The Recent Leaked Draft to Overturn Roe v. Wade May Impact Much More Than Abortion
On May 14, 2022, an estimated 17,000 people in Washington D.C ― and thousands more across the nation ― congregated either in support of or against a seismic leak. Roe v. Wade, a monumental Supreme Court case ruled in 1973, legalized abortion in all 50 states and subsequent U.S. territories on the grounds that prohibiting abortion infringes on the protected right to privacy. However, on May 2, news organization Politico shockingly revealed that the Supreme Court had voted to strike the decision, according to a leaked draft opinion written by Justice Samuel A. Alito in February. This is the first time a draft decision has been leaked while a case was still pending, and it stands to create even further controversy and division across the U.S.
There are a few important considerations to understand before delving into the implications of the potential overturn of Roe v. Wade. The original court decision emerged in 1970, when Jane Roe filed a lawsuit against Henry Wade (the District Attorney of Dallas at the time) over the issue of a woman’s right to abortion. The case made its way to the Supreme Court, where a 7–2 vote resulted in the legalization of abortion nationwide, with the only exception being the state’s ability to prevent abortion in the third trimester of pregnancy. Contrary to popular belief, the overturning of Roe v. Wade would not make abortion illegal in all areas of the U.S. Instead, the decision would be up to the states. An estimated 26 states would choose to outlaw abortion once the court decision is overturned. In fact, 13 states have “trigger laws” that would ban abortion in those states as soon as Roe v. Wade is overturned. Notable states with trigger laws include Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana, among others. The governments of these states are currently waiting for the official Supreme Court decision to come out, estimated to be in the summer of 2022, to determine if they are legally allowed to regulate a woman’s right to an abortion.
Further Implications of the Draft Leak
After the draft leak by Politico on May 2, the public responded rapidly in a variety of ways. Opponents of the overturn in Atlanta took to the streets to protest the day following the leak. Those in support of the actual content of the draft are angry as well. Many Republicans in power such as Senator Ted Cruz of Texas are outraged about the leak. In an interview with Fox Business Network’s Varney & Co., Cruz stated that the leak was an attempt to tarnish the reputation of House Republicans and believes it is sure to sway people against the overturn, remarking, “I hope whoever is responsible for this, not only is fired instantly but is prosecuted and served real jail time for violating the confidences of the Supreme Court.” In addition, headlines have been running rampant regarding the topic of abortion and the potential outcomes of the article published by Politico.
Nonetheless, it seems that there is still one topic that has yet to be extensively covered in the news. While the overturn of Roe v. Wade will strike down the Constitutional right to abortion, it also entails other areas relating to the right to privacy that were discussed in the original 1973 case. Roe v. Wade legalized abortion under the condition that a right to privacy was an umbrella term that included a woman’s right to choose. However, Justice Alito writes in his draft, “The abortion right, which is not mentioned in the Constitution, is part of a right to privacy, which is also not mentioned.” As the rest of the document undermines other laws not explicitly protected under the Constitution, some citizens worry that other currently recognized rights may be overturned as well. The right to privacy was established to guarantee a person’s right against government intervention into “fundamental personal issues and decisions.” Many argue that this is a target at other rights, aside from abortion, such as marriage equality and sexual autonomy, both of which are liberties outlined in the landmark case Obergefell v. Hodges.
Moreover, many fear that Justice Alito’s past intolerance towards the Obergefell decision, which primarily deals with legalizing same-sex marriage, points signs toward a future attack on LGBTQ+ rights. These concerns are coupled with Alito’s statement in the draft: “We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled. The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision, including the one on which the defenders of Roe and Casey now chiefly rely — the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. That provision has been held to guarantee some rights that are not mentioned in the Constitution, but any such right must be ‘deeply rooted in this Nation's history and tradition’ and ‘implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.’” Alito sentiment that “none of these rights [Lawrence v. Texas, Obergefell v. Hodges, etc.] has any claim to being deeply rooted in history” has given supporters of Roe v. Wade something else to fear. However, the draft also includes a portion that states, “None of the other decisions cited by Roe and Casey [including Lawrence v. Texas and Obergefell v. Hodges] involved the critical moral question posed by abortion. They are therefore inapposite. They do not support the right to obtain an abortion, and by the same token, our conclusion that the Constitution does not confer such a right does not undermine them in any way.” This demonstrates the notion that abortion is the only liberty under fire by the Supreme Court; in other words, any other moral dilemma involving human life (such as whether a fetus is to be considered a human life) is a separate topic of debate. Quotes like these, sprinkled throughout the draft, hint against what many are worried about in regards to the stripping of other liberties under the right to privacy.
The Importance of Youth
As is the case with many other political issues, a prominent phenomenon has begun to catch the eyes of the general public: youth involvement. Following the draft leak, many took to different platforms such as social media sites and in-person protesting to express their opinions on the matter. An interview with students at high schools in Texas ― a trigger state that will outlaw abortion in the event of the overturn of Roe ― brings this to light. Natalia Gonzalez-Chelala, a student at the High School for Law and Justice, when asked if she believes the overturn will impact her, stated, “My family is very pro-life and I am not, and this division is stressful when, in the end, it comes down to a simple difference of opinion. If I end up wanting an abortion when I’m older, there will be no safe option.” As someone who is pro-choice, Gonzalez-Chelala believes that the power of youth involvement in political events like these is vital. She remarked, “I believe our part in this is the most important, and it’s shown in the growth of social media and activism. The youth of today are showing how much can be done when we connect online since we have to shape the world we’re growing up in instead of letting others do it for us. Doing things like signing petitions or sharing a post is so simple to do yet it helps a lot, so even if people don’t feel comfortable getting out there and protesting or openly speaking, the click of a button can help.”
Regardless of one’s political opinions, the spread of information via these platforms is also significant. Media bias and lack of coverage exists in all realms of journalism but can prove to be a problem when educating the public on a matter as complex as the recent events regarding Roe v. Wade. The information discussed in this article about Roe v. Wade’s impact on matters that are separate from abortion, such as sexual orientation and gay marriage, are topics that some believe to be underrepresented in news stories, possibly leading to a skewed perspective. Ava Lim, a junior at Carnegie Vanguard High School (one of the top-ranked public high schools in Texas), stated in reference to these additional implications of the draft, “I actually first heard about it on TikTok, which was terrible because that made me question the credibility of the claims. . . . And then, my friend who is much more knowledgeable on the issue explained that to me, and I was just left there with my mouth agape. . . . I’ve seen, like, one report on it. And that’s kind of the sad and scary part because it’s like it’s just happening. . . . I didn’t see them cover a ton on things like same-sex marriage or the privacy revocations.” These testimonies from young people demonstrate how important media coverage is in disseminating information. Once the public is informed, citizens can take action for either side.
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