Following the unprecedented leak of a draft U.S. Supreme Court opinion this week on a pending case that would overturn Roe v. Wade, experts say they don’t expect much to change between now and the final decision, expected to come in summer.
“I think that the final draft will look very much like [the leaked opinion],” said Carol Sanger, the Barbara Aronstein Black Professor of Law at Columbia Law School. “It is very confident and I don’t think Justice Samuel Alito could be persuaded to change anything. He’s got the votes. Unless Chief Justice John Roberts can convince him to soften something.”
Sanger, author of About Abortion: Terminating Pregnancy in the 21st Century, teaches a course on reproductive rights at Columbia University and said the writing has been on the wall since the Fall.
Politico first reported the February draft opinion on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. In the case, the court must decide whether a Mississippi ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy is constitutional. A fetus is generally considered viable, or able to survive outside the womb, between 22 and 24 weeks. In the leaked opinion penned by Justice Samuel Alito, the court gave authority to the states to decide whether or not to ban abortion.
Rebecca J. Kreitzer, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Public Policy at UNC Chapel Hill, has spent years researching state abortion policies, and was also unsurprised by the leaked majority opinion. “With the confirmation of Trump’s three Supreme Court nominees, the end of Roe seemed inevitable.”
Kreitzer expects “abortion deserts” to grow in the wake of the final decision, and said that people from historically underserved backgrounds will be affected disproportionately.
“They are also more likely to live in contraception deserts, where access to affordable family planning is limited,” Kreitzer said. “Many, or perhaps even most, of these people will not be able to access abortion,” she said in an email.
She explained, “By access, I mean not just the cost of transportation, hotel and the medical procedure itself, but also the ability to get time off from work, child care, knowledge of how to find a provider and schedule an appointment, and a whole host of other factors that shape one’s ability to obtain healthcare.”
Meanwhile, pro-life groups are still holding their breath before celebrating a win. “If Roe is indeed overturned, our job will be to build consensus for the strongest protections possible for unborn children and women in every legislature,” according to Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser in a statement released Monday night following the leaked opinion.
The SBA List is comprised of more than 900,000 pro-life Americans. Dannenfelser continued, “We also recognize the need for the pro-life movement to continue its existing work to support pregnant women and children in need.”
The available options for pregnant people have been researched by Guttmacher, a policy organization committed to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights. The group predicts that if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, 26 states are certain or likely to ban abortion. Guttmacher calculated the impact of a total ban on abortion. The decision would increase the average one-way driving distance to the nearest provider by 630 miles in Louisiana, 567 miles in Florida, 525 miles in Texas, 428 miles in Mississippi, and 247 miles in Utah.
Numerous advocacy groups have spoken out against the drafted majority opinion, including National Nurses United. The group called the opinion an “unconscionable threat to women’s health and security, especially low-income women and all child-bearing people who have fewer options to exercise their reproductive rights.” The group has more than 175,000 members nationwide.
NNU President called the opinion “domestic terrorism,” saying in a statement that the opinion is “targeting women’s self-determination about their families, and providers and practitioners of essential women’s health services” said NNU President Jean Ross, RN.
As supporters and protesters on both sides speak out, Sanger of Columbia Law School said that she hopes the public can also hear both sides of opinion from the court. Although a majority opinion was leaked, there have been no dissenting opinions leaked. “I hope they finalize the decisions soon and don’t wait until June to release as it would help people to be able to read the dissents alongside the majority opinion,” Sanger said.
Photo: Mykola Velychko, Getty Images,