In a blistering statement, Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Justice Department “strongly disagrees” with the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling which guaranteed a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion, and pledged to “work tirelessly to protect and advance reproductive freedom.”
“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,” Garland wrote. “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.
Stare decisis is a legal doctrine by which judges are obligated to respect precedent set by previous rulings; in Latin, the phrase means “to stand by things decided.”
Garland said that the ruling “deals a devastating blow to reproductive freedom” nationwide and will “have an immediate and irreversible impact on the lives of people across the country.”
The attorney general noted that the ruling will have a disproportionate impact on lower-income individuals and people of color.
Garland said that the department supports efforts to codify Roe into law and said the department is “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, Garland highlighted mifepristone, an FDA-approved pill used to terminate a pregnancy in the first 10 weeks, saying that states may not ban the drug “based on disagreement with the FDA’s expert judgment about its safety and efficacy.”
According to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion rights research and policy organization, medication abortion now accounts for more than half of all abortions in the United States.
Garland also noted that “federal agencies may continue to provide reproductive health services to the extent authorized by federal law” and employees of the federal government who provide such services in their duties “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,” Garland said, noting that the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel ruled that federal employees who do so would not be subject to the Assimilative Crimes Act and could not face federal prosecution.
Garland urged people on both sides of the issue to do so peacefully: "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 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,” Garland concluded. “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,” Garland pledged. “And we will not waver from this Department’s founding responsibility to protect the civil rights of all Americans.”