WASHINGTON (AP) — A draft opinion suggests the U.S. Supreme Court could be poised to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide, according to a Politico report released Monday.
A decision to overrule Roe would lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states and could have huge ramifications for this year's elections. But it's unclear if the draft represents the court’s final word on the matter — opinions often change in ways big and small in the drafting process.
Whatever the outcome, the Politico report represents an extremely rare breach of the court’s secretive deliberation process, and on a case of surpassing importance.
Utah Governor Spencer Cox issued a statement in response to the report:
“While we are encouraged and optimistic at the possibility that abortion law will be left to the duly elected representatives of the states, draft rulings are not actual rulings and leaked drafts are a dangerous violation of court protocol and deliberations. Utah has already passed a law, SB174, that will govern if the high court decides to overturn Roe. We anxiously await the court’s actual ruling in this case.”
U.S. Sen. Mike Lee of Utah reacted similarly to the reportedly leaked draft:
“The Supreme Court is not like the other branches of government; it is not a political body. Deliberation and the maintenance of decorum and confidentiality are vital to the free operation of justices and the judicial system. To violate an understanding that has held for the entire modern history of the Court — seeking to place outside political pressure on the Court and the justices themselves — is dangerous, despicable, and damaging. 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.”
Utah Sen. Mitt Romney also released a reaction to the leak:
"If the leaked draft opinion reflects the final outcome, it is a decision I support. The sanctity of human life is a foundational American principle. Laws regarding abortion would now be returned to the people and their elected representatives."
Romney added: "The breach of the Court's deliberative process, however, is an appalling affront against a critical institution and should be fully investigated and those responsible should be punished."
Former Utah State Representative Becky Edwards, who is challenging Senator Mike Lee in the U.S. Senate Republican primary, said: "If Roe v. Wade is overturned, the issue of abortion becomes an issue of state’s rights. At that point, both voters and representatives need to work together to ensure that this complex issue is handled with dignity, compassion, and care. I respect the law of the land and the decisions handed down by the Supreme Court."
Evan McMullin, an independent candidate also seeking Lee's Senate seat and who recently received the Utah Democratic Party's endorsement, wrote:
"As a pro-life Utahn, I'm concerned that the never-ending tug-of-war over abortion laws threatens to create a public health crisis and further divide the nation without solving anything. My campaign is about forging a new way forward and building a new American consensus, even when it seems impossible and others refuse to try. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, some states will immediately enact extreme laws — such as total bans on abortion, onerous limits on birth control, and criminalization of women in desperate situations. I oppose these laws. I will advocate for sensible legislation that improves support for women, children and families, safeguards access to health care, and establishes reasonable standards that prevent extremists from doing harm.
"Abortions in America have been declining for years as we've done more to help women and children. Data clearly show that making contraception more available and otherwise doing more to support families is what truly protects the lives of mothers, the unborn, and children -not extremist laws that target women in their most vulnerable moments. Our commitment to life must be more comprehensive starting with judging less and doing more to help those in need of our compassion."
But the response from state Democratic leaders took a quite a different tone.
State Rep. Angela Romero (District 26) wrote in a statement:
“If the leaked U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade stands, all women will be put at risk. Such an unprecedented assault on everyone who can get pregnant everywhere, to deny women their dignity, and deny a basic right to make deeply personal decisions about our health, is shocking and shameful.
"Sadly, if this decision stands, Utah is one state where abortion services will be forced to move underground. Banning abortions won’t stop people from seeking them. Thousands of women will jeopardize their lives, and many will face devastating and lasting consequences for themselves and their families. In Utah nearly half of the people who have abortions are already parents.
"...No court, no politician should ever stand in the way of this basic freedom. Only when people have the freedom to make decisions that are best for their lives, can families thrive, and we can build communities where each of us can participate with dignity and equality."
Salt Lake County District County Attorney Sim Gill also expressed his view that access to abortion should be preserved, stating that: “as for what this means for Utah, my stance is unchanged. Prosecutors have an ethical responsibility to not use their office to knowingly violate someone’s constitutional rights nor intrude on individual freedoms."
"I believe that until the Supreme Court and our own federal court have addressed all the factual and legal issues in our case, a legal and ethical imperative exists for medical professionals to provide pregnancy-related healthcare, including pre-viability abortions for those who seek them. To be clear, reproductive choice is still the law in Utah," Gill's statement continued.
Karrie Galloway, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, stated:
"We are fortunate that there are many states who recognize the people have to be able to make their own health decisions, their own family decisions without interference from politicians and even Supreme Court justices.
"I don't think it's an understatement to say we live in crazy times and I think this is going to be a wake up call for many people to realize that we're this close to losing 49 years of precedent and it wasn't started by those in need of healthcare. This was started by politicians and people who want to impose their own moral opinions on everyone. And the fight will have to be had."
Toward that end, Planned Parenthood has organized a rally for Tuesday night at 5 p.m. on the South steps of the Utah State Capitol to protest against bans on access to abortion.
The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the case before its term ends in late June or early July.