WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden urged US voters on Tuesday to defend their “fundamental” rights following a leaked Supreme Court draft on ending nationwide legal abortion.
“A woman’s right to choose is fundamental… 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,” Biden said.
He turned the putative ruling into a referendum issue in the November Congressional election, urging voters to elect pro-choice candidates so that the US legislature can codify the original ruling into law. He argued that the 1973 Roe v Wade ruling is based on “a long line of precedent recognising the Fourteenth Amendment’s concept of personal liberty… against government interference with intensely personal decisions.”
The Politico scoop, based on a leak, was likened by Supreme Court lawyer and law professor Neal Katyal to the Pentagon Papers expose because internal deliberations of the Supreme Court are never revealed and this is the first such major breach in US legal history. The Supreme Court announced an investigation in the leak, with Chief Justice John Roberts saying, “To the extent this betrayal of the confidences of the Court was intended to undermine the integrity of our operations, it will not succeed.”
“It is exactly the hardline position I’ve been saying the Court is going to impose for the last three years. It will set women back in profound ways Congress must act ASAP,” Katyal, a former US acting Solicitor General tweeted, as liberals and conservatives vent their respective positions.
The social and ideological clash, which could further inflame the already polarised politics in the country, was apparent in scores of statements by lawmakers and public figures on both sides of the debate. “If the report is accurate, the Supreme Court is poised to inflict the greatest restriction of rights in the past 50 years – not just on women but on all Americans,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. And from Republican Senator Ted Cruz: “If this report is true, this is nothing short of a massive victory for life and will save the lives of millions of innocent babies.”
According to Politico, the 98-page report describes abortion as a “profound moral issue on which Americans hold sharply conflicting views,” and refers to the Roe v Wade decision as “egregiously wrong”, adding, “its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences.” In conclusion, conservative Justice Samuel Alito writes, “the Constitution does not confer a right to abortion,” and says the court now returns “that authority to the people and their elected representatives.”
Conservatives have a 6-3 majority in the US Supreme Court, which is politically rigged by whichever party chances upon vacancies when it is in power. President Trump lucked into three vacancies during his time in the White House. Although the views of conservative Chief Justice John Roberts often align with the liberal minority, conservatives could still overturn Roe v Wade by 5-4.