Below on the left is a copy of the original text of the introduction to the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Center, but we’ve numbered the sentences. On the right, are two different versions of the text. If you click on the blue box you will see a summary and explanation of the case at an easier level than the original text. Also, for some sentences, we included comments to provide more context and background.
If you click on the green button you will see an even simpler rephrasing without additional explanatory text.
Finally, you can also try the questions in the purple boxes to assess your comprehension.
The blue box contains a simpler version of the original text with an explanation and sometimes explanatory notes.
The green box contains an even simpler version.
Also, you will see some of the words are in orange. If you click on them or hover over them you will get more information about the legal English meaning of the word.
Words in orange have additional information if you hover over them or click on them.
Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Center
On the left is the original text of the introduction to the Supreme Court case with numbered sentences. On the right are rephrased and annotated versions. The green box contains a simpler rephrasing than the blue box.
Judge Alito wrote the decision of the Supreme Court with which most of the judges agreed.
There are nine Supreme Court Justices. For each case, usually one Justice writes the decision on behalf of the majority.
Judge Alito wrote this decision for the Supreme Court.
Question: What is a synonym for "delivered" in sentence ?
Abortion is a difficult moral question. Some people think that because life starts at conception, abortion is murder. Other people think abortion is a right because women should be allowed to control their own bodies. Other people think abortion should be allowed under certain conditions – – but people don’t all agree on what conditions allow for an abortion.
Comment: Probably the Supreme Court is saying that abortion is a difficult moral question, but not a question that can be answered by the Constitution. Justice Alito is encouraging people to think that voters in each state should decide whether they want abortion to be legal in their states.
People have different opinions about abortion. Some people think it is murder so it should always be illegal. Other people think it should be a woman’s right. And other people think abortion should sometimes be allowed, depending on the circumstances.
Question: What would be a synonym for "profound" in sentence ?
Intense, important, significant
 For the first 185 years after the adoption of the Constitution each State was permitted to address this issue in accordance with the views of its citizens.  Then, in 1973, this Court decided Roe v. Wade, 410 U. S. 113.  Even though the Constitution makes no mention of abortion, the Court held that it confers a broad right to obtain one.
The Constitution was established in 1788. Until 1973, every state could decide whether to make abortion legal or not. In 1973, the Supreme Court decided the case of Roe v, Wade and announced that the Constitution gives women the right to an abortion in many circumstances, even though the Constitution actually does not say anything about abortion.
Comment: This is a major theme of Alito’s argument. States should decide for themselves whether abortion should be legal because the Constitution is silent on the issue of abortion. Alito believes Roe v. Wade was poorly reasoned because the Supreme Court said a right to an abortion could be found in the Constitution, yet for 185 years no one saw such a right in the document.
From 1788 – 1973 every state could decide for itself whether to make abortion legal or not. But then in 1973, the Supreme Court decided in a case called Roe v. Wade that abortion is a right protected by the Constitution. The Supreme Court in Roe said abortion is a Constitutional right, even though the Constitution does not say anything about abortion.
Question: What is another way to say "the Constitution confers a broad right" to abortion?
The Constitution gives women the right to an abortion under most circumstances.
 It did not claim that American law or the common law had ever recognized such a right, and its survey of history ranged from the constitutionally irrelevant (e.g., its discussion of abortion in antiquity) to the plainly incorrect (e.g., its assertion that abortion was probably never a crime under the common law).
The Supreme Court in Roe did not claim that any US statute historically recognized a right to an abortion. Nor did the Supreme Court claim that common law — judge-made law traced back to England – – ever recognized abortion as a woman’s right.
The Supreme Court in Roe discussed how abortion was viewed in ancient times, but that is irrelevant to the question of whether abortion is Constitutional. And the Supreme Court in Roe incorrectly concluded that abortion was not a crime according to the common law.
The Supreme Court in Roe knew that abortion was never considered a woman’s right according to early US law and the common law – – law from cases decided by judges in England.
