Statement on US Supreme Court Decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization
Overturning Roe v. Wade
The Alameda County Bar Association (ACBA) is deeply concerned about the impact of the US Supreme Court’s recent decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (2022) 597 U.S. ____. This decision declares that there is no constitutional right to abortion, and therefore holds that states have the right to ban abortion altogether. These bans could hold fast in cases of all kinds (e.g., incest, rape, to save the life of the pregnant individual.) Several states already have laws in place that ban all abortions, and others are poised to implement stringent limitations; still others are preparing to codify the right to abortion. Experts anticipate that the ruling in Dobbs will disproportionately impact individuals based on their race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.
The ACBA recognizes that abortion is a complex emotional issue, and that there are many opinions and beliefs about it – including many different views among members of our association. This decision, however, allows states to eliminate personal choice and religious belief, leaving each state to treat this core issue as that state sees fit.
The Court’s decision reaches this “states decide” outcome by rejecting 50 years of precedent which held that abortion was a federal issue. By summarily dismissing half a century of precedent, the Court acknowledges, but easily sets aside, the core principle of stare decisis in constitutional cases. This concept has been the backbone of American jurisprudence.
Despite the long string citation in the opinion, never before has the Supreme Court struck down established precedent to narrow, as opposed to broaden, what many hold as fundamental rights. The decision therefore may have broader implications. The rights to contraception, interracial marriage, racial equality, same-sex marriage, and even privacy have all been established via Supreme Court decisions, as fundamental rights that are not explicitly provided for in the Constitution. Under the reasoning in Dobbs, these rulings, and thus the rights they confer, could also become vulnerable to the same treatment. Accordingly, we as an organization are ever watchful.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said “the arc of history bends slowly, but it bends towards justice.” In line with his thoughts, we encourage our members and others to study the opinion and to discuss it with each other. Discuss not only its statements and sentiments, but also its every-day impacts and its broader implications. To facilitate some of these conversations, we will host several programs with speakers from varied perspectives. If you have ideas for these programs, please contact us. We also have a webpage with resources for those interested in volunteering or engaging further on this issue, view it here.