Alito Talks of Abortion Opinion Leak as Decision to Overturn Roe Stays at Forefront for Many Voters
WASHINGTON — Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito said Tuesday the leak in May of a draft opinion he wrote that removed a constitutional right to abortion endangered the lives of the nine justices.
He called the leak a “betrayal of trust” during a presentation in Washington, D.C., at the conservative Heritage Foundation for public policy.
Alito spoke about the abortion decision at a time it is taking on prominence in debates among political candidates in the days leading to the midterm elections. In California, abortion rights are on the ballot as a constitutional amendment.
“The leak also made those of us who were thought to be in the majority in support of overruling Roe and Casey targets for assassination, because it gave people a rational reason to think they could prevent that from happening by killing one of us,” Alito said.
He was referring to the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling that established a woman’s right to abortion as a Fourth Amendment constitutional right.
The related 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey limited the authority of states to restrict access to abortion.
The Supreme Court overturned both of the rulings in June in its landmark Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision.
A month earlier, someone inside the Supreme Court leaked a draft copy of the Dobbs decision to the news organization Politico, setting off a firestorm of protest from abortion-rights supporters.
When the ruling was released, 13 states responded by immediately banning most abortions. Others are considering similar bans.
Democrats in Congress and President Joe Biden vowed to introduce a federal law that would prevent states from outlawing abortions. They are continuing the pledge, along with conflicts it creates with Republicans, in their campaigns leading to the Nov. 8 midterm elections.
“The U.S. Supreme Court eliminated a national edict which essentially allowed abortion up to the moment of birth, and correctly decided that abortion law should be determined by elected representatives,” Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, told The Well News.
“Naturally, abortion has taken on a larger role in this year’s election because of it. But pro-life people have always been a major force in elections and will be again this year,” she said.
The latest sparring match was Tuesday evening, when Pennsylvania senatorial candidates Mehmet Oz and John Fetterman showed sharp differences of opinion on abortion during a televised debate.
Oz, a celebrity doctor and Republican candidate, said, “I want women, doctors, local political leaders, letting the democracy that’s always allowed our nation to thrive, to put the best ideas forward so states can decide for themselves.”
In a statement that supported the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, Oz said that “there should not be involvement from the federal government.”
Fetterman, Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor and the Democratic candidate, said he would “fight to reestablish” the constitutional right to abortion found in the Roe v. Wade decision.
In California, where voters strongly favor abortion rights, the only remaining issue for the Nov. 8 ballot is how much support they will give a woman’s right to choose.
Popular opinion polls show voters are likely to enshrine abortion rights as a state constitutional amendment under Proposition 1. It would amend California’s constitution “to expressly include an individual’s fundamental right to reproductive freedom, which includes the fundamental right to choose to have an abortion and the fundamental right to choose or refuse contraceptives.”
In Texas, which was one of the first states to enact a nearly total ban on abortions in June, some political candidates want to allow rape and incest exceptions. State law now allows up to life in prison for abortion providers.
Support for the partial rollback on the abortion ban is even drawing support from a few Texas Republicans. Gov. Greg Abbott has declined to say whether he supports the idea.
New Mexico still allows abortions under state law but at least two towns are taking a different course by trying to get rid of them.
In a move that sets up a potential conflict with state law, local officials in Clovis and Hobbs are considering banning abortion clinics from their towns. Both towns are located near the Texas border, which worries Clovis and Hobbs officials that Texans might cross the border seeking abortions in their communities.
The Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision says, “The inescapable conclusion is that a right to abortion is not deeply rooted in the nation’s history and traditions. On the contrary, an unbroken tradition of prohibiting abortion on pain of criminal punishment persisted from the earliest days of the common law until 1973.”
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