Updated: November 25, 2022
Today, the conservative majority of the United States Supreme Court overturned the 1972 landmark legislation Roe v. Wade, ending 50 years of constitutional right to abortion and allowing states to ban abortion immediately.
The Supreme Court ruling came in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
The ruling is expected to lead to abortion bans in about half of the states, but not in Hawai’i. The Aloha State was the first in the nation to legalize abortion in 1970, two years before Roe v. Wade.
Hawaiʻi State law enacted at that time stated: “the State shall not deny or interfere with a female’s right to choose or obtain an abortion of a nonviable fetus or an abortion that is necessary to protect the life or health of the female.”
There is not a majority effort in Hawaiʻi to change the law; and some lawmakers want to strengthen the law.
Hawaiʻi’s congressional delegation was quick to condemn today’s Supreme Court ruling.
- US Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI): “Today is a horrific day in America. The Supreme Court was confronted with a fundamental question: who should have control over a woman’s body, a woman or a bunch of politicians. Today, the Supreme Court decided it should be a bunch of politicians. Their decision to overturn Roe will go down as one of the worst decisions in the history of the Court.”
- US Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI): “The Republican-controlled Supreme Court has ripped away abortion rights from millions of American women.”
- US Rep. Ed Case (D-HI): “The [ruling] is tragic on so many fronts. It rejects the basic rights of women, condemns millions of women and their families back to a dark pre-Roe world, dismisses a careful balancing of interests that has stood for two generations, undermines our institutions of government and embarrasses us in the eyes of the world.
- US Rep. Kai Kahele (D-HI): “Today, the Supreme Court failed us. The Court’s [ruling] is an assault on Americans’ means to safely choose their own future, and will further marginalize the most disadvantaged in our communities. I grieve with the women and families in our lives who will mark today as the day they were left behind by their country.”
Dennis Jung, Chair of the Democratic Party of Hawai‘i, said the organization will work with state legislators to expand access to reproductive healthcare throughout the state.
“Hawai‘i voters must come together to defend our laws which guarantee a woman’s right to choose,” Jung said, adding that the Supreme Court decision “will open the door to a national abortion ban.”
The ruling came about a month after the leak of a draft opinion by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito that indicated the court was preparing to overturn the landmark legislation.
In the final 213-page opinion issued today, Justice Alito wrote that Roe v. Wade, and the 1992 decision Planned Parenthood v. Casey that reaffirmed the right to abortion, were wrong on the day they were decided and must be overturned.
Today’s ruling was a 6-3 vote to uphold a 2018 Mississippi law, passed by a Republican-controlled legislature that banned abortions after 15 weeks. The law, which made exceptions for medical emergencies or cases of severe fetal abnormality but not for rape or incest, was immediately challenged and put on hold by lower courts.
Joining Alito were Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett and Chief Justice John Roberts.
Todayʻs ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade was 5-4, with Chief Justice Roberts not joining his conservative colleagues. He wrote it was not necessary to overturn the broad precedents to rule in Mississippi’s favor.
Liberal justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented on both, writing: “With sorrow — for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection — we dissent.”
They also warned that abortion opponents now could pursue a nationwide ban “from the moment of conception and without exceptions for rape or incest.”
President Biden said at the White House that it was a “sad day for the court and for the country.”
He urged voters to make it a defining issue in the November elections, declaring, “This decision must not be the final word.”
According to most national opinion polls, the majority of Americans favor preserving abortion rights.
But overturning Roe v. Wade, which was unthinkable just a few years ago, became reality by the culmination of decades of efforts by abortion opponents, and an emboldened right side of the court created by three appointees by former President Donald Trump.
Between Jan. 1, 2011 and July 1, 2019, states enacted 483 new abortion restrictions, accounting for nearly 40% of all abortion restrictions enacted by states in the decades since Roe v. Wade, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Some of the most common state-level abortion restrictions are parental notification or consent requirements for minors, limitations on public funding, mandated counseling designed to dissuade individuals from obtaining an abortion, mandated waiting periods before an abortion, and burdensome regulations on abortion facilities.
In 2017, there were approximately 862,320 abortions performed in the United States, according to a study by the Guttmacher Institute.
In 2017, the same study found there were 3,200 abortions provided in Hawaiʻi, though not all those abortions were provided to state residents. Some patients may have traveled from other states, and some Hawaiʻi residents may have traveled to another state for an abortion.
Todayʻs ruling does not change Hawaiʻi law, but it does mean it could.
Sen. Hirono said when she was in college abortion was not legal — one of the issues that led to her becoming an activist. She said because of today’s ruling: “Women are going to suffer and die. … Republicans are going to have to answer for this in November.”
“We must fight back,” Sen. Schatz said. “A woman’s fundamental right to make decisions about her own body are hers alone – not the government’s.”
Rep. Ed Case added: “Our Hawai‘i had it right with our first-in-the-nation law in 1970, and must now stand strong with other like-minded states against the further assault on women’s and other rights already underway until we can reverse this retreat to an intolerant past in our legislatures and courts.”
Rep. Kahele, who has three daughters, said, “For my daughters and for all Americans, we must persist and fight for women’s right to choose, as generations before us have.”
Clinics in at least two states, Wisconsin and West Virginia, stopped performing abortions immediately after Friday’s decision, the Associated Press reported.
The consequences of the decision will fall largely on people who already face the greatest barriers to health care, including Black, Latino and Indigenous communities, people with low incomes, LGBTQ+ people, immigrants and people living in rural areas, said Jennifer M. Allen, CEO of Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates.
“Make no mistake – this decision goes beyond abortion,” Allen said. “This is about who has power over you, who has the authority to make decisions for you, and who can control your future.”
With abortion remaining safe and legal in Hawai‘i, Planned Parenthood health centers in Hawai‘i will welcome patients from across the country whose home-state lawmakers have made it impossible to access critical health care services, the organization said.
Anyone who needs care should go to abortionfinder.org or call 1-800-230-7526.