Biden vows to 'protect women's right to choose' as US bids to overturn abortion laws

3 May 2022, 05:46 | Updated: 3 May 2022, 18:51

The US may overturn a landmark case legalising abortion
The US may overturn a landmark case legalising abortion. Picture: Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

US President Joe Biden has vowed to "protect a woman's right to choose" after documents revealed the Supreme Court was considering a move to overturn a historic law that legalised abortion.

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The hugely controversial leak has been met with criticism from pro choice groups including Planned Parenthood who said people's "deepest fears are coming true" adding that the US has reached a "crisis moment".

Openly opposing the draft document, the US President said his Government "will be ready" to take action if the court attempts to roll back abortion rights.

Mr Biden said: "I believe that a woman's right to choose is fundamental, Roe 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.

"If the court does overturn Roe, it will fall on our nation's elected officials at all levels of government to protect a woman's right to choose.

Adding : "It will fall on voters to elect pro-choice officials this November. 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."

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President Biden said he was ready to act to oppose any changes to the law
President Biden said he was ready to act to oppose any changes to the law. Picture: Alamy
  • Roe v Wade was a landmark decision of the US Supreme Court protecting a pregnant woman's liberty to choose to have an abortion
  • A woman’s right to have an abortion was protected nationally in 1973, following the supreme court’s landmark 7-2 ruling
  • Plaintiff Jane Roe, later identified as Norma McCorvey, was an unmarried pregnant woman who was unable to get an abortion under Texas law
  • Roe’s lawyers said she was unable to travel out of the state to obtain an abortion and argued the law was too vague and infringed on her constitutional rights
  • The court ruled the state could regulate the procedure during the second trimester and even ban it in most circumstances in the third
  • On May 2, 2022, a leaked initial draft majority opinion penned by Justice Samuel Alito suggests the Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe and Casey

Speaking on Tonight with Andrew Marr, Amber Phillips, Political Reporter for the Washington Post said a nation wide abortion ban would be the "holy grail" for Conservatives in America.

She said: "It is possible, even probable, very soon that in about half of America it is going to be nearly impossible to get an abortion."

When questioned about Joe Biden's power on stopping the possible law change, Ms Phillips said the US President could do "nothing significant" adding: "If Republican's were to gain control of congress in November, and that's definitely a possibility, then lets say in two years time there's a Republican president that is ready and willing to sign an anti-abortion federal law. I think think it's a very real possibility that we could see that happen in America."

Today, Protesters took to the streets of Washington DC amid reports the US Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v Wade, the landmark case legalising abortion across the country.

Hundreds of abortion rights protesters gathered near the court in the hours after the news emerged. Smaller numbers of anti-abortion activists faced off against them.

Chants of both "abortion is healthcare" and "Roe v Wade has got to go" could be heard.

It comes after leaked document labelled "Opinion of the Court" shows a majority of the court's justices earlier this year threw support behind overturning the 1973 case, believing it to be "egregiously wrong".

According to the political news organisation Politico - who published the "leaked document" - the draft opinion shows the court voted to strike down the landmark case.

However, it is unclear if the draft represents the court's final word on the matter.

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The Associated Press could not immediately confirm the authenticity of the draft Politico posted, which, if verified, marks a shocking revelation of the high court's secretive deliberation process, particularly before a case is formally decided.

A Supreme Court spokeswoman said the court had no comment.

A number of states have effectively banned abortion in recent years, prompting protests outside the Supreme Court
A number of states have effectively banned abortion in recent years, prompting protests outside the Supreme Court. Picture: Alamy

The document published by Politico was labelled "1st Draft" of the "Opinion of the Court" and was reportedly in reference to a case challenging Mississippi's ban on abortion after 15 weeks - a case known as Dobbs v Jackson Women's Health Organisation.

The Supreme Court has yet to issue a ruling in the case, and opinions - and even justices' votes - have been known to change during the drafting process.

The court is expected to rule on the case before its term is up in late June or early July.

The draft is signed by Justice Samuel Alito, a member of the court's 6-3 conservative majority, who was appointed by former President George W Bush.

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"Roe was egregiously wrong from the start," the draft opinion states.

"We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled," it adds, referencing the 1992 case Planned Parenthood v Casey that affirmed Roe's finding of a constitutional right to abortion services but allowed states to place some constraints on the practice.

"It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people's elected representatives."

Roe v Wade was a landmark case in 1973 that legalised abortion across the country
Roe v Wade was a landmark case in 1973 that legalised abortion across the country. Picture: Alamy

The draft opinion in effect states there is no constitutional right to abortion services and would allow individual states to more heavily regulate or outright ban the procedure.

Politico said only that it received "a copy of the draft opinion from a person familiar with the court's proceedings in the Mississippi case along with other details supporting the authenticity of the document".

The report came amid a legislative push to restrict abortion in several Republican-led states - Oklahoma being the most recent - even before the court issues its decision.

Critics of those measures have said low-income women will disproportionately bear the burden of new restrictions.

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The leak jumpstarted the intense political reverberations that the court's ultimate decision was expected to have in the midterm election year.

Already politicians on both sides of the aisle were seizing on the report to fundraise and energise their supporters on either side of the issue.

Until now, the court has allowed states to regulate but not ban abortion before the point of viability, around 24 weeks.