May 3, 2022
The news last night, as Rachel Maddow so aptly described it, left us “gobsmacked.”.
Since it has never happened before (a leak from the SCOTUS of an entire draft of an opinion), we can probably assume that it was not by accident that the initial draft of the Mississippi abortion decision that will be handed down in June was leaked to a news organization. It signals that a majority of the justices have voted to completely overturn Roe v. Wade.
When a case is heard before the Court, an initial vote is taken by the justices who have heard the oral arguments, and the Chief Justice assigns a member of the court to draft an opinion reflecting the views of the majority of those justices. While there is admittedly some room for small changes, it is quite likely — especially given the conservative justices who now hold a majority on the Court – that the basic move to completely overturn Roe will hold.
Justice Alito wrote the document that was leaked, but words like “abortionist,” a favorite term of Justice Clarence Thomas, and phrases used by Justice Barrett in her arguments that women can just give birth and put a baby up for adoption are very much a part of the language and reasoning in the opinion. Most observers of the court over our country’s history believed that this kind of outcome was unlikely. The justices are usually much more cognizant of what is actually going on in the country and don’t overturn standing precedent that will alter the lives of over half the population.
Alito also wrote that abortion wasn’t the economic issue it was 29 years ago. Quite to the contrary, 70% of the population has never known an economic climate in which abortion and birth control weren’t legal.
Even more frightening is the fact that, given their willingness to overturn Roe, we cannot ignore that many decisions like gay marriage, and even birth control, are now in their crosshairs. In fact, since every prospective Republican-appointed justice in his or her confirmation hearing, has essentially lied about their attitude toward established precedent, we can be justifiably afraid. Almost every long-standing opinion of the Court opposed by conservatives could be up for review.
There is no shortage of news and opinion that has already been posted and will continue to come out about this, and we encourage everyone to become as familiar as they can with what is at stake. There are 13 states that have what are called “trigger laws” that simply say that the instant a decision overturning Roe is handed down by the Court, abortion will be illegal in that state. However at least 10 more are currently considering such laws – the number of states with “trigger laws” rises weekly.
While Maryland has codified Roe v. Wade in our state law and even strengthened our laws during the last legislative session, we cannot be numb to the conditions faced by women nationwide. And as safe as our codification of Roe may make us feel here, we need to be very aware that all it will take for that to change for us would be for the Republicans to win control of the House and the Senate in the fall elections and the White House in 2024. There’s no question that the instant that happens, abortion would no longer be legal anywhere in the U.S.
As Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland) said on Maddow’s program last night, we have to turn out a vote like never before in the fall elections.
Please make a commitment now to help in any way you can with that effort.