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What Overturning Roe v. Wade Could Mean For Women
If a leaked draft opinion from the Supreme Court is any indication, Roe v. Wade will soon be overturned.
The draft, authored by Justice Samuel Alito, indicates that five of the nine justices favor overturning the decision that has stood for nearly fifty years. The landmark case in 1973 protected a woman’s right to have an abortion through the first trimester.
The draft opinion asserts that the Constitution makes no reference to abortion and is therefore not protected. “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s representatives,” Alito wrote. He also stated that abortion issues have “enflamed debate and deepened division.”
The draft document was obtained by Politico and published on May 2. Chief Justice John Roberts verified its authenticity but said it was not the final position of any member on the issue.
What is Roe v. Wade
In 1973 Jane Roe, a pseudonym for Norma McCorvey, brought the case against Texas district attorney Henry Wade to the Supreme Court, alleging that the Texas abortion laws were unconstitutional. The Supreme Court’s ruling gives pregnant women the liberty to elect to have an abortion, with its basis in the Fourteenth Amendment regarding the “right to privacy.”
For nearly fifty years, Roe v. Wade ruling has stood, with a few decisions shaping how it is interpreted. The 1973 ruling struck down many existing state laws barring abortion and created a framework to allow abortion based on the stage of pregnancy.
Reaction to Opinion Leak
After verifying it was an authentic document, Roberts criticized the leak stating, “This was a singular and egregious breach of that trust that is an affront to the Court and the community of public servants who work here.”
Senate Minority Leader (R-Ky) Mitch McConnell blamed the leak on the “radical left,” believing it was likely someone inside the court. “They want to override impartiality with intimidation,” he said.
Some believe the leak came from conservative parties to deter them from changing their vote as the draft is circulating. Although infrequent, it’s not unprecedented for justice to change their vote, nor is it uncommon for the drafts to change while being circulated. Draft opinions are routine in the courts and are an “essential part of the Court’s confidential deliberative work,” according to a statement from the Supreme Court. Yet now that the draft is public, it would be evident whose opinion was swayed or if any changes in content occurred.
Some corporations have announced changes to support employees in need of or aid those in need of abortions. Amazon announced that they would pay up to $4,000 in travel expenses for non-life-threatening medical treatments, including abortion. Previously Match, Bumble, Lyft, and Uber announced support for families in Texas seeking abortion assistance. Salesforce offered to relocate Texas employees after the state made its abortion law more restrictive.
What Could Happen Next
The Supreme Court generally doesn’t overrule past decisions, which makes this potential ruling significant. Abortion is currently legal across the country and each state has its own restrictions based on fetal gestational age. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, each state would have the ability to make abortion illegal. Twenty-three states have already passed laws that would take effect immediately to prevent abortions. Sixteen states have laws that would protect abortion rights.
The sudden change in abortion law would likely mean a rush to states where abortion is legal. Those with lower income are likely to be hardest hit, unable to travel long distances or take time from work.
The timing of the leaked document occurs as primary voting begins across the country. Indiana and Ohio began voting on May 3, and 11 other states will follow for the remainder of the month. Primary voting will continue until election day on November 8, with most states completed by the end of July. President Biden reminded voters in a statement on May 3 that elected officials in each state can lead their own decision on abortion.
Congress has an option to codify abortion rights but would require 60 votes in the senate or an end to the filibuster to accomplish it. Biden stated his support to put abortion rights into law if the court decides to overturn its decision.
Ultimately even with a filibuster, 50 votes would be required to pass abortion rights with Vice President Harris casting the deciding vote. At this point, there’s no guarantee of obtaining the needed votes. Congress was recently unable to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act that would have included national protection for abortion. The bill failed 46-48 in February.