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Leaked abortion ruling galvanises America

Published : May 04, 2022 17:33 IST T+T-
Hundreds of abortion rights supporters and opponents gathered in anger.

Hundreds of abortion rights supporters and opponents gathered in anger.

As a document shows the U.S. Supreme Court could overturn abortion rights, supporters and opponents are out in force.

The chants of the crowds gathered in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington on the morning of May 3 reach all the way to the Capitol building, greeting members of Congress on their way to work. "I'm excited to be part of the first post-Roe generation in America,” a young female protester shouts, holding a megaphone in one hand and a drawing of a uterus in the other. Across from her, a group of college students starts pointing and joins a chant: "Hey, hey, ho, ho, your backwards views have got to go.”

Opponents and proponents of abortion rights have been jolted into action after an unprecedented leak published on the night of May 2 by Politico , a news outlet. It showed a majority of justices at the U.S. Supreme Court poised to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalised abortion nationwide, potentially signaling a seismic shift in American politics and reproductive rights.

'Justices will do the right thing'

It is unclear whether the draft reflects the final opinion of the Supreme Court as justices have previously changed their opinion during the drafting process of rulings. However, it is an indication of where most of the court stands on a bedrock of American law. "It is unlikely that the majority opinion will change,” Radhika Rao, law professor at UC Hastings College of the Law, told DW . Brooke Paz, a protester in front of the Supreme Court from the Students for Life group, is optimistic since finding out about the leak. "I am super excited that Roe v. Wade could be reversed in my lifetime,” she told DW . "I think the justices will do the right thing.”

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who presides over the U.S. Supreme Court, confirmed that the document is authentic. He also stated he has asked the court's in-house police service to start an investigation into the leak, which represents a highly unusual and extreme breach of the courts protocol. If the court overturns Roe v. Wade, individual states would be allowed to ban abortions, if they wish. "In a blue, pro-choice state like California, abortion will continue to be freely available. In a red state like Mississippi, it will be illegal,” says Rao.

'I'm terrified for my future'

According to the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion advocacy and research group, more than half of all U.S. states would be certain or likely to ban abortion. "If I get raped, it will be my problem. They won't help us,” Maddy Hull, a young protester from Washington DC, told DW . Hull received news of the leaked draft this morning and rushed to the Supreme Court. "I didn't know what to do, so I just started walking. I am terrified for my future.”

According to law professor Radhika Rao, young and poor women would be especially affected by an overturning of Roe v. Wade: "Privileged women will always be able to travel across state borders to get an abortion. For those who lack access and resources to travel, their lives and health are at risk.”

Beyond the two opposing camps of protesters outside the Supreme Court, the issue of abortion rights is galvanising Democratic and Republican lawmakers, who will be vying for control of U.S. Congress during the midterm elections this November. According to Rao, Congress technically has the power to protect abortion rights, even if the Supreme Court decides to overturn Roe v. Wade. The problem, however, is how divided the U.S. legislature is. "If Congress gets its act together, it can enact a law to protect abortion at a federal level," says Rao.

U.S. President Joe Biden urged voters to elect political leaders who would protect abortion rights. "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.” Back in front of the Supreme Court, anti-abortion activists start drumming on colourful buckets, their chants growing louder. A few metres behind them, a young woman lowers her poster reading "Abortion is health care" to cover her ears.