Biden on leaked draft opinion on abortion: The ‘right to choose is fundamental’

News of the leaked draft opinion sent waves throughout Georgia politics

By: and - May 3, 2022 12:05 pm

Proponents of anti-abortion restrictions cautiously celebrated the decision while opponents described the draft as their worst fears come true. States Newsroom file photo

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said Tuesday that his administration “will be ready when any ruling is issued” on abortion rights, after the nation was rocked by the leak of a draft opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court that confirmed the court is planning to overturn access to abortion.  

“I believe that a woman’s right to choose is fundamental, Roe (v. Wade) has been the law of the land for almost fifty years, and basic fairness and the stability of our law demand that it not be overturned,” Biden said in a statement.

Biden did not specifically cite any steps his administration would take if the ruling is overturned, but said that it would “fall on our nation’s elected officials” to protect pregnant people’s access to abortion, and that voters should elect candidates who back abortion rights. 

He said that he has directed his Gender Policy Council and White House Counsel’s Office to “prepare options for an Administration response to the continued attack on abortion and reproductive rights, under a variety of possible outcomes in the cases pending before the Supreme Court.”

The draft opinion, led by Justice Samuel Alito, was leaked and reported by Politico, and Biden cautioned that “we do not know whether this draft is genuine, or whether it reflects the final decision of the Court.”

The Office of Public Information at the court late Monday morning issued a statement saying that while the document is authentic, it does not represent a final decision by the court, an ABC News reporter tweeted. Chief Justice John Roberts said in the statement that court employees respect the confidentiality of the judicial process and the release of the draft was a “singular and egregious breach of that trust” and will be investigated.

Biden urged voters to take action. “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,” Biden said.

The Biden administration in December defended its case in the Supreme Court on Mississippi’s 15-week ban on abortion. The case is known as Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health.

If the ruling overturns Roe v. Wade, then access to abortion would be based on a patchwork of state laws. Red states have introduced some of the most restrictive limits on abortions, while blue states have passed laws to secure access to abortion. 

Congressional Democrats have called for codifying Roe v. Wade into law. In a joint statement last night, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that “the Supreme Court is poised to inflict the greatest restriction of 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,” they said. 

Georgia reaction so far

News of the leaked draft opinion sent waves throughout Georgia politics just as primary season heats up ahead of this year’s hotly contested midterm elections.

Proponents of anti-abortion restrictions cautiously celebrated the decision while opponents described the draft as their worst fears come true. 

“We now have a chilling picture of a post-Roe v. Wade country,” Georgia Congresswoman Nikema Williams said Tuesday. “Upending over 50 years of legal precedent is a dangerous assault on bodily autonomy.” 

Gov. Brian Kemp, who is up for re-election this year, has been campaigning on his role in shepherding through Georgia’s restrictive anti-abortion measure, which bans the procedure in most cases after about six weeks. Georgia’s law was blocked from taking effect, and the state’s appeal of that decision was paused while the Supreme Court considered the Mississippi law.

“Governor Kemp led the fight to pass the strongest pro-life bill in the country and championed the law throughout legal challenges. We look forward to the Court issuing its final ruling, however, this unprecedented breach of U.S. Supreme Court protocol is deeply concerning,” the governor’s spokeswoman Katie Byrd said in a statement Tuesday.

The draft opinion immediately factored into the race for attorney general. Sen. Jen Jordan, who is likely to be the Democratic nominee in the race, drew national attention for a speech she gave in 2019 against Georgia’s law.

“If this decision holds, Georgia is the next battleground for reproductive freedom, and we need an Attorney General who will fight for our right to choose,” she said. “That’s why I’m running.”

Some abortion rights activists in Georgia, though, signaled they were waiting for a final opinion.

“Roe v. Wade is the law. This is a draft,” Monica Simpson, executive director of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, said on Twitter. SisterSong is the lead plaintiff in the case held up in the U.S. Court of Appeals.

“Abortion is still legal. The fight continues – and we will win,” she said. 

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Ariana Figueroa
Ariana Figueroa

Ariana covers the nation's capital for States Newsroom. Her areas of coverage include politics and policy, lobbying, elections and campaign finance.

Jill Nolin
Jill Nolin

Jill Nolin has spent nearly 15 years reporting on state and local government in four states, focusing on policy and political stories and tracking public spending. She has spent the last five years chasing stories in the halls of Georgia’s Gold Dome, earning recognition for her work showing the impact of rising opioid addiction on the state’s rural communities. She is a graduate of Troy University.