The startling news about the Supreme Court’s draft to overturn the half-century-old Roe v. Wade decision immediately stirred debate over how the document could be leaked to Politico.
Meanwhile, the importance of the potential ruling and the accompanying repercussions remained front and center for women’s rights groups, civil rights advocates and many Democratic lawmakers.
“The leaked SCOTUS opinion on Roe v. Wade will set women’s rights back generations,” said Illinois Democratic Rep. Robin Kelly. “Black women and those living in rural areas will be impacted the worst. We must codify the right to safe abortions.”
Marcela Howell, president and CEO of In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, cautioned that until the court makes its final decision, abortion remains legal.
“That said, we know that overturning the historic Roe decision after 50 years of legal precedent will be a blow to women’s human and civil rights,” Howell said. “Black women and pregnant people already face barriers to accessing basic health care services and the Supreme Court’s rumored decision to overturn Roe will put our reproductive health, rights and safety in even greater danger. The high court’s ruling will declare open season on women’s rights and lives.”
“As Black women, our fight has always been – and continues to be – about the human right to control our body, our work and our community,” she said. “This leaked bad decision by the high court will not change that. Attacks on our human rights will always be met with protest and activism. We will not stop until reproductive justice is the law of the land.”
On Monday, Politico reported that it had viewed an initial draft of a majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito circulating inside the court. The ruling would allow each state to decide whether to restrict or ban abortion. According to Politico, it’s unclear if there have been subsequent changes to the draft.
The news outlet wrote that the draft opinion represents a “full-throated, unflinching repudiation” of the 1973 decision, which guaranteed federal constitutional protections of abortion rights and a subsequent 1992 decision – Planned Parenthood v. Casey – that largely maintained the right.
“Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” Alito writes.
“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” he writes in the document, labeled as the ‘Opinion of the Court.’ It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”
In the nation’s capital, demonstrators immediately converged on the Supreme Court to express their outrage as officials erected barriers around the hallowed building.
Leng Leng Chancey, executive director of 9to5, National Association of Working Women, rebuked the leaked decision.
“The ability to make decisions about when and whether to have children is a fundamental human right,” Chancey said. “Denying that right has far-reaching implications. If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe, women’s health and economic security will suffer. Reducing access to abortion will reduce women’s participation in the workforce, eroding economic security for many. Denying our constitutional right to abortion relegates women and birthing people to second-class status.”
In hearing of the decision, some recalled the 1969 pamphlet, “Double Jeopardy: To Be Black and Female,” by African-American feminist Frances Beal.
“It is idle dreaming to think of Black women simply caring for their homes and children like the middle-class white model,” Beal wrote. “Black women make up a substantial percentage of the Black working force and this is true for the poorest Black family as well as the so-called ‘middle-class’ family.”
According to the Guttmacher Institute, in 2014, three-quarters of abortion patients in qualified as low-income or poor while Black and brown patients accounted for more than half of performed abortions. Today, Black women remain three to four times more at risk of dying in childbirth than white women.
“For poor and working-class women, a disproportionate number of whom are Black and brown, overturning Roe won’t mean that abortions will end. It will mean that safe and sound abortions in health-care facilities will move further out of reach,” author and Princeton University professor Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor wrote in an essay for the New Yorker.
Taylor, a professor of African-American studies, noted that the dilemma had been a permanent feature of the modern movement for abortion rights.
She pointed to one study that found that 80 percent of deaths caused by septic abortions in New York City in the 1960s involved Black and Puerto Rican women. Between 1965 and 1967, the Black maternal death rate in Georgia was 14 times that of white women.
“During this period, nurses reported that ‘sticks, rocks, chopsticks, rubber or plastic tubes, gauze or cotton packing, ballpoint pens, coat hangers or knitting needles’ were administered to terminate pregnancies,” Taylor wrote. “For these women, access to abortion was not abstract – it was a matter of life and death.”
While some states including California and Colorado have increased access to abortion, many others – most notably Arkansas and Mississippi – have severely limited the procedure.
The Guttmacher Institute found that 23 states have laws aiming to limit abortion access, including some states with multiple provisions. Overturning Roe v. Wade would greenlight the 26 states which already have laws banning abortions. Nine states have pre-Roe v. Wade bans they could immediately enforce if the Supreme Court overturns the statute while 13 states have “trigger bans.”
And while West Virginia, Michigan and Wisconsin have restrictions on abortion, Alabama, Georgia, Ohio, South Carolina and Iowa have struck down laws.
Republicans, meanwhile, have focused attention on the leak rather than the decision.
“It’s an unprecedented breach of confidentiality, clearly meant to intimidate,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) wrote on Twitter.
Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) claimed the breach shows that “radical Democrats are working even harder to intimidate and undermine the court,” adding, “it was always their plan but the justices cannot be swayed by this attack.”