The Court in Roe discussed the status of abortion in ancient times but how ancient people viewed abortion is irrelevant to the US Constitution. And the Supreme Court in Roe was wrong when they said abortion was not a crime under common law.
Question: What would be another way to say "plainly incorrect" in sentence ?
Obviously wrong; clearly mistaken; manifestly wrong
 After cataloging a wealth of other information having no bearing on the meaning of the Constitution, the opinion concluded with a numbered set of rules much like those that might be found in a statute enacted by a legislature.
The Supreme Court in Roe discussed many things that were unimportant to the question of whether there is a constitutional right to an abortion. But the Supreme Court ended its decision by creating a set of rules for when women have a right under the Constitution to an abortion. The rules were written in a way that a lawmaker (such as a Congressperson) would write a statute. The rules did not sound like a judge writing about the constitutionality of abortion.
Comment: Justice Alito believes that the Supreme Court in Roe improperly acted like a legislature, trying to write a law that would provide women with rights to an abortion under most circumstances. He argues that this was wrong because voters should choose legislators who will decide whether to make abortion legal or not.
The Supreme Court in Roe wrote about many unimportant things that do not tell us whether a woman has a constitutional right to an abortion. But finally, the Court’s decision in Roe ends with rules about when the Constitution gives women a right to an abortion. These rules don’t look like a court decision. They look like a law a legislature would write.
Question: What is another way to say "no bearing" in sentence ?
Irrelevant; unrelated; having no connection to
 Under this scheme, each trimester of pregnancy was regulated differently, but the most critical line was drawn at roughly the end of the second trimester, which, at the time, corresponded to the point at which a fetus was thought to achieve “viability,” i.e., the ability to survive outside the womb.  Although the Court acknowledged that States had a legitimate interest in protecting “potential life,” it found that this interest could not justify any restriction on pre- viability abortions.  The Court did not explain the basis for this line, and even abortion supporters have found it hard to defend Roe’s reasoning.
The rules created by the Court in Roe divided a woman’s nine-month pregnancy into three three-month terms. According to Roe, the state cannot interfere with a woman’s right to an abortion during the first six months of the woman’s pregnancy. During those first six months, the Supreme Court believed a fetus could not survive outside a woman’s womb. Although the state has a legal interest in protecting “potential life” – – a baby before it is able to live on its own – this interest is not important enough to prevent a woman from having an abortion during the first six months of her pregnancy.
The Supreme Court could not explain why it considered the first six-month period as a time when abortion should be allowed and abortion supporters also have trouble explaining the logic of the Roe decision.
The Supreme Court in Roe said that during the first six months of a woman’s pregnancy the government could not interfere with her right to an abortion. According to Roe, during the first six months of pregnancy a baby cannot live outside the mother. The government might want to protect babies before they can live on their own, but it was more important during the first six months to allow women to have an abortion. The Roe Court could not explain why the first six months of pregnancy are different from the last three months and even people who support abortion rights cannot explain why the government should view the first six months of pregnancy differently from the last three months.
Question: What does "'potential life'" refer to in sentence ?
The Court in Roe referred to the fetus before six months as ‘potential life’.
 One prominent constitutional scholar wrote that he “would vote for a statute very much like the one the Court end[ed] up drafting” if he were “a legislator,” but his assessment of Roe was memorable and brutal: Roe was “not constitutional law” at all and gave “almost no sense of an obligation to try to be.”
Back in 1973 a famous professor of Constitutional law read the Roe decision and thought its rules as to when women can have an abortion looked like a good statute – – he thought it was a reasonable compromise. But he also explained very clearly why Roe was a bad decision – – the decision had nothing to do with the Constitution. The Supreme Court did not do its job of interpreting the Constitution and instead tried to do the job of a legislature by writing a reasonable law concerning abortion.
Comment: Justice Alito finds persuasive Professor Lawrence Tribe’s conclusion that Roe created rules that many people would support with regard to abortion but that its reasoning had no connection to Constitutional law. Many people might support the idea of legalizing abortion during the first six months of pregnancy but a legislature elected by voters should create such a rule. The Supreme Court is not supposed to write laws.
