Washington, May 3 (EFE).- Emotions were at a fever pitch in the United States on Tuesday, a day after the leaking of a Supreme Court draft opinion that appears to indicate that a majority of justices will vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Written by Associate Justice Samuel Alito and supported by four other conservative justices (meaning it has the backing of a majority of the nine-member high court), that opinion said the landmark 1973 ruling that made abortion a federal constitutional right up to the point of fetal viability was “egregiously wrong from the start.”
(Fetal viability at the time of that ruling was around 28 weeks but has since fallen to around 23 weeks due to medical advances)
Chief Justice John Roberts on Tuesday confirmed the authenticity of the draft that was leaked late Monday and said he has directed the marshal of the court to launch an investigation to determine the source.
Fury over the opinion was seen in protests by pro-choice Democrats in several US cities, including one in Washington DC outside the high-court building.
“I am angry because an extremist United States Supreme Court thinks they can impose their extremist views on all of the women of this country. And they are wrong,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts told a group of fellow protesters who held up signs reading “Bans off Our Bodies” and “Abortion Justice Can’t Wait.”
Since the leaked opinion is only a draft, it is subject to change before the justices issue a final opinion this summer on a Mississippi abortion case – Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
That conservative southeastern state passed a law in 2018 that banned abortions after 15 weeks, around eight weeks before fetal viability. That law was subsequently overturned by the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, but Mississippi appealed that ruling and the Supreme Court last year agreed to hear the case.
The scrapping of Roe would mean that access to abortion in the US would be left to individual states to decide, but Warren said Tuesday on Twitter that such a state of affairs would discriminate against the poor and most vulnerable.
“If an extremist Supreme Court overturns Roe, wealthy women will still get safe abortions – by traveling to another state or country. But women of color, those with lower-incomes, and victims of abuse will suffer the most,” she tweeted.
The Democratic-controlled “Congress must eliminate the filibuster and protect Roe,” she said in reference to a legislative mechanism that effectively requires 60 votes to pass a bill in the Senate.
Earlier Tuesday, US President Joe Biden said his administration is preparing a response to the potential overturning of Roe v. Wade.
In a statement, he said that shortly after passage of a Texas law curtailing abortion rights, as well as other similar state legislation, he had instructed White House lawyers to prepare “options for an Administration response to the continued attack on abortion and reproductive rights.”
“A woman’s right to choose is fundamental, Roe has been the law of the land for almost 50 years, and basic fairness and the stability of our law demand that it not be overturned,” Biden said in the statement, in which he called on the need to “adopt legislation that codifies Roe, which I will work to pass and sign into law.”
Like Warren, Biden also rejected the idea that access to abortion should be left to individual states to decide.
“There are so many fundamental rights that are affected by that, and I’m not prepared to leave that to the whims of the public at the moment,” he said in remarks to reporters before boarding Air Force One for a trip to Alabama.
Republican lawmaker Mike Lee, for his part, slammed the leaking of the draft opinion to the media.
“Deliberation and the maintenance of decorum and confidentiality are vital to the free operation of justices and the judicial system,” Lee, a senator from Utah, tweeted late Monday. “To violate an understanding that has held for the entire modern history of the Court – seeking to place outside political pressure on the Court and the justices themselves – is dangerous.
He went on to praise “what appears to be Justice Alito’s well-written and well-reasoned draft” and said he hopes and prays it “in fact reflects the majority view of the Court.” EFE