Tuesday, May 03, 2022

Draft of Supreme Court anti-abortion ruling surfaces

The leak of a "draft" US Supreme Court ruling that would overturn the 1973 Roe vs Wade decision that effectively legalized access to abortion nationwide, is a weird and worrying thing. The Supreme Court is now stacked with Conservative judges, and it was only a matter of time before they got around to depriving millions of women of their personal rights. The way in which this is happening, though, is unprecedented.

The document, labelled "Draft 1", was drawn up by Justice Samuel Alito, and includes language like, "Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. It's reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences." (What he means is, he disagrees with it on political grounds.) Justice Alito probably sees this as his destiny, the reason he was put on this earth.

Five of the nine Supreme Court judges appear to be in favour of it (it is unclear how Chief Justice John Roberts, often a voice of relative reason on the Court, will vote, but it seems that may make no difference). It is possible that some judges may change their position on it during debate and the drafting process - this is not unknown - but this is such a political (as opposed to legal) issue that it seems unlikely, particularly now that a "preliminary" draft has been made public. The genie is out of the bottle. The wording might change here and there, but the draft probably reflect the general direction of the decision.

It is unheard of for a draft ruling to be released (or even leaked) in this way. Some red states have already passed "trigger laws" to automatically outlaw abortion should a Supreme Court ruling of this sort become the law of the land, and it is thought that several others may follow suit. Indeed, it makes you wonder whether this leak was deliberately designed to allow those states time to do just that. 

Note that the Supreme Court ruling, if made official, would not actually ban abortions in the USA, but it would allow states that want to do so to ban them, leading to a patchwork of abortion rights in the country, with up to half (the Republican half) of states disallowing abortions, and forcing women in those states to travel to other, more enlightened, Democratic states, if need be and if they can afford it (although some states are already working to disallow even that right).

And so, just like that, 50 years of precedent and enlightenment could be erased overnight. (Bear in mind that a healthy majority of Americans support access to abortion, regardless of the views of a bunch of old judges.) Some Democratic states have already vowed to enshrine abortion rights within their state constitutions, even if Roe vs Wade is repealed. Rival groups of pro- and anti-abortion campaigners have already set up outside the Supreme Court. It's like we are already back in the 1970s again.

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