GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – The U.S. Supreme Court’s draft opinion on overturning Roe v. Wade, revealed Monday night by Politico, has had three distinct responses: “This is bad for women’s rights,” “This leaker must be identified,” and “What in the world will happen in my state?”
Politico reported that an opinion written in February by Associate Justice Samuel Alito – and confirmed Tuesday by Chief Justice John Roberts – would abolish Roe v. Wade and the affirming decision of Planned Parenthood v. Casey because the U.S. Constitution does not protect those rights. The opinion said that the responsibility for establishing rights clearly belongs to the states.
Alito’s firmly written words, supported by at least four other conservative justices, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, were in response to the abortion case from Mississippi that is expected to have a final ruling in June. Roberts has not taken a side.
Already nine states have limited access to abortion through various time ranges. Texas even created a path for reporting those who had abortions as criminals. Eight others are in the process of adopting strict laws.
Six states have taken steps to protect the right to have access to abortion, and six others have introduced similar legislation, The Hill reported.
But North Carolina is on none of those lists, and with the General Assembly’s short session scheduled to begin on May 18, WGHP reached out via e-mail to two dozen members of the state House and Senate from across the Triad. Only a few of them responded.
A spokesperson for the top guy in the General Assembly, Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Eden), said his office had not released a statement following Politico’s report. But a spokesperson for House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland), who with Berger controls the legislative agenda, issued this statement.
“The Speaker is unequivocally pro-life and has led a pro-life majority in the NC General Assembly for 6 years. However, it is premature to comment until a decision is actually issued by the Court. In the meantime, it is important to note that the leak released yesterday is an unprecedented and egregious breach of decorum within our nation’s highest court,” Director of Communications Demi Dowdy wrote in an email.
Similarly Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Whitsett), who represents District 59 in Guilford County and serves as the House majority whip, said, “It’s too early to speculate on our next steps. We need to wait and see what the U.S. Supreme Court does, as the draft does not represent a final opinion. “
Two others from Guilford County, Sen. Michael Garrett (D-Greensboro) and House District 61 Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Greensboro), both generally agreed with Hardister and cited a couple of key factors about whether the GOP-dominated legislature could get something introduced in a short session during an election year, which brings in the second issue.
“I doubt we would see an abortion bill in the upcoming short session, the short session is intended to be for technical corrections to legislation and the budget passed during the long session,” Garrett said in an email. “Republican leadership is also aware they would not have the votes in the Senate to override the governor’s veto on any piece of legislation restricting reproductive freedom.
“I am confident, we would see a move by Senate Republicans to ban abortion if they gain seats in the next election and have the ability to override Governor [Roy] Cooper’s veto.”
Harrison said there were draft bills ready to be filed. “One election that heavily favors Republicans would put North Carolina perilously close to banning abortion by taking away the governor’s veto power with a Republican supermajority,” said Harrison, who has represented her district since 2004 and is one of a handful of legislators – including Berger – who is likely to be re-elected because there is no opposition other than potential write-in candidates.
State Sen. Joyce Krawiec (R-Kernersville), who is co-chair of the Senate Health Committee and unopposed as well, did not respond to the email from WGHP seeking her comment, but she told The News & Observer in Raleigh that “I don’t have a lot of faith that we can override anything (now). So it would depend on what happens after the next election.”
Cooper, for his part, posted on Twitter late Monday: “Now more than ever, governors and state legislatures must stand up for women’s healthcare. We know the stakes and must stand firm to protect a woman’s choice and access to medical care.”
Polls on the issue
Harrison defended abortion rights on a fundamental basis and said her peers should have no role in them.
“The decision to have an abortion is a private one that should be made only between a woman and her healthcare provider,” Harrison wrote. “Politicians should have no place in legislating this or any other healthcare decisions. Every person should be able to control what happens to their body and have the power and freedom to make personal decisions that are best for our lives and circumstances.”
She cited laws she called “draconian” in Texas, Mississippi and Oklahoma that, she said, “go too far and do not even include an exception for rape, incest, or the health of the mother, and they disproportionately impact women of color.”
She also said that surveys show most Americans support some access to abortion and that “attempts to ban abortion in all circumstances are not supported.”
A Washington Post/ABC News Poll conducted last week and released Tuesday reported that 54% of Americans believe that Roe v. Wade should be upheld, and 28% think it should be overturned. The poll said 57% to 58% of respondents were against their states adopting some of the measures being used elsewhere.
Opposing abortion rights long has been a campaign platform for Republicans. Similarly, every nominated justice has been scrutinized on his or her perspective relative to Roe v. Wade and those nominated by Republican presidents – Donald Trump was able to choose three in his single term – have been done so with an eye on repealing the law.
But on Tuesday most if not all of the reaction from Republicans was not about apparent victory in their pursuit of that legal shift but on how the draft ruling came to light. Even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), who had made it his goal when he was majority leader to get more conservatives on the Supreme Court, was more angered by the source of Politico’s report than elated by his likely success.
Hardister on a state level echoed that sentiment. “I am alarmed that such a leak occurred within our nation’s highest court,” Hardister wrote in his email. “Whoever is responsible for the leak must be held accountable because it is threat to the deliberative nature of the U.S. Supreme Court. “