Thousands of pro-choice activists are expressing outrage over reports of a leaked draft opinion that suggests the U.S. Supreme Court may overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide in the U.S.
The fury began Monday night when news agency Politico reported the draft majority opinion indicated the court has voted to overturn Roe v. Wade.
A decision to overrule the case could lead to abortion bans in roughly half of the United States, and could have huge ramifications for this year’s U.S. elections.
However, it’s not clear if the draft is the court’s final decision as opinions often change in the process of drafting a ruling.
“We’re horrified, saddened, and livid,” said activist group Women’s March on Twitter on Monday night.
“If you are too, then now is the time to show up and show them our movement won’t back down from protecting our reproductive rights.”
The group, which founded Women’s March protests in 2017 after former president Donald Trump’s election, also called for demonstrations on abortion rights at “5 p.m. your local time.”
“We’re calling on Women’s March supporters across the country to head to your local federal courthouse, federal building, town hall, or town square,” the group said in an online petition.
“Bring your families, your signs, your stories, your heart, and your commitment to save Roe and access to safe and legal abortion for all who need it.”
Whatever the outcome, the Politico report represents an extremely rare breach of the court’s secretive deliberation process, and on a case of significant importance.
“Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” the draft opinion states in part. It was signed by Justice Samuel Alito, a member of the court’s 6-3 conservative majority who was appointed by former President George W. Bush.
The document was labelled a “1st Draft” of the “Opinion of the Court” in a case challenging Mississippi’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks, a case known as Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, The Associated Press reported.
The court is expected to rule on the case before its term ends in late June or early July.
Roe v. Wade has been in enshrined in American law for decades, and “basic fairness and the stability of our law demand that it not be overturned,” President Joe Biden said in a statement on Tuesday.
“If the Court does overturn Roe, it will fall on our nation’s elected officials at all levels of government to protect a woman’s right to choose. And it will fall on voters to elect pro-choice officials this November,” Biden said in part.
“At the federal level, we will need more pro-choice Senators and a pro-choice majority in the House to adopt legislation that codifies Roe, which I will work to pass and sign into law.”
Hundreds of anti-abortion activists and pro-abortion rights supporters took to the streets of Washington late Monday in response to the news.
“The first line in the draft is that this is a moral issue,” said Annie McDonnell, 19, a student at George Washington University, in an interview with Reuters.
“If it’s a moral issue, you shouldn’t be depriving us of our choice.”
The unprecedented leak sent shock waves through the United States.
“This decision is a direct assault on the dignity, rights, and lives of women, not to mention decades of settled law,” said former U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton.
“It will kill and subjugate women even as a vast majority of Americans think abortion should be legal. What an utter disgrace.”
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Christian conservatives and many Republican officeholders have long sought to overturn Roe v. Wade, a 7-2 ruling from 1973.
Plaintiff Jane Roe, later identified as Norma McCorvey, was an unmarried pregnant woman who was unable to get an abortion under Texas law, where it was illegal unless to save the life of the mother.
Roe’s lawyers said she was unable to travel out of the state to obtain an abortion and argued that the law was too vague and infringed on her constitutional rights.
The anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List welcomed the reported news.
“If Roe is indeed overturned, our job will be to build consensus for the strongest protections possible for unborn children and women in every legislature,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, in a statement to Reuters.
— with files from The Associated Press and Reuters
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