Democrats on Monday night sounded the alarm after Politico published a leaked draft opinion that suggested the Supreme Court appeared ready to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, which enshrines a woman’s right to an abortion. Republicans, meanwhile, voiced cautious support.
The polarized reactions indicated that abortion rights will be a key issue in the midterm elections, galvanizing voters of both parties. Hundreds of protesters converged outside the Supreme Court on Monday night soon after the draft opinion was reported, including a small group who did not support abortion rights.
Even before the report of the opinion on Monday, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, NARAL Pro-Choice America and the Emily’s List organization announced a plan to spend $150 million on the 2022 midterms to support candidates who would protect abortion rights.
According to tracking on ActBlue, a platform used to raise money for Democrats and progressive organizations, more than $1 million poured in in less than three hours Monday night following the report.
Lawmakers and officials from both parties have been bracing for a Supreme Court decision on the 15-week Mississippi abortion ban in the case known as Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The court heard arguments on the case in December and is expected to release an opinion in late June or early July when the term ends. Early drafts of opinions can change before the final decision is released, and some of the justices could change their minds.
If it is finalized as written, the draft opinion obtained by Politico would see the top court overturn the 50-year precedent codified by Roe and leave the question of abortion to states. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 26 states are certain to or likely to ban abortion without the protections established in the Roe v. Wade decision. Thirteen states have so-called trigger laws that would go into effect almost immediately, others have bans that were in the books before Roe v. Wade or passed restrictions that went on to face legal challenges.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer issued a blistering joint statement Monday night saying that if Politico’s report is accurate, the court is poised to inflict the “greatest restriction on rights in the past fifty years.”
“The Republican-appointed Justices’ reported votes to overturn Roe v. Wade would go down as an abomination, one of the worst and most damaging decisions in modern history,” the statement read. It went on to say that several of the conservative justices had “lied to the U.S. Senate, ripped up the Constitution and defiled both precedent and the Supreme Court’s reputation.”
Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, on Monday night responded to Politico’s report by calling for Congress to pass legislation that codifies Roe v. Wade, tweeting: “And if there aren’t 60 votes in the Senate to do it, and there are not, we must end the filibuster to pass it with 50 votes.”
While the House passed a bill to preserve access to abortion ahead of the anticipated Supreme Court decision, the Women’s Health Protection Act was blocked in the Senate in February nearly along party lines with all Republicans and Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia opposing.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, said Senate Democrats must be willing to end the filibuster. She also signaled that abortion access would play a critical role in the upcoming elections.
“As we approach the midterm elections, it is absolutely critical that Democrats turn out in record numbers to maintain our majorities. The American people do not support the government interfering with what people do with their own bodies,” Gillibrand said in a statement.
Other Democrats sent out tweets, statements and fundraising emails. As Democrats fight to hold onto their majority in the 50-50 split Senate — several Democrats running to unseat Republicans immediately weighed in.
“This horrifying news, and Washington’s failure to eliminate the filibuster and codify Roe v. Wade to protect our rights has shown us exactly what is at stake, and it is more urgent than ever that we elect leaders who will stand up for our fundamental freedoms in the U.S. Senate,” said U.S. Senate candidate Cheri Beasley, who is running in North Carolina.
The Democratic National Committee put out a statement: “Make no mistake: reproductive rights will be on the ballot and this midterm election is more important now than ever before.”
If Roe v. Wade is overturned and abortion is left to states, Democratic governors on Monday night vowed to protect women’s rights to an abortion. Governor Gavin Newsom said California was proposing an amendment to “build a firewall” around the right to an abortion in the state’s constitution.
But while Democrats expressed outrage over Politico’s report of the draft opinion, some Republican responses were more measured.
Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas called on the Supreme Court and Justice Department to “get to the bottom of this leak immediately using every investigative tool necessary” in a tweet. He also called Roe “egregiously wrong from the beginning.”
Others voiced support Monday night for the reported opinion itself. Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri called it “a heck of an opinion” and “morally powerful.”
Former Senator David Perdue, who’s running for governor of Georgia this year, released a statement saying he was “hopeful” that Roe v. Wade would soon be overturned, and he touted his time in the Senate helping to confirm three conservative justices under President Trump.
If abortion rights are left up to states, CBS News polling from November 2021 found that 62% of Americans would want abortion in their own state to be legal in all or most cases. Only 14% would want their state to make it illegal in all cases.