Roberts: The Court Didn't Need to Do This

Chief justice says decision to overturn Roe was 'dramatic' and unnecessary
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 24, 2022 1:26 PM CDT
Roberts: The Court Didn't Need to Do This
Chief Justice John Roberts.   (Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP, Pool, File)

In the Mississippi abortion case that led to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court voted 6-3 to side with the state. But the bigger-picture decision to overturn the 1973 law received the support of only five justices, notes the Wall Street Journal. That's because while Chief Justice John Roberts agreed with his conservative colleagues on the particulars of the Mississippi case, he complained in a separate opinion that they went too far in ditching Roe.

  • Narrower: "The Court's decision to overrule Roe and Casey is a serious jolt to the legal system—regardless of how you view those cases," Roberts wrote, per Insider. (Casey refers to a 1992 case that affirmed the Roe decision.) "A narrower decision rejecting the misguided viability line would be markedly less unsettling, and nothing more is needed to decide this case."
  • Too 'dramatic': "The Court's opinion is thoughtful and thorough, but those virtues cannot compensate for the fact that its dramatic and consequential ruling is unnecessary to decide the case before us," wrote Roberts, per the Washington Post. While he agrees that the court made a mistake in its 1973 ruling, he said today's justices did not need to gut the decision "all the way down to the studs," per Insider.
  • Elaborating: Roberts made clear he would have voted to uphold Mississippi's ban on abortion after 15 weeks, but he would have stopped there. "My point is that Roe adopted two distinct rules of constitutional law: one, that a woman has the right to choose to terminate a pregnancy; two, that such right may be overridden by the State's legitimate interests when the fetus is viable outside the womb," he wrote, per the Washington Times. "The latter is obviously distinct from the former. I would abandon that timing rule, but see no need in this case to consider the basic right."
(More John Roberts stories.)

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