(noun) shorthand for the US Supreme Court decision that overturned the constitutional right to abortion
Thomas Dobbs is an infectious disease expert at the University of Mississippi Medical Centre, where his research focuses largely on HIV.
But it was Dobbs’s previous role, as state health officer for the Mississippi State Department of Health, that will put his name in the history books.
Thanks to a legal quirk that requires plaintiffs to sue the head of a regulatory authority, rather than the state itself, Dobbs is the namesake for Dobbs vs Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the landmark decision in which the US Supreme Court overturned Roe vs Wade, the 1973 case that enshrined Americans’ constitutional right to an abortion.
While Dobbs had no direct involvement in the case, his surname has become shorthand for the move by America’s highest court that rolled back decades of precedent, stripped millions of women of their rights and sent shockwaves through the political system.
The case stemmed from a lawsuit filed by Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Mississippi’s only abortion clinic, challenging a 2018 state law that banned abortions after 15 weeks. The conservative majority on the Supreme Court upheld the law, and went a step further by ruling that Roe was incorrectly decided.
It was a ruling many had dreaded but long expected, after former US president Donald Trump packed the nine-member bench with three conservative justices, shifting its balance to the right.
The decision was foreshadowed in May, when Politico published a leaked draft of the decision, and cemented in June, when the court ruled to strike down Roe. The outcry was swift — Gallup polling conducted in May found 58 per cent of Americans opposed overturning the decision — and may prove to be enduring. In November’s midterm elections, Democrats performed better than expected, a result driven in large part by women voters who were galvanised by the issue.