Reversing History: Roe v. Wade Opinion Leaks

In Indianapolis, protestors of opposing views gather to spread awareness to their side. Photo Credit: JAMIE KELTER DAVIS FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES

A United States Supreme Court draft opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision, was leaked on Monday, May 2. Roe v. Wade had established a pregnant woman’s liberty to choose to have an abortion without excessive government restriction.

The leaked draft was 98 pages, with a 31-page appendix of historical state abortion laws. The draft, written by Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. circulated inside the court and was obtained by POLITICO. It reflects the Court’s breakdown of the decision as it was about three months ago, when his draft first circulated, with a majority five votes for overturning the cases Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and three votes against it, with Chief Justice John Roberts in the middle. Chief Justice Roberts acknowledged the draft as authentic on Tuesday.

No draft decision in the modern history of the court has been disclosed publicly while a case was still pending, POLITICO states.

The immediate impact of the ruling would be ending a federal half-century guarantee of the constitutional protection of abortion rights, and allowing each state to decide whether to restrict or ban abortion. 

“As a female college student, I am afraid,” second-year history major Jen Nolet stated. “I fear that this is the beginning of a loss of our bodily autonomy that may later manifest into more drastic and incredibly harmful revocation of human rights.”

President Joe Biden weighed in and released a statement on May 3, regarding the reported Supreme Court Decision Draft. “I believe that a woman’s right to choose is fundamental, Roe has been the law of the land for almost fifty years, and basic fairness and the stability of our law demand that it not be overturned,” Biden stated. “If the court does overturn Roe, it will fall on our nation’s elected officials at all levels of government to protect a woman’s right to choose [and it] will fall on voters to elect pro-choice officials this November.”

A decision on the leaked draft opinion isn’t expected until June, leaving a divided nation to wait to see if the draft ruling will be the final one. 

Protestors with opposing views have been spreading awareness in public spaces around the U.S. since the initial leak of the draft. Live updates are available on nytimes.com/live. People carried signs and expressed their anger through chants — causing some chaos on the streets.

A photograph taken by Jamie Kelter Davis for The New York Times depicts a group of protestors in Indianapolis, with two protestors with opposing views standing side by side. There is a clear divide in public opinion about the possible decision. 

In anticipation for the final decision of the draft, some states have begun putting in place “trigger laws” that would restrict abortion as soon as the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. Only thirteen states have initiated trigger laws, and sixteen other states are putting protection in place for women. 

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research group that supports abortion rights, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia, have laws that protect the right to abortion.

“California will not stand idly by as women across America are stripped of their rights and the progress so many have fought for gets erased,” California Democrats said. “We know we can’t trust the Supreme Court to protect reproductive rights, so California will build a firewall around this right in our state constitution. Women will remain protected here.”

If Roe becomes overturned, abortion access will be increasingly varied across America. Some states that allow the procedure and those that outlaw abortion, including some that may ban the procedure even in extreme situations, involving rape or incest.

Social media is churning with opinions about the draft. An Instagram infographic was posted by @socialjusticesoldier on April 9, 2022 stating, “If you only support abortion in instances of rape or incest, you’re reinforcing the idea that in order for a woman to have a right to her body, someone else has to violate it first.” 

The court’s ruling would affect women who don’t have the means or ability to travel for a procedure, as well as women who may not have the means to welcome a child into their lives. “Access to information is easier for those with financial means and those who are better educated,” Elaine Kamarck wrote in Brookings. “But abortion is most prevalent among women in their twenties who are low income.” 

Over half the current Supreme Court that is attempting to overturn Roe v. Wade are men and will never have to directly worry about its consequences.

“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” Alito stated in the initial draft. “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences.” 

In an AP-NORC poll conducted last June, 61% of people said abortion should be legal in most or all circumstances in the first trimester of a pregnancy. However, 65% said abortion should usually be illegal in the second trimester, and 80% said it should be illegal in about the third trimester.

Speaking to reporters before boarding Air Force One, Biden warned the public of other privacy rights that may be at stake following the anticipated overturn, like access to birth control and same-sex marriage. Justices Clarence Thomas and Alito stated that Obergefell v. Hodges, the case that legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states has “ruinous consequences for religious liberty.

There are many resources and trustworthy sites to find an abortion clinic: including prochoice.org, abortioncarenetwork.org and plannedparenthood.org.

Protests are being held all around the U.S. in efforts to spread awareness to this possible overturning, including at SUNY New Paltz on Old Main Quad on Thursday, May 5. Signs posted around campus encourage bringing friends, signs, music, art and power. Speakers will be present to shed light on the issues, including Nolet. 

“What interferes with my morality personally is the act of taking away somebody’s right to choose, for themselves, whether or not they want to continue a pregnancy,” Nolet’s drafted speech states. “The number of people having abortions does not change drastically when abortion is outlawed, it will only increase the number of deaths of people who desperately choose to undergo an unsafe abortion.” 

More information will be released to the public in the coming months and a decision will be made within the Supreme Court, anticipated for the middle of the summer. Until then, Americans can do whatever they can to make sure their voices are heard and represented, especially when Election Day comes around again this November.

Avatar photo
About Samantha Salerno 51 Articles
Samantha (Sam) Salerno is a third-year performing arts major who has a passion for writing. This is her third semester on The Oracle. She spent the majority of her summer working for the publication, Fire Island News. You can reach her by emailing salernos2@newpaltz.edu.