The Supreme Court Leak and Preparing for a Post-Roe America

Anna Lee ‘24

Chief Opinions Editor

Photo courtesy of Channel 3000
Pro-choice protestors

On Monday night, POLITICO obtained and leaked an initial draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito (Gerstein and Ward). The draft reveals the Supreme Court’s plan to overturn revolutionary abortion policies such as Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey with the support of five members of the conservative majority: Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch, Amy Coney Barrett, Samuel Alito, and Clarence Thomas. After almost fifty years of abortion access without excessive government restriction, the U.S. is backtracking on years of hard-won progress, bodily autonomy, and reproductive rights. 

When I wrote an article a few weeks ago scrutinizing Missouri’s anti-abortion trigger laws, headed by tyrannical policymakers and the pro-life brigade, I knew I was going to receive backlash (Anti-Abortion Legislation). And while I was right, I would do it and will do it again. As a student at a Catholic school, the topic of abortion is where most people, even many of the most progressive Catholics, toe the line. But in accord with the Jesuit mission, Holy Cross asks us to consider and challenge everything we encounter, regardless of what we’ve been led to believe. Whether that be in academia, works of service, religion, or our understanding of bodily autonomy, we ought to consider the social context we are in and how best to help victims of injustice. The most anti-Jesuit and anti-Holy Cross action I could carry out now is to say nothing in the face of reproductive rights violations and archaic policies that give the government more claim over my body than I have. 

What many pro-life advocates forget is that most people, including those in blue states, red states, from religious backgrounds or secular backgrounds, and from varying socioeconomic circumstances, support the right to abortion. According to a Washington Post – ABC News poll conducted last week, 70 percent of Americans say abortion should be a decision carried out between a woman and her doctor, and 54 percent of Americans think Roe should be upheld (Guskin and Clement). Another poll conducted by The Associated Press – NORC Center revealed that 57 percent of Americans believed abortion should be legal in all or most cases, whereas 43 percent said it should be illegal in all or most cases (“Public Holds Nuanced Views about Access to Legal Abortion”). Though the Supreme Court’s credibility was already in decline before the leak, its legitimacy is now lost on many people. It is no longer seen as the highest court of justice and equality, but little more than another political tool to secure outdated, conservative ends that most U.S. citizens do not agree with (Liptak). 

Because an abortion is a medically-induced procedure, the entire healthcare system is also implicated in the Supreme Court’s decision. Reversing Roe would threaten the private medical interactions between people with uteruses and their doctors, intercepting cases of medical emergencies or terminations where an abortion is necessary. Long-term effects will also ensue—in a paper authored by members of Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health, 44 percent of ob-gyn residency programs are in states that will or are likely to ban abortion, which would prompt an estimated decline from 92 percent to 56 percent of ob-gyns receiving abortion training if Roe is overturned (Bixby). The long-lasting impacts of this training gap will have dire consequences on reproductive healthcare, while also placing a new burden on abortion-trained ob-gyns in an already strained healthcare system. In states that ban abortion regardless of the circumstance, many people will die in a post-Roe America, and the blood of those people will be on the hands of the self-refuting “pro-life” Republican policymakers and conservative members of the Supreme Court. 

By taking away a national safeguard to abortion, the Supreme Court’s decision would only peel away the surface layer of safe abortions. No matter how much pro-life advocates protest with their quotes and philosophies, harass people in need of abortions at a Planned Parenthood, or attempt to guilt-trip people into carrying a fetus full-term, they will never succeed at eradicating abortions completely. But as we see in Justice Alito’s draft, they are certainly succeeding at minimizing safe abortions. People with money and resources (especially those from white, wealthy, and secure families), will be able to travel to safe abortion clinics, regardless of how reactionary policies get. But for those who do not have those resources (i.e., the majority of people with uteruses in America), overturning Roe would consign those people to back-alley procedures, self-induced abortions with homemade and unsafe concoctions, and higher mortality rates due to infection, incomplete abortions, and injury. We risk returning to a pre-Roe world where the number of illegal abortions ranged from 200,000 to 1.2 million a year, effectively sending mostly young, poor women and people of color to irreversible health problems and/or their deaths (Gold). 

While this overturning would be a great affront to bodily autonomy and medical privacy, there is also religious liberty at stake. Because the separation of church and state is something many policymakers have forgotten in recent years, I’ll remind them that in other religions, abortion takes a different form and weight than it takes in Christianity. In Judaism, for example, abortions are not just supported, but required when the life of the pregnant person is in danger. As Rabbi Hara Person articulates, “Restricting access to reproductive health care impedes the freedom of religion granted by the First Amendment, including a Jewish person’s ability to make decisions in accordance with their religious beliefs” (“Reform Leaders Decry Supreme Court’s Apparent Plan to End Abortion Rights”). Imposing religious views on others through national or state law, and expecting people with non-Christian religious beliefs to conform to those opinions, is no loving, pro-life statement. That’s disrespect, intolerance, and an utmost violation of religious and personal privacy. 

While the spotlight is on abortion rights now, the post-Roe world isn’t going to be as bad as some make it out to be. It will be much worse. Because the Roe decision recognized the right to personal privacy under The Constitution, undermining its justification could lead to other unenumerated rights being overturned or challenged. Democratic policymakers, such as Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, worry that the Supreme Court “isn’t just coming for abortion – they’re coming for the right to privacy Roe rests on, which includes gay marriage + civil rights” (Twitter). Clearly, based on a plethora of anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ+ bills being passed around the nation, along with attacks on education and the deliberate erasure of identity topics in the curriculum, this is a GOP goal already well on its way. 

While policies like Roe v. Wade are under attack now, this is an anti-choice future many women and people with reproductive concerns have been anticipating for years. Ever since the election of former President Donald Trump in 2016, the future of reproductive healthcare has never felt more uncertain. Quite frankly, I’m exhausted from having my body placed in the hands of nine people. I’m tired of policymakers debating my bodily autonomy and rights like government property. I am annoyed that people who will never have to know the pain of (not always consensual) conception, pregnancy, and birth, have politicized my body into little more than a machine. I am disgusted at people who do know that pain and force others to go through with it. I am thankful that I live in a state that will probably still guarantee my right to abortion, though I can’t say the same for my friends and family in more conservative areas. And I am frustrated that I’ve been called selfish for defending my reproductive rights and medical privacy when cisgender men have had those rights since 1788. 

And still, my rage is not important enough to make much change—as Justice Alito and most justices on the Supreme Court have made abundantly clear, my positioning as a U.S. citizen does not matter. And yet, I will take up my signs to the protests, donate to reproductive rights funds, write my articles, spit in the face of these outdated policies, vote for the least bad candidates, and keep my fingers crossed until late June. That is all I can do.

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