A famous professor read the Roe decision in 1973 and said it had nothing to do with the Constitution. He thought the rules created by the Supreme Court were reasonable, but those rules should be created by a legislature, not by a Court.
 At the time of Roe, 30 States still prohibited abortion at all stages.  In the years prior to that decision, about a third of the States had liberalized their laws, but Roe abruptly ended that political process.  It imposed the same highly restrictive regime on the entire Nation, and it effectively struck down the abortion laws of every single State.  As Justice Byron White aptly put it in his dissent, the decision represented the “exercise of raw judicial power,” and it sparked a national controversy that has embittered our political culture for a half century.
When Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, 30 states did not allow abortion at any point during pregnancy. Other states had made it easier to get an abortion. But Roe v. Wade stopped each state from deciding whether to make abortion legal or not. The decision in Roe eliminated every state law on abortion and forced each state to follow the same strict system. One Supreme Court judge, Justice White, who did not agree with the Roe decision said the decision meant the Supreme Court was abusing its power. The decision caused a terrible and angry debate in the United States.
Comment: Justice Alito is emphasizing that the Supreme Court exceeded its authority and took away power from the states in its Roe v. Wade decision. He (and the majority on today’s Supreme Court) believe that abortion is not a Constitutional issue and states should be free to legislate their own abortion laws.
Before Roe v. Wade 30 states made abortion illegal but many of the other states allowed abortion. Roe v. Wade forced every state to make abortion legal instead of allowing states to choose. A former Supreme Court judge who disagreed with Roe said the Supreme Court did not have the power to make abortion a Constitutional right. And as a result of Roe, the United States has had many years of bitter debate over abortion.
Question: What does 'struck down' mean in sentence ?
To overrule, eliminate, or nullify a law.
 Eventually, in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, 505 U. S. 833 (1992), the Court revisited Roe, but the Members of the Court split three ways.  Two Justices expressed no desire to change Roe in any way.  Four others wanted to overrule the decision in its entirety.  And the three remaining Justices, who jointly signed the controlling opinion, took a third position.  Their opinion did not endorse Roe’s reasoning, and it even hinted that one or more of its authors might have “reservations” about whether the Constitution protects a right to abortion.
In 1992, the Supreme Court case heard another abortion case, Southeastern Pa. v. Casey. The Casey court considered whether Roe was correctly decided:
- Two judges said Roe should not be changed.
- Four judges said Roe was wrong and should be overturned.
- Three judges said Roe‘s decision should remain in place although they did not support the reasoning in Roe – – they only wanted the decision to stay in place. Of those three judges, one said they were not even sure that abortion was a Constitutional right.
Comment: Justice Alito is emphasizing that by 1992, several judges on the Supreme Court did not think Roe was a logical or well-reasoned decision. But the Supreme Court let the decision stand.
In another case in 1992, Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa v. Casey, the Supreme Court considered whether abortion is a Constitutional right.
- Only two judges thought Roe was entirely correct.
- Four judges wanted to overrule Roe.
- Three judges thought abortion should remain a Constitutional right but they did not think Roe was correctly reasoned.
 But the opinion concluded that stare decisis, which calls for prior decisions to be followed in most instances, required adherence to what it called Roe’s “central holding”—that a State may not constitutionally protect fetal life before “viability”—even if that holding was wrong.  Anything less, the opinion claimed, would undermine respect for this Court and the rule of law.
Although many of the Supreme Court judges in Casey did not think that Roe was decided correctly, five judges decided to follow the most important part of the Roe decision. They agreed that the government cannot interfere with a woman’s right to abort a fetus before “viability” – – during the first six months of pregnancy. The reason they followed Roe was because of the principle of stare decisis – – courts should usually follow the decisions of prior courts. These judges explained that if they failed to follow stare decisis, then people would lose respect for the Supreme Court and the court system.
