Leaked Supreme Court Draft Opinion Intensifies Abortion Debate in America
The United States’ abortion debate was recently reignited when Politico, a political journalism company, published a leaked first draft of a majority opinion in a pending Supreme Court case on abortion rights. The preliminary opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito suggests that the country’s highest court may be on the verge of rescinding the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that guaranteed the federal constitutional protection of abortion rights for nearly half a century. Should the draft opinion be adopted by the court in its present form, individual states would be allowed to restrict and ban abortion.
The Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade (1973) that the due process clause of the 14th Amendment provides a “right to privacy,” which would, in turn, ensure a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy. The case established the “trimester” system, which gave American women an absolute right to an abortion in the first trimester and limited rights in the second trimester. In the decades since this decision, however, the efforts of anti-abortion campaigners have led to stricter and narrower regulations on abortion in more than a dozen states. In 2021, a challenge to Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act, which banned any abortion procedures after the first 15 weeks of pregnancy, was taken to the Supreme Court. Thus, leading the justices to reexamine the decades-old precedent set by Roe v. Wade.
In the draft obtained by Politico, Justice Samuel Alito dismissed the arguments that the due process clause might be relied upon to defend abortion rights. According to Alito, while the due process clause does guarantee some rights that are not explicitly stated in the Constitution, such rights need to be “deeply rooted in this nation’s history and tradition.” Alito concluded that the issue of abortion should be handled individually by the states. “That is what the Constitution and the rule of law demand,” he said.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research and policy organization, if Roe v. Wade is either significantly weakened or overturned, 26 of the 50 states could end up featuring abortion bans. Of these Republican-led states, 13 have passed “trigger bans” that will automatically prohibit abortion once Roe v. Wade is no longer in effect. On the other hand, democratic governors of several states like California, New Mexico, and Michigan have declared that they would enshrine abortion rights in their constitutions even if the court struck down Roe v. Wade.
Large demonstrations by rival groups of protesters have since taken place outside the Supreme Court. Anti-abortion activists have demanded that the court go through with the draft decision, while abortion rights advocates have responded by shouting, “Abortion is health care.” The latter camp fears that limiting abortion access may lead to higher maternal mortality rates and feed into a culture of misogyny. Some have also argued that Justice Alito’s justification for overruling Roe v. Wade leaves the door wide open to further restrictions of other liberties that have been upheld in the U.S. for decades.
Yesel Kang Staff Reporter
1. What is the "trimester" system?
2. Approximately how many states might impose abortion bans?
3. Which three states mentioned in the text declared that they would enshrine abortion rights?
1. Where do you fall between pro-choice and pro-life?
2. How do abortion bans infringe on basic human rights?
3. What is a scenario where abortion would be necessary?
4. What are your final thoughts on abortion?