Following a Supreme Court hearing on Wednesday that seemed to suggest the justices are seriously considering overturning Roe v. Wade, Democrats and abortion rights leaders reaffirmed their support for reproductive rights and warned the court against upending nearly 50 years of precedent.
“During today’s arguments, it was alarming, though not surprising, that the majority of the Supreme Court justices appeared prepared to allow politicians to control what we can do with our bodies,” Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement following the arguments.
“While we cannot predict how the Court will rule in this case — or in the case on Texas’s radical abortion ban, which has now been in effect for three full months — it’s clear we cannot rely on the courts to protect our rights,” she continued.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called the Mississippi abortion ban before the court a “nationwide assault against women’s freedoms targeting in particular women of color and women from low-income communities” and said the Supreme Court was at risk of sullying its reputation.
“The constitutional right to an abortion has been repeatedly affirmed, and any failure to fully strike down the Mississippi ban would seriously erode the legitimacy of the Court … and question its commitment to the rule of law itself,” Pelosi continued.
President Joe Biden said he hadn’t yet listened to the arguments presented before the court but he continues to stand by Roe v. Wade, calling it a “rational position to take.”
The co-chairs of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus ― Democratic Reps. Barbara Lee of California and Diana DeGette of Colorado ― called Wednesday’s developments a “critical moment” and emphasized the court’s longstanding position on protecting access to abortion.
“Over the last five decades, the Court has repeatedly protected reproductive freedom,” they said in a joint statement. “History has shown that access to abortion increases women’s educational attainment, labor force participation, and entrance into professional occupations while decreasing financial stress and poverty.”
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) was among the lawmakers who gathered with demonstrators outside the Supreme Court during Wednesday’s arguments.
“We’re here at the Supreme Court to make sure that we stand up for all women across this country, to say to the Supreme Court that we need to make sure that they protect our reproductive rights,” she said in a video to her Twitter followers. “We have to make sure that Roe v. Wade remains the law of the land.”
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) reminded her Twitter followers Wednesday that she’s “one of the 1 in 4 women in America who has had an abortion” ― an experience she shared in a moving New York Times column in 2019.
Concern among pro-choice lawmakers and advocates followed a tense Supreme Court hearing Wednesday morning, wherein the justices considered the legality of banning abortion before a fetus is viable. If they decide in favor of the Mississippi law at the center of this case, Roe v. Wade would essentially be voided, and abortion bans in nearly half of U.S. states would go into immediate effect.
Three of the Supreme Court’s most conservative justices ― Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch ― all made clear indications Wednesday that they’re comfortable allowing pre-viability bans to stand.
Chief Justice John Roberts, who is sometimes a swing vote, and justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — the court’s two newest members, who lean conservative — were not as vocal, but they all appeared open to adjusting gestational limits on abortion.
The court’s more liberal faction ― justices Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan ― appeared in firm support of Roe v. Wade but will need to at least two of the other justices to side with them in order to uphold the 1973 ruling.