DOJ statement: Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, June 24, 2022
Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Statement on Supreme Court Ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization
Attorney General Merrick B. Garland today released the following statement following the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs, State Health Officer of the Mississippi Department of Health, et al. v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization et al.:
“Today, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey and held that the right to abortion is no longer protected by the Constitution.
“The Supreme Court has eliminated an established right that has been an essential component of women’s liberty for half a century – a right that has safeguarded women’s ability to participate fully and equally in society. And in renouncing this fundamental right, which it had repeatedly recognized and reaffirmed, the Court has upended the doctrine of stare decisis, a key pillar of the rule of law.
“The Justice Department strongly disagrees with the Court’s decision. This decision deals a devastating blow to reproductive freedom in the United States. It will have an immediate and irreversible impact on the lives of people across the country. And it will be greatly disproportionate in its effect – with the greatest burdens felt by people of color and those of limited financial means.
“But today’s decision does not eliminate the ability of states to keep abortion legal within their borders. And the Constitution continues to restrict states’ authority to ban reproductive services provided outside their borders.
“We recognize that traveling to obtain reproductive care may not be feasible in many circumstances. But under bedrock constitutional principles, women who reside in states that have banned access to comprehensive reproductive care must remain free to seek that care in states where it is legal. Moreover, under fundamental First Amendment principles, individuals must remain free to inform and counsel each other about the reproductive care that is available in other states.
“Advocates with different views on this issue have the right to, and will, voice their opinions. Peacefully expressing a view is protected by the First Amendment. But we must be clear that violence and threats of violence are not. The Justice Department will not tolerate such acts.
“The Justice Department will work tirelessly to protect and advance reproductive freedom.
“Under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, the Department will continue to protect healthcare providers and individuals seeking reproductive health services in states where those services remain legal. This law prohibits anyone from obstructing access to reproductive health services through violence, threats of violence, or property damage.
“The Department strongly supports efforts by Congress to codify Americans’ reproductive rights, which it retains the authority to do. We also support other legislative efforts to ensure access to comprehensive reproductive services.
“And we stand ready to work with other arms of the federal government that seek to use their lawful authorities to protect and preserve access to reproductive care. In particular, the FDA has approved the use of the medication Mifepristone. States may not ban Mifepristone based on disagreement with the FDA’s expert judgment about its safety and efficacy.
“Furthermore, federal agencies may continue to provide reproductive health services to the extent authorized by federal law. And federal employees who carry out their duties by providing such services must be allowed to do so free from the threat of liability. It is the Department’s longstanding position that States generally may not impose criminal or civil liability on federal employees who perform their duties in a manner authorized by federal law. Additionally, the Department’s Office of Legal Counsel has determined that federal employees engaging in such conduct would not violate the Assimilative Crimes Act and could not be prosecuted by the federal government under that law. The Justice Department is prepared to assist agencies in resolving any questions about the scope of their authority to provide reproductive care.
“The ability to decide one’s own future is a fundamental American value, and few decisions are more significant and personal than the choice of whether and when to have children.
“Few rights are more central to individual freedom than the right to control one’s own body.
“The Justice Department will use every tool at our disposal to protect reproductive freedom. And we will not waver from this Department’s founding responsibility to protect the civil rights of all Americans.”
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For Americans like myself, who are old enough to remember when abortion was illegal, having to fight this battle again is both dismaying and unnecessary. Every poll insists that at least 60% of Americans believe abortion should be legal. 30% of anti-abortionists believe it should be legal in some instances, like rape or incest. And yet the Supreme Court has overturned it!
The majority's argument was based on the ludicrous proposition that since abortion was not mentioned in the Constitution in 1868, the 14th Amendment ("equal protection under the laws") does not apply. This is a ridiculous and dangerous argument. The Constitution does not mention abortion. It also does not mention women – does that mean that women should not exist? It does not mention slavery by name, yet slavery both existed and was protected by the original Constitution, which called slaves “other persons” and forbade ending the slave trade before 1808.
The so-called “originalist” position, held by this conservative majority, makes no sense to me. The brilliance of the Founding Fathers was to acknowledge that they did not know what the future would bring. They put the power to amend in the Constitution, only limiting it to not creating a new monarchy. Article IX of the Bill of Rights, without which the Constitution would not have been ratified, states “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” This seems pretty clear to me.
The Court which ruled against abortion is profoundly undemocratic. All the justices who want to reverse Roe v. Wade were appointed by presidents who did not win the popular vote (Bush and Trump). A number of them lied during their confirmation hearings about this issue. Finally, such a ruling would overturn the legal doctrine of “stare decisus,” which holds that long-established law should not be overturned. Anti-abortionists cited Brown v. Board of Education, which overturned segregation, as their precedent.
But overturning legal abortions will bring about terrible conditions. We know that outlawing abortion does not end the practice, it just ends safe abortions. When abortions were illegal, hospitals had what were called “septic abortion wards.” In the 1940s, 1000 women died each year from infections received from abortions.
One-third of those opposed to most abortions agree that they should be allowed in cases of rape or incest. But the states which hope to make abortions illegal do not make such exceptions. What about the eleven-year-old raped by her father? Such cases are exceptional, but they do occur.
Most abortions in the United States are now caused by medication which can be ordered online. Are states willing to interfere with people’s right to buy such products? They object to the “right to privacy” which underlay Roe v. Wade. How far are they willing to go to undermine all privacy?
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