The Supreme Court appeared divided and also shaken by its private deliberations appearing on the front page of almost every newspaper in the country for a week in a report by Politico — and many women voters have become angered by the thought of the Supreme Court overturning the landmark 1973 abortion ruling known as Roe v. Wade.
Over 380 demonstrations nationwide were attended by thousands of women. In Seattle, many women attended the event in Cal Anderson Park and then marched to the Pike Place Market. Women feel pretty strongly that no one should be telling them what they can and can’t do with their bodies.
It appeared that the court wanted to defer to the elected officials in each state, rather than let the court decide the case. Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed the authenticity of the draft opinion that was leaked in Politico’s report. It said five judges would support Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion — Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett had decided to uphold a Mississippi law that would ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy and overturn a landmark decision that had established a constitutional right for more than 50 years to have an abortion.
More than 860,000 abortions are performed in the United States every year. If the final decision is the same as the draft, it appears large areas in the South and Midwest will not allow abortions, as those states have passed restrictions that would leave it to the states’ legislatures to decide. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, abortion laws would not change in Washington state, where the state legalized abortions in 1970. And a 1991 ballot measure codified Roe v. Wade into state law.
But the influx of people traveling from other states, including Idaho, where it would become a felony to perform an abortion, have started people talking about the political impact.
Justice Roberts also said that this was just the court’s first phase, which might have been intended to play down the impact, but the episode actually made it worse as Democrats envisioned that was a hint that gay marriage might be included in the same decision. Republicans were more focused on the leak itself, which Roberts has promised will be investigated.
Not only do the two parties disagree on the political message, but they disagree on the political impact. This topic will be a major discussion point in all races for Congress and the U.S. Senate, but it will be even bigger to those running for the state legislature because legislators could have an impact. Democrats believe the general public is on their side, and in this state, that would appear to be accurate. A Post-ABC Poll shows 57% of Americans oppose their states making abortions legal only in the first 15 weeks of pregnancy, while 58 % oppose limiting abortions to the first six weeks of pregnancy.
Some Republican-led states have taken action recently to create restrictions on abortions. However, with Washington state’s split in the number of legislators from each party, the elections this year become more important. Because most of our statewide elected officials are Democrats, I would expect them to fight any change to the current law over where anyone can get an abortion. I would expect residents of Idaho, Montana and some Eastern Oregon areas to travel from their home area to get an abortion in Washington. It will be a major issue in any tight races and could decide who controls the Legislature.
The other thing to watch is how much influence the issue has on Congress because the next big fight will be over expanding the Supreme Court. Former President Donald Trump got to choose three, and the Democrats will want the same, and there will be memories of when the Republicans wouldn’t give a hearing to a Democratic president’s selection to the Supreme Court.
The Republicans may have overstepped if the draft is similar to the final. Both Republicans and Democrats will use the issue as the 2022 mid-terms draw near to pick a fight with thousands of angry women for whom this is a crucial issue and who will feel unsafe, although the political message will be different. The court could look like it made a political decision, and is open to more political decisions, and that everything is open to politics.
The result could be that the public could see it as all politics, and that would undermine the Supreme Court’s credibility, something the court doesn’t need right now and would like to avoid.
Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.