Another press day with many headlines and deadlines, but none before like this one: a leak of draft decision by the nine justices on the US Supreme Court — and not just any leak, but one with implications for every woman across the US.
Five of the nine justices had decided to overturn the almost-50-year-old Roe v Wade decision that legalized abortion over 49 years ago.
On January 22, 1973, the US Supreme Court issued a 7–2 decision in favor of “Jane Roe” (Norma McCorvey) holding that women in the United States had a fundamental right to choose whether to have abortions without excessive government restriction and striking down Texas’ abortion ban as unconstitutional.
Since then, women across America had no problem getting legal abortions.
But politicians latched-on to the Bible to preach against and call abortion ‘a sin’ — even ‘murder’ — because it involved terminating ‘a life’.
Supporters have argued, from time immemorial, that apart from women having a right to decide what to do with their bodies, there were cases when a termination would be in the best interest of the woman’s health, including the possibility of death during delivery; or where the woman is a rape victim.
Roe v Wade is the classic law that ensured since 1973 that women across the United States could terminate pregnancies safely, but right-wing politicians and affiliated religious groups have never stopped plotting to overturn it, many states (led by mainly Republican legislators) deciding to make abortion illegal even while the Supreme Court said it wasn’t.
And then in 2016 those seeking to erase the law voted for and got a President who supported their plan and would engineer its deliverance, President Donald Trump appointing three conservative judges in 2017, 2018 and 2020, to tip the court’s balance in favor of his way of thinking.
But in 2022, someone with access decided to leak the draft Roe v Wade decision to the press – and since then the Supreme Court building has looked more like The White House under attack on January 6, 2021 — only this time the protesters are peaceful.
The leak also ignited a firestorm of protests across America, starting with President Biden and Vice President Harris accusing the five justices of wanting to decide whether a woman should become pregnant.
The Chief Justice, caught between Roe and Wade, publicly acknowledged the leaked document was valid, but also noted it was still a draft – and not yet law.
But he also let it be known that he’d ordered an investigation into how it happened and who did it.
It must be assumed the person(s) will be found and severely punished for the biggest breach of trust from within the highest court of the land, but it must also be assumed that the person well-knew the risks at stake and still proceeded.
That question will surely be answered when the person is identified and made to face a court of law, but it’s a different matter in the court of public opinion, where this one act snowballed overnight into the hottest political agenda item as the country speeds towards the November mid-term elections.
Polls by ABC and The Washington Post showed (one day after the leak) that 42% of Americans want the law to remain as is and 28% want it overturned – and 30% didn’t care; and 70% said the decision should be left to ‘a woman and her doctor’ and 24% said it should be ‘regulated by law’.
The case is already decided in the court of public opinion where John and June Doe across America voted by a higher majority than the Supreme Court Justices.
But the five justices have decided to overturn the law, despite the Center for Disease Control (CDC) saying that could lead to countless deaths, especially as too many women will not be able to afford “safe pregnancies”.
Up to now, any woman seeking to terminate a pregnancy in any US state where abortions are illegal has had to undertake the expense of flying or crossing into a neighboring state where it’s allowed – an exorbitant cost for minority and poor women who end-up exposed to extortion by medical practitioners with only dollar signs on their eyeballs.
But not anymore – if the five judges have their way – as it would mean that not even rape victims would have a choice and women’s health will take a back seat to what the law says.
Obviously, whoever leaked the document (alone or not) knew they’d be opening-up the can of worms that’s led to the Supreme Court building now barricaded with steel fences like The White House after the Trump-backed insurrection and violent assault 15 months earlier.
The Republicans, sensing the possible high political cost in November, have changed their election strategy, while the Democrats continue to ride the wave of unpopularity by asking all women upset with the five justices to vote against Republican candidates, warning that legislation protecting Same-Sex-Marriages and LGBTI rights will be next in line for scrubbing.
So, the big double-barreled question is this: Did the leaker(s) personally do a bad thing for the common good of all, or does the unethical nature of the act nullify any argument about good intent?
This is a matter as much in the global public square and the media’s domain, as in the court of public opinion — which is normally the people’s Supreme Court in societies that call themselves democratic.
But not in this instance where the Supreme Court reigns supreme.
So, will the intense and growing public pressure force or convince one of the five justices to have a change of heart, in light of the overwhelming verdict of the court of public opinion?
The answer isn’t easy, because, as was the case with the top court’s sense of being beyond leaks, you never know…
And that’s The Bottom Line!