On Tuesday, President Joe Biden criticized a Supreme Court draft opinion that would overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion rights ruling that has been in place for half a century. Although the court cautioned that no final decision was made, Biden warned that other privacy rights such as same-sex marriages and birth control could be at risk if they follow through.
Chief Justice John Roberts stated that he had ordered an inquiry into the "egregious breach in trust" of the draft document being leaked, which was dated February. In the process of drafting, opinions can change dramatically. A final ruling is not expected until the end June or July.
Americans struggled to imagine what the future might bring across the country. The Democratic-controlled Congress and White House both vowed to try to blunt the impact of such a ruling, but their prospects looked dim.
A decision to overrule Roe could have wide-reaching ramifications. This would lead to abortion bans in approximately half of the states. It also sparks new efforts in Democratic-leaning countries to protect abortion access and possibly reshape the contours this year's hotly contested midterm election.
Politico published the draft late Monday night.
Biden spoke to reporters just before boarding Air Force One. He stated that he hoped that the draft would not be approved by justices. He claimed it reflects a fundamental shift in American law and threatens "other basic human rights", such as access to contraception and marriage.
He said, "If this decision is held, it's really quite radical decision."
Biden stated that if Roe is overturned by the court, it will be on all elected officials of our country to defend a woman's rights to choose. It will be up to voters to elect prochoice officials in November. Federally, we will need to elect more pro-choice Senators, and a majority of the House that is pro-choice to pass legislation to codify Roe. I will be working to pass and sign the law.
Although past attempts have been unsuccessful, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer stated that he intends to hold a vote.
Schumer stated Tuesday on the Senate floor, "This is as urgent as it gets." "Every American will see which side every senator is on."
California and New York leaders offered a welcome mat for women who wanted to have abortions. Other Democratic states also moved to ensure that abortion access was protected in their laws.
Women who are unable to travel to states with strict abortion restrictions or bans, or who stand poised to do so, would feel the court's decision most.
No matter what the outcome, Monday's Politico report was an exceptional breach of the secretive court deliberation process. It also dealt with a case of extraordinary importance.
The draft opinion states that "Roe was egregiously incorrect from the beginning." Justice Samuel Alito signed it, who is a member the court's conservative 6-3 majority and was appointed by President George W. Bush.
In a case challenging Mississippi’s ban on abortion after fifteen weeks, the document was called a "1st draft" of the "Opinion of Court". In effect, the draft opinion states that there is no constitutional right for abortion services to be provided. This would allow states to regulate the procedure more or ban it altogether.
"We believe that Roe and Casey should be overruled," it says. This is referring to the 1992 case Planned Parenthood, which affirmed Roe’s constitutional right to abortion services. However, the state could place restrictions on the practice. "It's time to listen to the Constitution and bring the abortion issue back to the elected representatives of the people."
According to the draft opinion, at least five justices voted to overrule Roe & Casey when they met privately shortly after hearing arguments on Dec. 1. Alito was given the task of writing court's majority opinion.
Votes and opinions aren't final until a court announces a decision or, in the case of a coronavirus pandemic change, is posted on the court website.
Politico stated that it had received a draft opinion from someone familiar with Mississippi court proceedings and other details to support the document's authenticity.
This report is coming amid a legislative push in several Republican-led States to limit abortion -- Oklahoma being the latest -- even before the court makes its decision. Critics have claimed that women of low income and minorities will be most affected by the new restrictions.
The leak sparked the political reverberations expected to result from the Supreme Court's final decision in the 2012 midterm elections. Already, politicians from both sides were using the leak to fundraise for their supporters and energize them on both sides.
Democrats claimed that several conservative justices misled senators regarding their feelings.
Maine Republican Susan Collins, who supports abortion rights, was a key GOP vote for the confirmations Justices Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh's confirmations, stated that if the draft is the final opinion of court, it would "completely contradict what Justice Gorsuch, Justice Kavanaugh and in their hearings and in our meetings at my office."
Alaska Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski told Capitol Hill reporters that her confidence in the court had been shaken and suggested that Collins' proposal to legislate abortion rights be revived.
According to polling, relatively few Americans would like Roe to be overturned. AP-NORC polling shows that the majority of Americans favor abortion being legalized in all or most cases. Few people believe that abortion should be made illegal in every case.
Despite their nuanced views on the topic, Americans still have nuanced opinions. According to an AP-NORC poll, 61% believed that abortion should be legal in all or most circumstances during the first trimester. However, only 65% believed abortion should be legal in the second trimester and 80% thought it should be illegal in the third trimester. Many Americans think that the procedure should still be allowed under certain circumstances, even though it is not permitted in all cases.
In the draft Alito stated that the court cannot predict the reactions of the public and should not try. According to Politico, Alito stated in the draft opinion that "we cannot allow our decisions be affected by any extraneous influence such as concern over the public's response to our work."
Outside the Supreme Court Building, protesters displaying signs reading "Ignore Roe", "In God We Trust" and others declaring that pro-abortion-rights supporters had placards calling for "Bans off our Bodies," and "Impeach Kavanaugh." As the day progressed, more people gathered.
Jessica Fendryk (39), drove for an hour from Bel Air in Maryland and spoke about generations of demonstrators.
"I cannot believe how many women I've met who did this in their lives." She said that she felt like they owed it to her to be here, because they had done this before. "Now we must be fighting for them all again.
The reaction of conservatives outside Washington was muted. They ranged from cautious celebration of the expected ruling to harsh criticism of the source for the draft.
"We will let our Supreme Court speak for ourselves and wait for the court to issue its official opinion," Lynn Fitch, Mississippi Attorney General, stated in a statement.
In December, the Supreme Court heard arguments from six conservative justices. Five of them asked questions suggesting that Roe and Casey could be overruled.
Roberts was the only one who seemed willing to accept the minor step of preserving the ban for 15 weeks, even though this would also be a significant weakening in abortion rights.
The court has up to now allowed states to regulate, but not ban, abortions before the point where viability is reached, which is approximately 24 weeks.