© Reuters. Demonstrators gather in front of Planned Parenthood after the United States Supreme Court ruled in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization Abortion case, overturning the landmark Roe v Wade abortion decision, in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S. June 24,
By Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that recognized women’s constitutional right to abortion, a decision condemned by President Joe Biden that will dramatically change life for millions of women in America and exacerbate growing tensions in a deeply polarized country.
The court, in a 6-3 ruling powered by its conservative majority, upheld a Republican-backed Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The vote was 5-4 to overturn Roe, with conservative Chief Justice John Roberts writing separately to say he would have upheld the Mississippi law without taking the additional step of erasing the Roe precedent altogether.
The reverberations of the ruling will be felt far beyond the court’s high-security confines – potentially reshaping the battlefield in November’s elections to determine whether Biden’s fellow Democrats retain control of Congress and signaling a new openness by the justices to change other long-recognized rights.
The decision will also intensify debate over the legitimacy of the court, once an unassailable cornerstone of the American democratic system but increasingly under scrutiny for its more aggressively conservative decisions on a range of issues.
The ruling restored the ability of states to ban abortion. Twenty-six states are either certain or considered likely to ban abortion. Mississippi is among 13 states with so-called trigger laws to ban abortion with Roe overturned. (For related graphic click https://tmsnrt.rs/3Njv3Cw)
In a concurring opinion that raised concerns the justices might roll back other rights, conservative Justice Clarence Thomas urged the court to reconsider past rulings protecting the right to contraception, legalizing gay marriage nationwide, and invalidating state laws banning gay sex.
The justices, in the ruling written by conservative Justice Samuel Alito, held that the Roe decision that allowed abortions performed before a fetus would be viable outside the womb – which occurs between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy – was wrongly decided because the U.S. Constitution makes no specific mention of abortion rights.
Women with unwanted pregnancies in large swathes of America now may face the choice of traveling to another state where the procedure remains legal and available, buying abortion pills online, or having a potentially dangerous illegal abortion.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh, in a concurring opinion, appeared to nix an idea advocated by some anti-abortion advocates that the next step is for the court to declare that the Constitution outlaws abortion. “The Constitution neither outlaws abortion nor legalizes abortion,” Kavanaugh wrote.
Kavanaugh also said that the ruling does not let states bar residents from traveling to another state to obtain an abortion, or retroactively punish people for prior abortions.
Biden condemned the ruling as taking an “extreme and dangerous path.”
“It’s a sad day for the court and for the country,” Biden said at the White House. “The court has done what it has never done before: expressly take away a constitutional right that is so fundamental to so many Americans.”
Empowering states to ban abortion makes the United States an outlier among developed nations on protecting reproductive rights, the Democratic president added.
Biden urged Congress to pass a law protecting abortion rights, an unlikely proposition given its partisan divisions. Biden said his administration will protect women’s access to medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration including pills for contraception and medication abortion, while also combating efforts to restrict women from traveling to other states to obtain abortions.
Britain, France and some other nations called the ruling a step backward, although the Vatican praised it, saying it challenged the world to reflect on life issues.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the decision was “a loss for women everywhere”. “Watching the removal of a woman’s fundamental right to make decisions over their own body is incredibly upsetting,” she said in a statement.
A draft version of Alito’s ruling indicating the court was ready to overturn Roe was leaked in May, igniting a political firestorm. Friday’s ruling largely tracked this leaked draft.
“The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision,” Alito wrote in the ruling.
Roe v. Wade recognized that the right to personal privacy under the Constitution protects a woman’s ability to terminate her pregnancy. The Supreme Court in a 1992 ruling called Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey reaffirmed abortion rights and prohibited laws imposing an “undue burden” on abortion access. Friday’s ruling overturned the Casey decision as well.
“Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences. And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division,” Alito added.
The court’s three liberal justices – Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan – issued a jointly authored dissent.
“Whatever the exact scope of the coming laws, one result of today’s decision is certain: the curtailment of women’s rights, and of their status as free and equal citizens,” they wrote.
As a result of Friday’s ruling, “from the very moment of fertilization, a woman has no rights to speak of. A state can force her to bring a pregnancy to term, even at the steepest personal and familial costs,” the liberal justices added.
The ruling empowered states to ban abortion just a day after the court’s conservative majority issued another decision limiting the ability of states to enact gun restrictions.
