Local reaction to leaked Supreme Court draft opinion on abortion, Roe v. Wade

Action News spoke with Kitty Kolbert a public-interest attorney who was part of the team that argued Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

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Tuesday, May 3, 2022
Local reaction to leaked Supreme Court draft opinion on abortion
"Abortion is and will remain legal in Pennsylvania," Wolf tweeted.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Local leaders and organizations are reacting after a draft Supreme Court opinion shows the panel's conservative majority of justices is ready to overturn nearly 50 years of established abortion rights precedent since Roe v. Wade.

"A truly dark day in America with the news reports that the Supreme Court has voted to overturn Roe v. Wade," New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, a Democrat, tweeted Monday night. "This year, I signed the Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act - codifying a woman's right to choose into state law. New Jersey will not go backwards on reproductive rights."

Murphy continued in a subsequent tweet, "I want to assure every New Jerseyan that today's news about the Supreme Court does not change access to abortion in our state. Access to reproductive health care remains available to anyone who needs it in New Jersey."

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat, issued a statement as well.

"Abortion is and will remain legal in Pennsylvania," Wolf tweeted.

He added, "3 things to keep in mind:

1. An official ruling has not yet been made

2. Once #SCOTUS does rule, it's up to states to pass legislation to change abortion laws

3. I'll veto any anti-choice legislation that lands on my desk"

In a tweet, Delaware Governor John Carney said women's health care decisions are deeply personal and private.

"They've been protected under Roe v. Wade for almost 50 years, and it ought to remain that way. Here in Delaware, a woman's right to choose is protected under the law, as it should be. President Biden said he will attempt to codify protections under Roe at the federal level if this decision stands -- that's the right thing to do," he said.

Mayor Jim Kenney tweeted, "This is an attack on women's fundamental rights to make decisions about their own bodies and healthcare. In Philadelphia, we will do everything we can to protect a woman's right to choose."

The Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia issued a statement, saying in part, "It is important to remember that this is just a leak of a draft opinion. Nothing is official until the Court releases its decision, which will likely come sometime in June. With that said, this outcome would be wonderful news. The pro-life movement has been tirelessly working for over 5 decades towards this milestone, the overturning of Roe. It is something to rejoice, to be thankful for, and to give praise to God for. But it is something that should also inspire us to work even harder. Because if Roe is finally overturned, our work only increases. The ultimate goal of the pro-life movement is for abortion to be eradicated. And we accomplish that through changing the culture to one of love and life. There will be many more babies born with the abortion issue being returned to the states. That means many more mothers and babies who need our assistance. The Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia will continue to work tirelessly

to offer that helping hand to those in need."

The ACLU of Pennsylvania tweeted, "If Pennsylvania lawmakers try to make abortions harder to access in the commonwealth, we will fight such efforts with everything we've got. #AbortionIsAHumanRight."

Both New Jersey and Delaware have passed legislation that would keep abortion legal if Roe v. Wade were overturned.

In January, New Jersey Governor Murphy signed abortion protections into law; it also secures a right to access contraception. In 2017, Delaware Governor Carney signed a bill protecting abortion rights into law.

In Pennsylvania, abortion is legal up until 24 weeks. Governor Wolf has vetoed a number of anti-abortion bills which passed in the House and Senate.

Pennsylvania is, however, in a state in flux. In November, Pennsylvanians will be voting for a new governor, lieutenant governor, U.S. senator, and U.S representative.

Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed the authenticity of the leaked draft opinion on Tuesday morning.

Roberts confirmed that the draft is "authentic" but not a decision of the high court and not final.

He ordered an investigation into what he called an "egregious breach of trust."

A draft opinion suggests the U.S. Supreme Court could be poised to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide, according to a Politico report.

The document, which Politico said it obtained from a "person familiar with the court's proceedings," is marked "first draft" and dated Feb. 10, 2022 -- two months after oral arguments were heard in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization.

"Roe was egregiously wrong from the start," writes Justice Samuel Alito, the opinion's apparent author, in a copy of the draft posted online.

A draft of the opinion was initially obtained by Politico.

The Dobbs case involves Mississippi's ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy -- well before fetal viability, the longstanding dividing line established by the court before which states cannot restrict a woman's access to the procedure.

During arguments in December, five of the justices hinted that they were ready to do away with the "viability standard" established by Roe and a subsequent 1992 decision, Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

Kitty Kolbert, a Temple University graduate and public-interest attorney, was part of the team that argued the landmark 1992 case, in which the court reaffirmed the abortion rights enshrined in Roe.

Action News spoke with Kitty Kolbert a public-interest attorney who was part of the team that argued Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

"What this means is that the Supreme Court is permitting states to ban abortion," Kolbert said. "That means, as probably as 25 states in this country, from Georgia all the way west to Texas, from Idaho down to the Mexico border will ban abortion and that means hundreds of thousands of women of child-bearing age who are facing unattended pregnancies will have to travel hundreds, if not thousands of miles to obtain what is now perfectly legal medical care."

Kolbert added, "What does that mean? It's disastrous for women's health."

An unnamed source familiar with the deliberations told Politico that Justices Alito, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett all initially supported a ruling siding with Mississippi and "that line-up remains unchanged as of this week."

The drafting of Supreme Court opinions, however, is a fluid and dynamic process, sources familiar with the internal operations have told ABC News. The document posted suggests a majority of justices is likely to side with Mississippi, but how broad a ruling will ultimately come down remains unclear.

Chief Justice Roberts famously changed his vote late during deliberations over the Affordable Care Act in 2012, narrowly saving the law from being struck down. A Wall Street Journal editorial this month suggested that Roberts, who reveres established precedent and the court's reputation, may be trying to convince one of his conservative colleagues to join him in a narrower opinion.

If Alito's opinion were to hold, as written, it would dramatically upend abortion rights across America, effectively allowing each state to set its own policy.

"The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion," the draft concludes. "Roe and Casey arrogated that authority. We now overrule those decisions and return that authority to the people and their elected representatives."


ABC News contributed to this report.