How did the Supreme Court’s abortion law leak? And why does it matter?
What’s going on?
Late on Monday, Politico ran a story about a leaked draft of a Supreme Court opinion that was thought to be written by Samuel Alito. It looks like the court is about to rule in favor of Mississippi in a case about whether the state can ban most abortions at and after 15 weeks gestation. This is a direct challenge to the guarantee of abortion rights in Roe v Wade.
118 footnotes and a 31-page appendix on historical state abortion laws are included in the 98-page document. It was made public in its entirety, as well. “Roe was wrong from the start,” it says. “Its reasoning was very weak, and the decision has been bad for people.”
If you want to change Roe v Wade, you need to follow the constitution and give abortion back to the people who elected them.
There’s a case called Roe v Wade.
At 24 weeks, most people think that a foetus can live outside the womb. This is called Roe V Wade. It takes 39 weeks for a pregnancy to reach full term. The 1973 ruling is one of the most controversial in American history. It has been the subject of many legal challenges over the years, but it has stayed in place until now.
Jessica Glenza wrote a detailed explanation of the law challenge that is now being debated in December. You can read it here.
The leak tells us what the court will do.
If it’s true that the opinion is just a draft, it would have been written after the court had a vote on the issue at hand. It shows that a majority of the justices agreed with Alito. Politico said that four other Republican-appointed justices were in favor of the decision, which means that at least five of the nine-member court voted in favor of it.
After a vote like this, a justice is given the majority opinion and then writes a draft. The draft is then circulated and can be changed. Before the court makes its final decision, it is possible for the opinion to change, or even for the votes to change. This is likely to happen in the next few months.
In what way is it important that a draft of a supreme court ruling is leaked?
David Smith, a reporter for the Guardian in Washington, called the leak “stunning and unprecedented.” He said it would be “the worst security breach” in the court’s long history. Theories about the source of the leak ran the gamut, from a clerk for a liberal justice who wanted to put pressure on the court before it released its decision to a conservative who wanted to make the decision less important when it came out. In other words, no one knows.
News and analysis site Scotusblog said it was “impossible to overstate the earthquake this will cause inside the court.” This will “destroy the trust between justices and staff,” they said in a tweet. This leak is the worst, most unforgivable thing that could ever happen to you.
How did pro-choice people react to the news?
With rage. It looks like about 200 protesters were outside the court, chanting things like “abortion is healthcare” and “my body, my choice.” Somebody else in the video told the people there: “If you feel like fucking screaming, then just do it.”
What about politicians?
Democrats said that overturning Roe v Wade would be a bad thing, but they didn’t say why. They were led by Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, and Chuck Schumer, the majority leader of the Senate. In a joint statement, they said that such a move would be “an abomination, one of the worst and most destructive decisions in modern history.”
They also tried to make Roe v Wade a big deal in the upcoming midterm elections. A Democratic senatorial campaign official said, “At this critical time, we need to keep the Senate majority and keep the power to confirm or reject supreme court justices. We need to keep and grow the Democratic majority.” Republicans at first praised the apparent vote, but then they said they were angry about how it had been leaked.
It’s important to point out that it’s still possible that votes could change, which would make the apparent draft opinion only a draft. But if the supreme court rules in the way the leaked document says, the consequences will be fast and very important.
When Roe v Wade was overturned, individual states could start making their own decisions about how to move forward. This is because the US Congress has never made it clear that people have the right to terminate a pregnancy. They would be expected to act quickly, and many of them already have “trigger” laws in place that would automatically go into effect when those things happen. There would be a lot of restrictions on abortions in those states right away, and the US would become one of only four countries to do this in nearly 30 years.