The abortion and gun rulings illustrated the polarization in America on a range of issues, also including race and voting rights.
Overturning Roe was long a goal of Christian conservatives and many Republican officeholders, including former President Donald Trump, who as a candidate in 2016 promised to appoint justices to the Supreme Court who would reverse Roe. During his term he named three to the bench, all of whom joined the majority in the ruling.
Asked in a Fox News interview whether he deserved some credit for the ruling, Trump said: “God made the decision.”
Crowds gathered outside the courthouse, surrounded by a tall security fence. Anti-abortion activists erupted in cheers after the ruling, while some abortion rights supporters were in tears.
“I’m ecstatic,” said Emma Craig, 36, of Pro Life San Francisco. “Abortion is the biggest tragedy of our generation and in 50 years we’ll look back at the 50 years we’ve been under Roe v. Wade with shame.”
Hours later, protesters angered by the decision still gathered outside the court, as did crowds in cities from coast to coast including New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles and Seattle.
House of Representatives Speaker Democrat Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, denounced the decision, saying that a “Republican-controlled Supreme Court” has achieved that party’s “dark and extreme goal of ripping away women’s right to make their own reproductive health decisions.”
The number of U.S. abortions increased by 8% during the three years ending in 2020, reversing a 30-year trend of declining numbers, according to data https://www.guttmacher.org/article/2022/06/long-term-decline-us-abortions-reverses-showing-rising-need-abortion-supreme-court released on June 15 by the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.
U.S. Capitol riot panel promises new evidence at surprise Tuesday hearing
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A video of former U.S President Donald Trump speaking is shown on a screen during the fifth public hearing of the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S.
By Richard Cowan and Moira Warburton
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -A U.S. congressional committee plans to reveal new evidence about the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol by Donald Trump’s supporters at a public hearing on Tuesday it hastily announced a mere 24 hours earlier.
The House of Representatives committee, investigating the first attempt to prevent the peaceful transfer of power in U.S. history, declined to answer questions about who might testify or what evidence would be presented.
Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to then-President Donald Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows, is expected to testify, several media outlets reported. Representatives of the panel did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the reports.
The meeting, announced on Monday, is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET (1700 GMT) on Tuesday.
Testimony at five prior hearings has shown how Trump, a Republican, riled thousands of supporters with false claims that he lost the 2020 election to Democrat Joe Biden because of massive voter fraud.
British filmmaker Alex Holder, who spent time filming Trump and his family in the weeks after the election, has in recent days testified before the committee behind closed doors and shared video of his interviews with Trump and his family, according to media reports.
The committee has said it intends to interview Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, following reports she may have been involved in efforts to stop Biden’s victory certification at the Capitol on Jan. 6. She has said she intended to speak to the panel.
U.S. law enforcement last week raided the home of Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department official, who was an enthusiastic supporter of Trump’s false fraud claims.
This month’s hearings featured videotaped testimony from figures including Trump’s oldest daughter, Ivanka Trump, and his former attorney general, Bill Barr. They and other witnesses testified that they did not believe Trump’s false claims of widespread fraud and tried to dissuade him of them.
Dozens of courts, state election officials and reviews by Trump’s own administration rejected his claims of fraud, some of which included outlandish stories about an Italian security firm or the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez tampering with U.S. ballots.
Trump, who is publicly flirting with another White House run in 2024, has denied wrongdoing and accused the committee of engaging in a political witch hunt. He has leveled harsh criticism particularly at Representative Liz Cheney, one of just two Republicans on the nine-member committee.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll early this month found that about two-thirds of U.S. Republicans believe Trump’s false election fraud claims.
The committee, sometime next month, is expected to hold one or two hearings on possible coordination of the Jan. 6 attack by right-wing extremist groups.
During the assault on the Capitol, thousands of Trump supporters smashed windows, fought with police and sent lawmakers, including Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence, fleeing for their lives.
Four people died the day of the attack, one fatally shot by police and the others of natural causes. More than 100 police officers were injured, and one died the next day. Four officers later died by suicide.
Rescuers dig for survivors after Russian missiles demolish Ukrainian shopping mall
© Reuters. Rescuers work at a site of a shopping mall hit by a Russian missile strike, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kremenchuk, in Poltava region, Ukraine June 27, 2022. Picture taken June 27, 2022. REUTERS/Anna Voitenko
By Simon Lewis
KREMENCHUK, Ukraine (Reuters) -Firefighters and soldiers searched on Tuesday for survivors in the rubble of a shopping mall in central Ukraine after a Russian missile strike killed at least 18 people in an attack condemned by the United Nations and the West.
