President Joe Biden on Tuesday blasted a “radical” draft of a Supreme Court opinion that would, in his view, throw out the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion rights ruling that has stood for a half century and warned that other rights including same-sex marriage and birth control are at risk if the court follows through. Across the nation, Americans grappled with what might come next.
He added: “If this decision holds, it’s really quite a radical decision.” He said the “basic fairness and the stability of our law demand” that the court not overturn Roe.
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“If the court does overturn Roe, it will fall on our nation’s elected officials at all levels of government to protect a woman’s right to choose,” Biden said. “And it will fall on voters to elect pro-choice officials this November. At the federal level, we will need more pro-choice Senators and a pro-choice majority in the House to adopt legislation that codifies Roe, which I will work to pass and sign into law.”
“Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” the draft opinion states. It was signed by Justice Samuel Alito, a member of the court’s 6-3 conservative majority who was appointed by former President George W. Bush.
The document was labeled a “1st Draft” of the “Opinion of the Court” in a case challenging Mississippi’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks, a case known as Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
The draft opinion in effect states there is no constitutional right to abortion services. It would allow individual states to more heavily regulate or outright ban the procedure.
“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” it states, referencing the 1992 case Planned Parenthood v. Casey that affirmed Roe’s finding of a constitutional right to abortion services but allowed states to place some constraints on the practice. “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”
Votes and opinions in a case aren’t final until a decision is announced or, in a change wrought by the coronavirus pandemic, posted on the court’s website.
An AP-NORC poll in December found that Democrats increasingly see abortion as a high-priority issue.
Other polling shows relatively few Americans want to see Roe overturned. In 2020, AP VoteCast found that 69% of voters in the presidential election said the Supreme Court should leave the Roe v. Wade decision as is; just 29% said the court should overturn the decision. In general, AP-NORC polling finds a majority of the public favors abortion being legal in most or all cases.
Still, when asked about abortion policy generally, Americans have nuanced attitudes on the issue, and many don’t think that abortion should be possible after the first trimester or that women should be able to obtain a legal abortion for any reason.
Alito, in the draft, said the court can’t predict how the public might react and shouldn’t try. “We cannot allow our decisions to be affected by any extraneous influences such as concern about the public’s reaction to our work,” Alito wrote in the draft opinion, according to Politico.
Police in Washington prepared for the potential of large demonstrations outside the Supreme Court and U.S. Capitol. People on both sides of the issue gathered outside the curt waving signs and chanting on a balmy Monday night following the release of the Politico report, and again on Tuesday.
Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch said in a statement, “We will let the Supreme Court speak for itself and wait for the Court’s official opinion.”
As of now, the court allows states to regulate but not ban abortion before the point of viability, around 24 weeks.
Meanwhile, eight states and the District of Columbia have protected access to abortion in state law.
Eight Democratic-leaning went even further. They expanded access to the procedure. California passed legislation making the procedure less expensive and is considering other bills to make itself an “abortion sanctuary” if Roe is overturned.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.