By Ana Perez, 9th Grade
Roe v. Wade was a landmark decision of the U.S Supreme Court made in 1973, where the Supreme Court ruled that the American Constitution protects pregnant women’s freedom to choose to have an abortion without excessive government restrictions. This decision struck down many federal and state abortion bans in various U.S states and fueled an ongoing debate on the legality and morality of abortion throughout the nation. Now, almost 50 years after the initial Supreme Court decision, Politico obtained a leaked initial draft majority by Justice Samuel Alito, which suggests that the Supreme Court may overturn the historic decision in a pending final decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which has sparked controversy and protests across the United States and other parts of the world. Chief Justice John Roberts has confirmed that the document is authentic, but that it does not determine the final position of the members of the Supreme Court.
In the draft opinion, Justice Alito writes that “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” and “We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled. It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.” He also added that “Roe expressed the ‘feel[ing]’ that the Fourteenth Amendment was the provision that did the work, but its message seemed to be that the abortion right could be found somewhere in the Constitution and that specifying its exact location was not of paramount importance.” The second statement was written in the ‘Opinion of the Court’ section, which suggests that most of the members of the Supreme Court support the decision. A source familiar with the court’s deliberations stated that Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett had voted together with Justice Alito to overrule Roe v. Wade.
It is important to note, however, that deliberations on controversial cases such as this one have been fluid. In past cases, judges have changed their votes during the final decision and the court’s holding will not be final until it is published, most likely in the next two months.
However, Chief Justice Roberts added that “this betrayal of the confidences of the Court was intended to undermine the integrity of our operations, it will not succeed. The work of the Court will not be affected in any way. 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.” That could mean that public reaction might not affect the judge’s decision.
What would happen if Roe v. Wade was overturned? This would signal the end of both federal abortion rights in the United States and the guarantee of constitutional protection of abortion rights. The overturning of Roe would almost immediately lead to stricter limits on abortion access in large swaths of the South and Midwest, with about half of the states set to immediately impose broad abortion bans. These states include Kentucky, Oklahoma, Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Missouri. Any state could still legally allow the procedure, so states like Maine and Rhode Island, which have increased protections for abortion rights, could still allow abortion.
This would also mean that abortion would likely become more inaccessible to women from low-income households. According to the New York Times, this is because “women would have to travel farther to reach a state where it was legal. Many women who get abortions are poor, and long travel distances can be insurmountable. The states likely to ban abortion are concentrated in the South, Midwest and Great Plains. Because of the expected increase in interstate travel, remaining clinics would most likely have less capacity to treat the women who were able to reach them.” Currently, about 1 in 4 women in the United States have an abortion. This includes women of all backgrounds, but most of these women come from poor backgrounds and are unmarried; basically, those who cannot support a child are usually the ones who have an abortion. And, in the case that the law is overturned, the United States would join a very select group of nations that have tightened abortion laws in the past few years, including Poland, El Salvador, and Nicaragua.
Public reaction was mixed, but it led to immediate protests in front of the Supreme Court to the point where they had to barricade themselves to protect the justices. However, many have pointed out that gates do not keep the people out, as seen in the January 6th Attack on the Capitol. Many have highlighted that senators and their mistresses and the rich will still be able to access abortions, while those who need them the most won’t be able to. This would lead to back-alley clinics and many have stated that “this won’t lead to fewer abortions, but fewer legal abortions.” Crime rates would also increase in about a decade or two after the law is passed (children from low-income families are more likely to commit violent crimes in order to gain resources), which will have serious effects on society. Several governors, such as the Governor of California, the Governor of Connecticut, and the Governor of Minnesota have stated that they will expand protections in their respective states.
President Joe Biden has stated that if Roe v. Wade is overturned, he will work hard in order to pass abortion on a federal level, but he said that he will need more pro-choice senators and representatives. Popular figures have reacted to the leak, such as Sandy Sanberg who said “This is a scary day for women all across our country.” And massive protests against overturning Roe v. Wade have erupted in front of the Supreme Court, with messages such as “abortion is healthcare” and “pro-life is a lie, you don’t care if women die.” On the other hand, pro-life choices have erupted in other areas with messages such as “stand with the babies” and “pro-choice that’s a lie, babies never choose to die.” Public reaction has been messy, but it will be miles worse depending on the final outcome.
While we still don’t know whether or not Roe v. Wade will be overturned, the impact this would have on American women and their reproductive health would be massive.
- Wikipedia contributors. (2022, May 3). Roe v. Wade. Wikipedia. Retrieved May 3, 2022, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roe_v._Wade
- Exclusive: Supreme Court has voted to overturn abortion rights, draft opinion shows. (2022, May 2). POLITICO. Retrieved May 3, 2022, from https://www.politico.com/news/2022/05/02/supreme-court-abortion-draft-opinion-00029473
- UNPRECEDENTED LEAK EXPOSES A LOT, IMPACTS EVERYONE, & IT’S GOING TO GET WORSE BEFORE IT GETS BETTER. (2022, May 3). YouTube. Retrieved May 3, 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYO5GX-qEUA
- Miller, C. C., & Sanger-Katz, M. (2022, May 3). What Would the End of Roe Mean? Key Questions and Answers. The New York Times. Retrieved May 3, 2022, from https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/03/upshot/abortion-united-states-roe-wade.html