.’ There is very little that is vague about those words. With the death of abortion rights in America, Thomas has now come out and said, in no-uncertain terms, that cases that enshrined Americans’ rights to marry whomever they want and to make personal decisions about their intimacy and child-bearing are flat-out wrong. For now, that is just Thomas’ opinion—none of what he’s written is legally enforceable. But the fact that he’s stating this explicitly affirms the fears of advocates that for many conservatives the demise of Roe was never meant to be the end—but rather a bleak beginning.”
— Hannah Levintova, Mother Jones
“In the coming years, the court will face a series of momentous opportunities to perform its constitutional responsibilities. It will be called on to continue re-examining Congress’s authority to dictate state policy by attaching strings to funding measures. And in a series of cases over the past 30 years, the justices have issued rulings restoring some of the proper balance between the federal government and the states by reaffirming that there are limits on Congress’s authority to regulate interstate and foreign commerce. Those limits may now be tested depending on whether Congress decides to refederalize abortion by legislation either requiring or limiting its availability.”
— David B. Rivkin Jr. and Jennifer L. Mascott, writing for The Wall Street Journal
“After a career in the U.S. Senate of 25 years, full of big bills passed, coalitions forged and bridges physical and metaphorical built across rivers and party lines, Collins confronts a moment of truth: Was she duped into securing a sturdy majority on the court for an increasingly radical Republican Party? Or did she manage, as she has always tried to do, to find a compromise that serves her ideals, her self-interest and her institution alike?”
— Molly Roberts, Washington Post editorial writer
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