President Joe Biden on Tuesday blasted a “radical” draft Supreme Court opinion that would throw out the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion rights ruling that has stood for a half century and warned that other rights including same-sex marriage and birth control are at risk if the court follows through. Across the nation, Americans grappled with what might come next.
The court confirmed the authenticity of the leaked draft, which was dated to February and reported by Politico, and Chief Justice John Roberts said he had ordered an investigation into what he called an “egregious breach of trust.” A court statement emphasized that the draft is not the justices' final word.
Opinions often change in ways big and small in the drafting process, and a final ruling has not been expected until the end of the court's term in late June or early July.
A decision to overrule Roe would lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states, spark new efforts in Democratic-leaning states to protect access to abortion, and potentially reshape the contours of this year’s hotly contested midterm elections.
Speaking to reporters before boarding Air Force One, President Biden said he hoped the draft wouldn't be finalized by justices, contending it reflects a “fundamental shift in American jurisprudence" that threatens “other basic rights” like access to birth control and marriage.
He added: “If this decision holds, it’s really quite a radical decision.” He said the “basic fairness and the stability of our law demand” that the court not overturn Roe.
“If the court does overturn Roe, it will fall on our nation’s elected officials at all levels of government to protect a woman’s right to choose,” President Biden said. “And it will fall on voters to elect pro-choice officials this November. At the federal level, we will need more pro-choice Senators and a pro-choice majority in the House to adopt legislation that codifies Roe, which I will work to pass and sign into law.”
Whatever the outcome, the Politico report late Monday represented an extremely rare breach of the court’s secretive deliberation process, and on a case of surpassing importance.
Police in Washington prepared for the potential of large demonstrations outside the Supreme Court and U.S. Capitol. People on both sides of the issue gathered outside the curt waving signs and chanting on a balmy Monday night following the release of the Politico report, and again on Tuesday.
The Supreme Court justices generally spend May and June finishing their writing in cases that have been argued and then issuing the remaining opinions before going on a summer break. On the court’s calendar, the next day opinions might normally be expected is May 16.
Additional reporting by The Associated Press.