Women and feminists everywhere have been left outraged over the last week by the document from the United States of America (USA) Supreme Court, anonymously leaked by the media outlet Politico. It suggests that there may be moves to overturn Roe v Wade, a law that made abortions legal and accessible without government interference since 1973.
If the draft, written by judge Samuel Alito, finds itself passed through the Supreme Court, it could allow the states to decide whether or not abortions should be illegal in their entirety without any minimum gestation age.
Whilst it is theorised that liberal states would likely keep abortions legal, the USA consists of a political conservative majority. Making it extremely difficult for women facing an abortion ban to seek a legal and safe abortion out of state. Final opinions, which will be released in June, may differ from draft opinions.
Outrage v Support
On 3 May, the World Press Freedom Day, tensions were rife as thousands flocked to Washington D.C to protest the all-too-real prospect of the legislation becoming overturned. Both supporters for and against abortion expressed their anger and support outside the Supreme Court.
Floating amongst the protesters was the fear that the power that the USA Supreme Court has over the nation and that if enough swayed in the direction of supporting the document, then abortions could cease in most states within months of the power transferring over.
#SCOTUSleak has been trending on social media as people voice their opinions for and against the problematic news. Many angered women have taken to their keyboards to express their disbelief at the drafted document. Including powerful ones.
Vice President Kamala Harris, a long-time pro-choice supporter, has been posting on Instagram almost every day since the leaked draft opinion came to light. “Women’s issues are America’s issues and democracies, democracies cannot be strong if the rights of women are under attack.”
USA congress representative for California, democrat Maxine Waters tweeted: “Today the women of this country have gotten the first view of a leaked document from the SCOTUS that describes the destruction of Roe v Wade. This decision will be devastating. Despite the pending decision, women must fight with every breath of life, to resist & resist!”
NARAL Pro-Choice America issued a press release stating that “should Roe fall, twenty-eight states are poised to take action to prohibit abortion outright. Of those, thirteen states already have ‘trigger bans’ in place, which would ban abortion automatically if Roe is overturned. These bans and attacks on abortion access fall hardest on those most marginalized, including people of color, LGBTQ people, people with low incomes, and those in rural communities.”
After the news broke, the founder of the liberal centre and Republican lawyer, Harmeet K. Dhillon, voiced her opinions on overturning Roe v Wade. :
“I’m already starting to get hate mail for my comments on @IngrahamAngle tonight. I don’t care — it’s a privilege to represent pro-life heroes such as @daviddaleiden in court, and I’m angry and shocked at this act of political terrorism against the SCOTUS. Leaker must be found!”, she stated. Since the post on 3 May, she has tweeted many more times, supporting the controversial document.
Whilst recently confirmed supreme court justice, judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is yet to voice her opinion on the potential overturning of Roe v Wade, many have been quick to blame her for the leak.
“I find it suspect that the first leak coming out of the Supreme Court in history comes shortly after judge Jackson is confirmed,” the right-wing Newsmax host Grant Stinchfield commented.
Even so, during her confirmation hearing, Brown Jackson told her interviewers that she believed Roe v Wade was “settled” law. The term can differ within judicial opinions. Albeit typically, it implies the law has taken on a more substantive part of legal doctrine.
Despite Chief Justice Roberts’ lacklustre persuasion that this document is not much more than words on paper, many are left unconvinced that this document will not be something more permanent in the future. With an increasing amount of states proposing and enforcing abortion bans for pregnancies as early as six weeks, many understandably feel uneasy about the future facing the women of America.
December 2021: There were concerns over the Supreme Court appearing to be poised to overturn Roe v Wade (1973) after Mississippi actioned a ban on nearly all abortions over 15 weeks in 2018 – even if it put the mothers’ life at risk. In December 2021, after an arduous hearing where they were to decide if Mississippi’s abortion ban was constitutional, the Supreme Court ultimately ruled that Mississippi’s law was unconstitutional.
April 2022: After Texas’ controversial bill to criminalise abortions over six weeks became effective from September 2021, fears of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v Wade resurfaced after they repeatedly declined to block the misleadingly named “heartbeat bill”. When this fact was made clear to the public, many took to the media and broke out their hashtags to fight the abortion ban.
2 May 2022: The SCOTUS draft was leaked and released by the news site Politico. The document suggested that the Supreme Court is trying to overturn the landmark decision of Roe v Wade (1973); the law ruled that the constitution of the United States protects a pregnant woman’s liberty to choose to have an abortion without excessive government restriction. Abortion rights groups have been fighting back against the leaked draft, reinforcing the importance that Roe v Wade stands for.
3 May 2022: The Supreme Court’s Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed that the document is authentic but not final; and expressed the Supreme Court’s intentions to investigate the leak. In his written statement, he appeared to focus more on the betrayal he felt from the leaked document than on reassuring the world that the document is not in any danger of being voted through the Supreme Court.
“Although the document described in yesterday’s reports is authentic, it does not represent a decision by the Court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case”, his statement detailed. “To the extent, this betrayal of confidence of the Court was intended to undermine the integrity of our operations, it will not succeed”, he continued.
Undeterred by the backlash surrounding the SCOTUS draft, Oklahoma proudly announced that they had signed a Texas-style, near-total ban on all abortions after six weeks.
4 May 2022: In a move to overcorrect from the leaked SCOTUS documents, a federal court has blocked Ohio’s “heartbeat bill”. Like Texas and now Oklahoma, Ohio sought to criminalise nearly all abortions over six weeks of gestation. Typically, a heartbeat is not detected until at least the 7-week mark. With a transvaginal ultrasound, a heartbeat may be detected between five and a half and six weeks.
5 May 2022: A recent poll revealed that 50% of Americans did not want Roe v Wade to be overturned, 28% wanted it overturned, and 22% were undecided. The poll, carried out by Politico/Morning Consult, also revealed that 51% of Republicans wanted the legislation to be overturned. Historically, the Republican party has stood for the liberty of the people.
9 May 2022: On Monday evening, protestors marched to the home of Judge Samuel Alito, in defiance of the all too real prospect that the leaked draft opinion suggested for the American women. Around a hundred protestors led a candlelight vigil outside the justice’s home in Virginia. U.S Marshals have also announced their involvement in protecting the justices. Across the nation, law enforcement has encouraged increased vigilance in light of the leaked document.
Right-wing supporters of the document are trying to change the narrative by resurrecting the “my body, my choice” debate on women’s rights. By using anti-vaxxers who adopted the phrase as ammunition to their cause, claiming that feminists “can’t have it both ways”.