A view of the US Supreme Court building A view of the US Supreme Court building 

Roe v. Wade: Supreme Court ruling a ‘vote of confidence in American people’

As the US Supreme Court overturns the so-called right to abortion, Elizabeth Kirk says the decision represents a vote of confidence in the American people to decide the issue democratically.

By Devin Watkins

The United States Supreme Court ruled 5-4 on Friday in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case in favor of overturning the 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade, which had asserted a supposed constitutional "right" to abortion. 

Following the ruling, Elizabeth Kirk, J.D., a researcher and lecturer at Columbus School of Law at the Catholic University of America and Director of the Center for Law and the Human Person, explained the decision to Vatican News.

“The case is both monumental and also very simple. It simply holds that the US Constitution does not confer a right to abortion, and it doesn’t in any way shape what abortion policy should be hereafter. Rather, it returns the authority to regulate abortion to the people and their elected representatives.”

Wrong decision, no real legal precedent

Dr Kirk says the rest of the Dobbs v. Jackson decision is an explanation of why Roe v. Wade was wrong in finding a constitutional right to abortion.

The Justices’ Opinions also offer an analysis of why the legal precedent resulting from the 1973 ruling should not hold weight, including the 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey which upheld Roe.

“In this decision, the Court says [Roe] was wrongly decided and so the factors of stare decisis (“let the thing stand”: the Latin term for legal precedent) do not justify adhering to a wrongly-decided decision,” she said.

As part of the Supreme Court’s deliberations on the case, Ms. Kirk co-signed an amicus curiae, or “friend of the court,” brief to deny the claims of Casey that availability of abortion promotes women’s economic possibilities and participation in society.

File photo of Elizabeth Kirk, J.D.
File photo of Elizabeth Kirk, J.D.

Returning authority to voters to overcome division

According to Dr Kirk, Friday’s ruling hands voters the power to decide for themselves whether or not abortion should be legal.

“What this decision does is show enormous confidence in the American people to resolve this question that does divide people through the democratic process.”

Before this ruling, the United States was an outlier in the world regarding the “radical nature of our abortion rights,” as well as the way in which voters had no say in policy-making on the issue.

Previously, said Dr Kirk, the “Supreme Court took it out of the hands of the people, and throughout the world this is an issue that people resolve through their own legislative processes.”

Now, she added, elected representatives at the state and national levels will have the chance to “work through these questions in a way that will hopefully bring us to better consensus.”

Listen to the full interview
25 June 2022, 10:45