Comment: Justice Alito is preparing the reader for his argument as to why today’s Supreme Court is not required by stare decisis to follow the decision in Roe. He agrees that courts should generally follow the decisions of prior courts, but he will insist that Roe’s decision on abortion presents an exception.
Despite their concern that Roe was not reasoned correctly, most of the judges on the Supreme Court decided in Casey that that they should continue to hold that abortion is a Constitutional right. They were concerned that if they did not follow Roe, people would lose respect for the Supreme Court and for the law.
 Paradoxically, the judgment in Casey did a fair amount of overruling.  Several important abortion decisions were overruled in toto, and Roe itself was overruled in part.
Surprisingly, although the Casey Court said it wanted to follow stare decisis, the Casey decision actually overruled certain other abortion cases. Some important decisions were completely overruled, and Roe was partially overruled.
Although the Casey decision said that the Supreme Court wanted to follow prior decisions, the Court concluded that a number of prior abortion cases were wrong. The Supreme Court even overruled parts of the Roe decision.
Casey rejected the rules from Roe concerning different rights to an abortion depending on whether the woman was in the first three months, second three months, or last three months of pregnancy. Instead, the Supreme Court created a new rule that the government cannot cause an “undue burden” – – an unfair hardship – – on women seeking an abortion.
The Court did not explain how it decided on this rule, nor did it explain the difference between a “due” or fair burden, and an “undue” or unfair burden. However, the Supreme Court decision in Casey said that it was intended to end the debate over abortion in the United States.
The Casey Court rejected Roe‘s system of dividing pregnancy into three-month periods. Instead, Casey said the rule is that the government cannot put an “undue burden” – – an unfair obstacle – – on a woman seeking an abortion. The Court did not explain what an undue burden is or how the Court decided on this new rule. But the Supreme Court said that the decision in Casey should end the debate over abortion.
Question: What is a synonym for "undue" in sentence ?
Unfair; inappropriate; disproportionate; unacceptable
In the years between Casey and today we can see that Casey did not end the debate over abortion. Americans have very different and strong beliefs concerning abortion and state lawmakers have responded to the interests of their citizens. Some states allow abortion at almost any point. Other states passed law to restrict abortion even during first few months of pregnancy. In fact, 26 states asked the Supreme Court in this case to overrule Roe so states can choose whether to allow abortion or not.
The Supreme Court in Casey wanted to end the debate over abortion but they did not succeed. Americans are still arguing over abortion and states have very different laws concerning abortion. Some states allow abortion whenever a woman wants an abortion and other states have strict restrictions even during the early months of pregnancy. In fact, 26 states asked the Supreme Court in this case to rule that Roe was wrong and there is no right to an abortion. These 26 states want the Supreme Court to let each state decide whether to allow abortion.
 Before us now is one such state law.  The State of Mississippi asks us to uphold the constitutionality of a law that generally prohibits an abortion after the 15th week of pregnancy—several weeks before the point at which a fetus is now regarded as “viable” outside the womb.  In defending this law, the State’s primary argument is that we should reconsider and overrule Roe and Casey and once again allow each State to regulate abortion as its citizens wish.  On the other side, respondents and the Solicitor General ask us to affirm Roe and Casey, and they contend that the Mississippi law cannot stand if we do so.  Allowing Mississippi to prohibit abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, they argue, “would be no different than overruling Casey and Roe entirely.”  They contend that “no half-measures” are available and that we must either reaffirm or overrule Roe and Casey.
This case concerns a state law that strongly restricts abortion. The State of Mississippi prohibits abortion after 15 weeks, much earlier than a fetus is considered “viable” under Roe. Mississippi, in its appeal to the Supreme Court, asks the Supreme Court to overrule – – reject – – Roe and Casey and decide that each state can choose whether to allow abortion or not. The other side, including the attorney for the United States government, argues that prohibiting abortions after 15 weeks is unconstitutional. They say that if Mississippi wins this case that it would be the same thing as the Supreme Court overruling Roe and Casey. The opponents of the Mississippi law want the Supreme Court to make a very clear decision. The Supreme Court should either reaffirm – – make clear the Court agrees with – – Roe and Casey, or just overrule those cases.
