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Leaked Supreme Court opinion on abortion draws reactions from lawmakers: 'A five-alarm fire'

·Senior Writer
·13-min read
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Lawmakers around the country wasted no time in reacting to the leak of a draft opinion that suggests the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

On Monday night, Politico published the draft of a majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito in which he states that “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start.”

“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” Alito writes, referencing the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey case that reaffirmed Roe. “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”

According to Politico, four of the other Republican-appointed justices — Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — voted with Alito to overturn Roe.

A crowd outside the Supreme Court.
A crowd gathers outside the Supreme Court on Monday night after publication of a draft opinion suggesting that the nation’s high court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade. (Anna Johnson/AP)

President Biden said that if the draft opinion holds, it would represent a “radical” and “fundamental” shift in the rule of law.

“It concerns me a great deal that we're going to, after 50 years, decide a woman does not have the right to choose,” Biden told reporters at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on Tuesday.

“If this decision holds, it's really quite a radical decision,” Biden added. “I think it goes way overboard.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., issued a joint statement Monday night calling the would-be vote to overturn Roe “an abomination” and “The Republican-appointed Justices' reported votes to overturn Roe v. Wade would go down as an abomination, one of the worst and most damaging decisions in modern history.

“Several of these conservative Justices, who are in no way accountable to the American people, have lied to the U.S. Senate, ripped up the Constitution and defiled both precedent and the Supreme Court’s reputation — all at the expense of tens of millions of women who could soon be stripped of their bodily autonomy and the constitutional rights they’ve relied on for half a century.”

Here are some other notable reactions:

Vice President Kamala Harris

“The United States Supreme Court has now confirmed that the draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade is genuine. Roe ensures a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion. It also, at its root, protects the fundamental right to privacy. What is clear is that opponents of Roe want to punish women and take away their rights to make decisions about their own bodies. Republican legislators in states across the country are weaponizing the use of the law against women.

“The rights of all Americans are at risk. If the right to privacy is weakened, every person could face a future in which the government can potentially interfere in the personal decisions you make about your life. This is the time to fight for women and for our country with everything we have.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

“Last night’s stunning breach was an attack on the independence of the Supreme Court. By every indication, this was yet another escalation in the radical left’s ongoing campaign to bully and intimidate federal judges and substitute mob rule for the rule of law.

“The disgraceful statements by President Biden, Speaker Pelosi, and Leader Schumer refuse to defend judicial independence and the rule of law and instead play into this toxic spectacle. Real leaders should defend the Court’s independence unconditionally.

“This lawless action should be investigated and punished as fully as possible. The Chief Justice must get to the bottom of it and the Department of Justice must pursue criminal charges if applicable. All nine Justices should tune out the bad-faith noise and feel totally free to do their jobs, following the facts and the law where they lead.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

“An extremist Supreme Court is poised to overturn #RoeVWade and impose its far-right, unpopular views on the entire country. It’s time for the millions who support the Constitution and abortion rights to stand up and make their voices heard. We’re not going back — not ever.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., joins demonstrators during a protest outside the Supreme Court on Tuesday. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., joins demonstrators during a protest outside the Supreme Court on Tuesday. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas

"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. But while I continue to wait for the Supreme Court's ultimate opinion, I am appalled by the shocking breach of trust posed by this leak," Cruz tweeted. "This is a blatant attempt to intimidate the Court through public pressure rather than reasoned argument. I hope my fellow former clerks and the entire legal community will join me in denouncing this egregious breach of trust."

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.

It isn’t popular to ban abortion or contraception. It isn’t popular to bully gay kids. It isn’t popular to ban books. It isn’t popular to attack Disney. Democrats shouldn’t be afraid to call out Republicans for their extreme, hard right turn. We can run on this and win.

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.

“The Supreme Court & the DOJ must get to the bottom of this leak immediately using every investigative tool necessary. In the meantime, Roe was egregiously wrong from the beginning & I pray the Court follows the Constitution & allows the states to once again protect unborn life.”

Sen. Kysten Sinema, D-Ariz.

"A woman's health care choices should be between her, her family, and her doctor. Overturning Roe v. Wade endangers the health and wellbeing of women in Arizona and across America. Protections in the Senate safeguarding against the erosion of women's access to health care have been used half-a-dozen times in the past ten years, and are more important now than ever."

"Throughout my time in Congress, I’ve always supported women’s access to health care, I’m a cosponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act, and I’ll continue working with anyone to protect women’s ability to make decisions about their futures.”

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md.

“The draft SCOTUS opinion — allowing laws banning abortion in all cases, including rape — shows a right-wing majority poised to destroy Roe, Casey and the constitutional right to privacy. Striking down fundamental rights, they seek to usher in an Orban-style ‘illiberal democracy.’”

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine

“If this leaked draft opinion is the final decision and this reporting is accurate, it would be completely inconsistent with what Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh said in their hearings and in our meetings in my office. Obviously, we won’t know each Justice’s decision and reasoning until the Supreme Court officially announces its opinion in this case.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.

“If nothing can get done in Washington because of Republican obstructionism, then the American people and women are going to have to vote and people who believe in choice are going to have to vote like they never voted before, because that’s the only way we can change this.”

People holding signs and wearing body paint with the words: Not your body, and My body my choice.
People outside the Supreme Court on Monday night after the draft opinion was leaked. (Anna Johnson/AP)

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

“It is a sad day for the Supreme Court and a dangerous day for the Rule of Law. The radical assault on our institutions and the Constitution itself has reached a new level with the release of a draft opinion on a major issue facing the Court.”

Democratic New York Gov. Kathy Hochul

“This is an absolutely disgraceful attack on our fundamental right to choose, and we will fight it with everything we’ve got. Let me be loud and clear: New York will always guarantee your right to abortion. You have our word.”

Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla.

“The Supreme Court’s confidential deliberation process is sacred & protects it from political interference. This breach shows that radical Democrats are working even harder to intimidate & undermine the Court. It was always their plan. The justices cannot be swayed by this attack.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.

“People elected Democrats precisely so we could lead in perilous moments like these- to codify Roe, hold corruption accountable, & have a President who uses his legal authority to break through Congressional gridlock on items from student debt to climate. It’s high time we do it.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

“Congress must pass legislation that codifies Roe v. Wade as the law of the land in this country NOW. And if there aren’t 60 votes in the Senate to do it, and there are not, we must end the filibuster to pass it with 50 votes.”

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo.

“The left continues its assault on the Supreme Court with an unprecedented breach of confidentiality, clearly meant to intimidate. The Justices mustn’t give in to this attempt to corrupt the process. Stay strong. I will say, if this is the Court’s opinion, it’s a heck of an opinion. Voluminously researched, tightly argued, and morally powerful.”

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah

“I hope and pray that what appears to be Justice Alito’s well-written and well-reasoned draft in fact reflects the majority view of the Court.”

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

“If this is true, this kind of outcome is exactly what I’ve been ringing alarm bells about — and this is a five-alarm fire. Republicans’ goal has always been to ban abortion: they’re already banning abortion in state legislatures across the country, they’re fighting for a federal ban right here in the Senate, and plan to overturn Roe in the Supreme Court too.”

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