The Supreme Court of the United States is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, according to a leaked draft majority opinion written by Associate Justice Samuel Alito, and confirmed as authentic Tuesday morning by Chief Justice John Roberts. The draft, which is dated Feb. 2022, circulated inside the court and was first reported by POLITICO on Monday evening. The leaked decision is not final until an official ruling is announced, which is expected in June or July. Once the ruling is official, it will go into effect immediately, placing abortion rights in the hands of individual states. The ruling would impact pending or current abortion bans in 26 states, but abortion will remain legal in states without bans. Roberts announced in a statement that the Marshal of the Court will launch an investigation into the source of the leak, which he called “an egregious breach of that trust that is an affront to the Court and the community of public servants who work here.” He also added that despite the leak, the court’s decision “will not be affected in any way.”
“I think the tone, the tenor, the vitriol of the decision makes it clear that the outcome will not be changed by several rounds of drafting here,” said Noreen Farrell, a gender justice expert and executive director of Equal Right Advocates. “Any indication that this [case] might yield a more limited decision on abortion rights has been erased; this will be a 100% overturn of Roe v. Wade, and I think a green light to states across the country, pushing very extreme anti-abortion laws. This is a very searing and relentless attack on the logic and reasoning of Roe v. Wade.”
While abortion is still legal today, the news has been a rallying cry for reproductive justice advocates and allies. According to advocates, the decision will most severely harm people of color and those working to make ends meet, who made up over 50% of people seeking an abortion in 2016. Those who live in any of the 13 states with so-called “trigger laws” will face abortion bans once Roe has been struck down. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 26 states are likely to ban abortion if abortion rights are revoked at the federal level.
“This is what we expected, but a lot earlier than we expected,” said Diana Greene Foster, director of research at Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health. “Who knows who leaked it and why, maybe it was to pressure somebody to vote differently. But, abortion is still legal in every state, although very difficult to get in some.”
Abortion advocates want to make sure that people can still access abortion care and can still attend their appointments. Foster has researched the impact of receiving or being denied an abortion on the trajectory of reproductive people’s lives. According to her research, those who are denied an abortion can face profound effects on their health, economic well-being, relationships, ability to have wanted children later, and achievement of aspirational goals.
“Making abortion harder to get greatly affects people’s lives,” Foster said. “This decision will disproportionately affect young women in their 20s or exactly at the point in life when you find yourself and figure out your life and also people of color and people with low incomes.”
Advocates had been anticipating a ruling in June, but the news has given a glimpse of what is to come–a shocking rejection of the 1973 decision that guaranteed federal constitutional protection for abortion rights.
“I feel like the values that support abortion rights are universal values of enabling people to take care of the children they already have, of wanting people to be able to have children under the circumstances that they choose,” Foster said. “These are universal values, and when the government intervenes and makes these values less likely to come about, it seriously harms people’s lives.”
According to Morgan Hopkins, the interim executive director of campaigns and strategies for All* Above All, now is the moment to show outrage. President Joe Biden, whose vow to codify Roe v. Wade has stalled, responded to the news by reiterating that he would work to pass and sign into law legislation that does codify the landmark ruling.
“I believe that a woman’s right to choose is fundamental, Roe has been the law of the land for almost fifty years, and basic fairness and the stability of our law demand that it not be overturned,” Biden said in a statement.
Protesters are gathering across the country to make sure their voices are heard and are calling on everyone to support local abortion funds, support pro-abortion candidates during midterm elections, and let their elected officials know they want reproductive rights.
“Everyone should speak out right now,” Hopkins said. “A decision like this one would have an earth-shattering impact.”