Supreme Court leak ignites US abortion firestorm

Abortion rights and anti-abortion activists gather outside the Supreme Court in Washington following the leak on May 2, 2022

US President Joe Biden urged voters Tuesday to defend “fundamental” rights after a leaked Supreme Court draft ruling indicated the imminent end to nationwide legal abortion, long viewed as a basic freedom by tens of millions of Americans.

If the draft ruling is confirmed by the court, it would overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which enshrined abortion rights across the country. Instantly, abortion laws would be left up to individual state legislatures, with as many as half expected to enact bans or new restrictions.

Outside the Supreme Court building in the heart of Washington, more than a thousand protesters on both sides of the hotly-debated issue gathered Tuesday.

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“I didn’t think that we would have to be here in 2022, debating, protesting this. It’s a regression,” the Washington resident said.

The leaked ruling’s publication late Monday by the US news site Politico thrust the intensely divisive issue to the center of the November congressional midterms elections, potentially opening a path for beleaguered Democrats to stem expected losses.

“I believe that a woman’s right to choose is fundamental… and basic fairness and the stability of our law demand that it not be overturned,” Biden said in a written statement.

Speaking later to reporters, Biden went further, calling the draft ruling “radical” and warning of a “fundamental shift in American jurisprudence” that could put into question the future of gay marriage and “how you raise your child.”

“You can only ban safe abortion. You cannot prevent women from taking their own reproductive choices out of their own hands. That’s a fantasy,” said Kaytlin Bailey, 35.

The leak of the draft ruling was unprecedented, knocking another hole in the once hallowed reputation of the top court as the one apolitical branch in the US government.

Earlier Tuesday, crowds of protesters from both camps descended on the Supreme Court building, with anti-abortion rights activists chanting “abortion is violence. Abortion is oppression” as well as “Hey Hey Ho Ho Roe v. Wade is going to go!”

“Women will die, they already do,” warned Victoria Lord, a 61-year-old historian, grimly.

“People who are privileged will find others means to have an abortion, they will travel to other states,” the energy consultant told AFP.

Most developed countries allow abortions on request up to a gestational limit, most often 12 weeks.

The court had been expected to decide this June on challenges to Roe v. Wade.

“The far left wants unelected judges to impose a radical, one-size fits all abortion policy, leaving Americans without a voice,” it said.

The laws are being challenged in court.

The draft Supreme Court opinion was written by Justice Samuel Alito and, according to Politico, has been circulating since February inside the court — now dominated 6-3 by conservatives.

“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” Alito writes in the document, labeled the “Opinion of the Court.”

The Guttmacher Institute, which backs abortion rights, has said 26 states are “certain or likely” to ban abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

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