The Court must decide whether Mississippi’s law that prohibits abortion after 15 weeks is Constitutional or not. 15 weeks is very early in a pregnancy. Supporters of the Mississippi law want the Supreme Court to overrule – – reject – – Roe and Casey by deciding that abortion is not a Constitutional right.
Opponents of the Missississippi law want the Supreme Court to rule that the Mississippi law is unconstitutional because of the Supreme Court’s decisions in Roe and Casey. They say that if the Supreme Court decides that the Mississippi law is Constitutional, then the Supreme Court must also overrule Roe and Casey.
 We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled.  The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision, including the one on which the defenders of Roe and Casey now chiefly rely—the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.  That provision has been held to guarantee some rights that are not mentioned in the Constitution, but any such right must be “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition” and “implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.” Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U. S. 702, 721 (1997) (internal quotation marks omitted).
The Supreme Court overrules Roe and Casey – – the prior cases that said abortion is a Constitutional right are no longer valid. Abortion is not a constitutional right because the Constitution does not expressly (directly) say anything about abortion. Also, the Constitution does not implicitly (indirectly) say abortion is a Constitutional right. Judges who thought that abortion is a Constitutional right relied on a sentence in the Constitution known as the Due Process Clause. That sentence in the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees fair procedures when state governments try to take away a person’s life, liberty, and property. Judges were wrong to think that the Due Process Clause indirectly guarantees the right to an abortion. The only rights indirectly included in the Due Process Clause are rights that have been recognized for a long time in American history and are necessary for a free country. Abortion does not have a long history as a right and is not necessary for a free country,
Comment: Everyone agrees that the Constitution does not mention abortion but many people believe the Constitution implicitly includes the right to an abortion. One major part of Justice Alito’s analysis is to disprove that assertion. Justice Alito argue that only very important rights with a long history are implicitly protected by the Constitution. Much of the decision will attempt to prove that abortion cannot possibly have a long tradition because it was traditionally a crime and that abortion is not necessary for a free country because many people oppose abortion as a form of murder.
In this decision, the Supreme Court overrules – – rejects – – the decisions in Roe and Casey which held that the Constitution protects the right to an abortion. The word “abortion” is not in the Constitution so we know that the Constitution does not directly protect the right to an abortion. Some people think that the right to an abortion is indirectly included in the Constitution because of a sentence in the Constitution called the “Due Process Clause” which is written in the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution. But people are wrong if they think that the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause establishes the right to an abortion.
The Due Process Clause prohibits state governments from taking away people’s rights and property without fair procedures first. On the one hand, it is true that the Due Process Clause protects certain rights that are not directly mentioned in the Constitution. However, the Due Process Clause only protects rights that are not mentioned in the Constitution if those rights have existed for a long time in American history and are necessary for a free country. Abortion rights have not existed for a long time and they are not necessary for a free country, therefore, the Constitution does not give women the right to an abortion.
 The right to abortion does not fall within this category.  Until the latter part of the 20th century, such a right was entirely unknown in American law.  Indeed, when the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted, three quarters of the States made abortion a crime at all stages of pregnancy.
Abortion is not a right that is indirectly included in the Constitution through the Due Process Clause. It is not a right that has existed for a long time because until late in the 1900’s, there was no such thing as a right to an abortion. In fact, when the Fourteenth Amendment and the Due Process Clause was passed in 1866, 3/4 of the States made abortion a crime.
Abortion is not a right indirectly included in the Constitution by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Until the late 1900’s no one thought abortion was a Constitutional right. In fact, when the Fourteenth Amendment was passed in 1866, 3/4 of American states made abortion illegal.
Question: What year was the Fourteenth Amendment adopted?
1866. And at the time, according to the Supreme Court, most States made abortion a crime. For this reason, Justice Alito does not think the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause makes abortion a Constitutional right.
