WASHINGTON – Hundreds of protesters were drawn to the Supreme Court on Tuesday over a leaked draft document showing a majority of justices are prepared to overturn abortion rights.
Thrusting placards that read “Liberate Abortion” and “Bans off our Body,” pro-abortion rights demonstrators gathered outside the court as the news of a likely opinion to overturn the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade continued to send shockwaves through the country.
If the draft document becomes a ruling later in June, “young women in America will face a nightmare in which their bodies are controlled and their futures are decided for them,” said Cristina Tzintzun Ramirez, president of NextGen America, a national voter education group.
“Young Americans are ready to fight back at the ballot box,” said Ramirez, whose group has registered more than 1.4 million people between ages 18-34 to vote since 2013.
Abortion rights became a top midterm election issue after Politico published a draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito.
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., one of four vulnerable Democrats up for reelection in the 50-50 Senate, warned that a conservative Supreme Court and GOP control of Congress could result in the loss of reproductive rights for women in Nevada and nationally.
She doubled down on that concern in a keynote speech Tuesday at a gala for EMILY’s List, a national group organized to elect pro-choice women candidates.
“For women there has never been an election as important as this one,” Cortez Masto said. “We are facing a future without the right to choose.”
Cortez Masto said the opinion would return the issue of abortion rights to states, where a patchwork of laws on the subject would then take effect.
“That means (Texas GOP Sen.) Ted Cruz gets to decide what kind of health care women will receive in this country,” Cortez Masto said. “That is outrageous.”
Focused on the leak
Religious conservatives and Republican lawmakers support Supreme Court action to make abortion illegal, citing protections for the unborn and the sanctity of life.
Both former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt and Army combat veteran Sam Brown, who are fighting for the right to challenge Cortez Masto in November, are both pro-life candidates who support abortion restrictions.
In a statement, Laxalt said a Supreme Court revocation of the abortion rights law “would constitute an historic victory for the sanctity of life and the principles of democratic self determination.”
“The Supreme Court has never had the expertise nor the authority to unilaterally legislate on abortion. After more than 50 years, that responsibility is poised to finally return to its rightful owners: the American people and their elected representatives,” Laxalt added.
But Laxalt, and GOP senators focused their anger Tuesday on the leak of the draft opinion.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said it was a deliberate attempt to damage the court and called for an investigation and prosecution on possible criminal charges.
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., suggested someone on the political left leaked the document to create a “public pressure campaign to intimidate the court.”
Hawley told reporters he agrees with the draft ruling and said the court should act immediately.
“They should release the decision now,” Hawley said of the high court.
Chief Justice John Roberts, who acknowledged the draft was legitimate, has asked the court’s marshal to investigate the leak.
Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., told the Review-Journal that “Republicans are focused on the leak because they don’t want to focus on the issue.”
Polls find support for Roe
The Pew Research Center reported last year that 59 percent of adults said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 39 percent said it should be illegal in all or most cases. Those results were consistent over the last 25 years, Pew reported. The survey also found 80 percent of Democrats believed abortion should remain legal, while just 35 percent of Republicans did.
In a poll released in June, Gallup found 47 percent — a record — saying abortion was “morally acceptable,” while 46 percent declared it was not. Again, Democrats led Republicans, with 64 percent saying abortion was morally acceptable while just 26 percent of the GOP said so. Independents were at 51 percent. That same poll found 48 percent saying abortion should be legal only under certain circumstances, with 32 percent saying it should be legal in all circumstances. (Another 19 percent said it should be illegal in all circumstances.)
Titus said Republicans know a majority of Americans support abortion rights, and that could be a factor in this year’s elections.
“So this could turn into a huge issue with reasonable Republicans and nonpartisans,” Titus said.
Nevada Democratic Reps. Susie Lee and Steven Horsford oppose overturning and landmark abortion rights decision. Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., has supported legislation restricting abortions. All face re-election challenges.
Ford pledges support for abortion rights
In Nevada on Tuesday, Attorney General Aaron Ford pledged to continue to fight for abortion rights, no matter what happens at the national level.
“We have to be on guard against any attempts to make Nevada’s right to an abortion a right only on paper and fight back efforts to restrict meaningful access to abortion,” Ford said in a call with reporters.
He said he’s concerned the ruling will lead to more state’s putting restrictions on abortions, which “will inevitably punish Nevada’s health care system,” and pointed to comments from abortion providers who said they saw an uptick in people traveling from other states following the abortion restrictions passed in Texas last year.
Thirteen states have passed laws to put restrictions on abortions that will go into effect if Roe is overturned. Nine states have abortion bans on the books that are currently blocked by court order, and Ford noted that those could also take effect if Roe is no longer the law of the land.
“What we will not do is punish people for coming to Nevada to seek medical care. We will not work against people in the midst of one of the most vulnerable times in their life,” Ford said.
Letting states decide
Texas is one of several states with “trigger laws” that would take effect if Roe is overturned. The Texas law would make it a felony offense to perform an abortion. In Maryland, a recently passed a law will lift restrictions, allowing midwives and trained nurses to perform abortions and require insurance carriers to cover the procedure in health care plans.
Nevada voters affirmed a law that allows abortion in a 1990 referendum, which cannot be changed without a vote of the people.
But women in about two dozen states would be subject to abortion restrictions if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.
Congress could try to override state laws with a national policy on abortion, but any such legislation would have to garner 60 votes to overcome a Senate filibuster.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he plans to hold a vote on a House-passed abortion rights bill to put every senator on the record, even if he lacks the votes to pass a bill.
President Joe Biden, speaking to reporters at Andrews Air Force Base, said he was shocked at the direction in which the court might go. He said it would be a radical departure that could lead to unraveling rulings on gay marriage and contraception.
In an earlier statement, Biden said that if court revokes the constitutional right to abortion, “it will fall on voters to elect pro-choice officials this November.”
“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,” Biden said.
Meanwhile, extra Washington Metropolitan Police and Capitol Police officers were on hand as the large demonstration at the court spilled over 1st Street North East and onto Capitol grounds. Protesters on both sides of the issue chanted slogans as reproductive rights speakers rallied their crowd. Across the street, Schumer stood with Democratic senators at the steps of the Capitol calling for a legislative remedy if the court overturns five-decades old precedent law.