More than 1,000 people were inside when two Russian missiles slammed into the mall in Kremenchuk, about 300 km (200 miles) southeast of the capital Kyiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said.
At least 18 people were killed and 25 hospitalised, while about 36 were missing, Poltava region governor Dmytro Lunin said.
Zelenskiy, in an overnight video address, called the attack deliberate, saying it was “a calculated Russian strike exactly onto this shopping centre”.
Russia said the incident was caused by a strike on a legitimate military target. Its defence ministry, quoted by the RIA state news agency, said it had fired missiles at a storage depot for Western weapons in Kremenchuk, and the detonation of stored ammunition there had caused the fire at the nearby mall.
Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova told Reuters a missile had also struck a nearby factory, but it was closed and not a military target.
“It’s a question about crimes against humanity,” she said. “I think it’s like systematical shelling of civilian infrastructure – with what aim? To scare people, to kill people to make terror in our cities and villages.”
Relatives of the missing lined up at a hotel across the street where rescue workers set up a base after Monday’s strike.
A survivor receiving treatment at Kremenchuk’s public hospital, Ludmyla Mykhailets, 43, said she was shopping with her husband when the blast threw her into the air.
“I flew head first and splinters hit my body. The whole place was collapsing,” she said.
“It was hell,” said her husband, Mykola, 45, blood seeping through a bandage around his head.
At the scene of the blaze on Tuesday morning, exhausted-looking firefighters sat on a kerb. Oleksandr, wetting his face from a water bottle on a bench, said his team had worked all night picking through the rubble.
“We pulled out five bodies. We didn’t find anybody alive,” he said.
Leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) major democracies, at a summit in Germany, said the attack was “abominable”.
“Russian President Putin and those responsible will be held to account,” they said in a joint statement.
BATTLE FOR LYSYCHANSK
Russia denies intentionally targetting civilians in its “special military operation” which has destroyed cities, killed thousands of people and driven millions from their homes.
The U.N. Security Council, where Moscow wields a veto, will meet on Tuesday at Ukraine’s request following the attack. U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said the missile strike was deplorable.
Elsewhere on the battlefield, Ukraine endured another difficult day following the loss of the now-ruined city of Sievierodonetsk.
Russian artillery pounded Lysychansk, Sievierodonetsk’s twin city across the Siverskyi Donets River. Ukraine said the Russians attempted to storm it.
Lysychansk is the last big city held by Ukraine in eastern Luhansk province, a main target for the Kremlin after Russian troops failed to take Kyiv early in the war.
Eight residents including a child were killed and 21 wounded by shelling when they gathered to get drinking water in Lysychansk on Monday, Luhansk Governor Serhiy Gaidai said.
Ukrainian forces controlled the city but its loss was possible as Russia poured resources into the fight, he added.
“They really want this and a lot of reserves are being thrown just for this…We do not need to lose an army for the sake of one city,” he told Reuters in an interview.
Rodion Miroshnik, the ambassador to Moscow of the separatist Luhansk People’s Republic, said Russian troops and their Luhansk Republic allies were advancing westward into Lysychansk and street battles had erupted around the city stadium.
Fighting was going on in several surrounding villages, and Russian and allied troops had entered the Lysychansk oil refinery where Ukrainian troops were concentrated, Miroshnik said on Telegram.
Russia also shelled the city of Kharkiv in northeast Ukraine on Monday, hitting apartment buildings and a primary school, the regional governor said.
The shelling killed five people and wounded 22. There were children among the wounded, the governor said.
During their summit in Germany, G7 leaders vowed to stand with Ukraine “for as long as it takes” and tighten the squeeze on Russia’s finances with new sanctions that include a proposal to cap the price of Russian oil.
Russia expands U.S. sanctions list to include Biden’s wife and daughter
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden disembark from Marine One as they return from Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, on the South Lawn at the White House in Washington, U.S., June 5, 2022. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia on Tuesday expanded its U.S. ‘stop-list’, including in it the wife and daughter of President Joe Biden as well as other prominent figures.
The step was taken “as a response to the ever-expanding U.S. sanctions against Russian political and public figures,” Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
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