 The abortion right is also critically different from any other right that this Court has held to fall within the Fourteenth Amendment’s protection of “liberty.”  Roe’s defenders characterize the abortion right as similar to the rights recognized in past decisions involving matters such as intimate sexual relations, contraception, and marriage, but abortion is fundamentally different, as both Roe and Casey acknowledged, because it destroys what those decisions called “fetal life” and what the law now before us describes as an “un-born human being.”
Abortion is also very different from other rights that judges believed are protected by the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause.
Other rights that are protected by the Due Process Clause are the rights to choose how we have sexual relationships, use contraception, and whom we marry. But abortion is different from those rights because abortion involves ending a life.
Comment: Here the Supreme Court is contrasting Roe and Casey with decisions such as Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965) (right to contraception), Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967) (right to interracial marriage), and Lawrence v. Texas, 539 US 558 (2003) (right to same-gender sexual relationships). Justice Alito is insisting that abortion is different from those cases because abortion is not just a matter of private choice, as it affects “fetal life” or what Mississippi’s law calls an “unborn human being”.
Abortion is different from other rights that the Supreme Court said were implied by the Fourteenth Amendment. These other rights include the right to privacy in one’s sex life, the use of birth control, and who someone chooses to marry. But abortion is different because it ends an unborn life.
[49 ] Stare decisis, the doctrine on which Casey’s controlling opinion was based, does not compel unending adherence to Roe’s abuse of judicial authority.  Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. [51 ] Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences. [52 ] And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division.
Also, stare decisis, the idea that courts should usually follow prior decisions, does not require the Supreme Court to follow Roe. The Supreme Court should reject prior decisions under certain circumstances. The decision in Roe was terribly illogical and the Court in Roe exceeded its power by making abortion a Constitutional right. And as a result of the decision, America became more divided and angry over the issue of abortion.
Comment: The Supreme Court in this case establishes certain factors that guide courts on when they should not follow prior decisions. Justice Alito believes that the Supreme Court does not have to follow decisions that were poorly reasoned and cause bitter controversy. According to the Supreme Court, Roe is an example of a case that does not have to be followed because it is was so wrongly reasoned and caused Americans to fight even more over abortion.
Courts do not always have to follow the decisions of prior cases. Roe was a very poor decision and the Supreme Court in Roe did not have the power to force all states to legalize abortion. Furthermore, the decision in Roe caused the argument over abortion to become much more bitter.
Question: What does "unending adherence" in sentence mean in sentence ?
To follow forever, or to comply with forever. In sentence  the Supreme Court is saying that it does not have to follow prior decisions forever if the decisions were wrong and cause so much trouble.
 It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.  “The permissibility of abortion, and the limitations, upon it, are to be resolved like most important questions in our democracy: by citizens trying to persuade one another and then voting.” Casey, 505 U. S., at 979 (Scalia, J., concurring in judgment in part and dissenting in part).  That is what the Constitution and the rule of law demand.
We must listen to the Constitution and principles of democracy. The Constitution does not provide a right to abortion so we should let people decide for themselves. Each state should choose through its elected lawmakers whether to legalize abortion or not. People can try to persuade each other to favor abortion or not. And people should vote for lawmakers who will enact laws either legalizing abortion or criminalizing abortion. The Constitution and democracy require the Supreme Court to decide that abortion is not a Constitutional right so the people in each state can choose whether or not they want abortion to be legal.
Comment: According to a majority on the Supreme Court, the decision in Roe to provide a right to abortion improperly denied the people in each state the power to choose whether to legalize abortion or not. Now that abortion is not a Constitutional right, each state can make its own laws. Some states will criminalize abortion and other states will not.
We must follow the Constitution and democracy. People in each state should decide whether to make abortion legal or not. They can try to persuade each other and vote for the lawmakers they prefer. There is no Constitutional right to abortion, instead each state must decide for itself.
Question: What does it mean to "heed" in sentence ?
To listen to or follow.