Activists on Both Sides of the Debate Gear Up for Abortion Fight
WASHINGTON — Activists of all political stripes gathered outside the Supreme Court Tuesday the day after Politico published a leaked draft of a Supreme Court opinion that would roll back Roe v. Wade nearly 50 years after the landmark decision solidified a woman’s right to an abortion.
The draft opinion as written threatens other rights gained through Supreme Court decisions including access to birth control and marriage equality, pro-abortion rights activists urged Tuesday.
“The inescapable conclusion is that a right to abortion is not deeply rooted in the nation’s history and traditions,” Justice Samuel Alito Jr. wrote in the draft opinion dated February 10.
Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed the authenticity of the leaked draft court opinion in a statement Tuesday morning.
Outside the Supreme Court, the clash of reactions was on full display.
“We are gonna dance on the grave of Roe v. Wade,” a small, anti-abortion activist group chanted while moving toward a stage where senators, representatives and pro-abortion groups gathered sharing stories and rallying together.
On the other side of the issue, Amy Maden of Alexandria, Virginia, came downtown with her friend to protest the draft opinion because “this is a sad day,” she said.
As a lawyer and pro-choice advocate, she didn’t think she’d see the day Roe v. Wade would be completely overturned. She recalled a conversation she had with former Justice Antonin Scalia in 2010, where he said, “Roe was the law of the land,” Maden said.
“Fifty years of stare decisis flushed down the toilet. … What does anything mean if we don’t have precedent?” she asked.
That was the question on many activists’ minds Tuesday as they discussed the decision.
“Everything that’s happened here is unprecedented,” said Sharmin Hoss, a campaign advocate for Liberate Abortion who came down from Philidelphia, Pennsylvania, to be in Washington to protest. “What it speaks to is the urgency of this moment, and we don’t know where they will stop.”
Lawmakers who came out to the Supreme Court steps thanked protesters, saying they would work to codify abortion access into law.
With the judicial precedent already set, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., noted how this opinion would be a stark departure for the court’s progressive movement on issues including abortion and birth control access, as well as marriage equality.
“That is because over time thoughtful justices have looked at the words in the Constitution and made sure people’s fundamental rights are protected. And a woman’s right to choose her own health care and make her own decisions — that is a fundamental right in America,” Klobuchar said.
She and other senators who came out to the Supreme Court steps promised a law solidifying the right to abortion would be brought to the Senate floor soon. They urged that if the legislation does not pass, which is unlikely given the 50-50 split in the Senate, that Americans need to take this issue to the ballot box during November’s midterm elections.
Many people in the crowd jeered at those sentiments, saying things like, “We already voted.”
“I know we already voted, but we have to keep it up,” said Mini Timmaraju, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.
“It’s not enough. We need to pick up two more Senate seats and end the filibuster,” she said.
Anti-abortion advocates are also gearing up to take this issue to the ballot box.
Jocabed Torres, 25, of California had flown in with an anti-abortion group Monday night for another protest, but saw the draft copy of the court’s decision on Twitter. She and her group came to the court to show their support for the draft opinion.
“We are really happy with the decision, but it is not enough,” Torres said. “It is not enough. We need a federal law banning abortion. But this is a start.”
Many Washington residents felt the need to come out and protest because they don’t have a say in it otherwise without electing their own senators.
“Living in D.C., you accept you won’t be heard [any other way],” said Meredith Lightstone, 26, holding a sign advocating for Washington, D.C., statehood and abortion access.
“It’s another catastrophe and another day of minority rule in this country,” she said.
The court’s opinion has yet to be solidified and speakers told protestors this would be a long battle. “We are in it for a long fight and we are in it because we believe in freedom,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
And while the Supreme Court is solidifying its opinion, Roberts said in his statement there will be an investigation into the leak by the marshal of the court.
“Although the document described in yesterday’s reports is authentic, it does not represent a decision by the court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case,” the statement said.
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