Roe v. Wade leaked draft reaction swift — and split
Nearly 50 years since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade established protections for women seeking abortion and 30 years since the decision was reaffirmed in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a new court appears to be on the verge of overturning the once-settled case law.
A leaked draft majority decision by Justice Samuel Alito indicates the court intends to rule in favor of the state of Mississippi in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization over a 2018 law which bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Florida adopted a similar law this year and states around the country have also adopted abortion limits over the past two to three years as part of a wave of efforts to restrict abortions in light of the new pro-life majority on the U.S. Supreme Court.
That has pro-choice proponents in a fury and pro-life believers in elation though the nature of the leaking of a draft decision has sparked an investigation and it is not a final determination.
Reactions from politicians representing the region were largely supportive of Alito’s draft opinion and critical of the leak. Republican lawmakers largely have focused on attacking the unprecedented leak of the work-in-progress which could change substantively.
At a press conference at Lovers Key State Park in Fort Myers Beach on Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he supported the decision though criticized the leaking of the draft opinion. “I’m somebody who believes in pro-life protections. I think that it’s something that is based in science, something that is based in kind of who we are as a society,” he said. He called the leak “an attack on a lot of the justices. I think it was an intentional thing to try to whip up a lot of the public, to try to make it very political, potentially try to bully them into changing one of their positions.”
Nikki Fried, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and a declared Democratic Party candidate for governor, said “The women of our country are under direct attack by right-wing radicals. Overturning our freedom over our bodies is unconstitutional, unacceptable, and taking us back to a dark, dark time. If they can control our bodies, what do we have left?”
Some lawmakers are focusing on the leaking of the draft opinion such as Congressman Byron Donalds (R-Naples). Donalds, whose district includes Cape Coral, released the following statement condemning the illegally leaked Dobbs v. Jackson draft opinion to Politico by officials within the Supreme Court of the United States.
“This breach of trust and ethics with the unlawful release of undisclosed court documents is a crime and is a blatant scheme to obstruct justice,” Donalds said.
“Those liable for prematurely and irresponsibly unveiling this draft opinion have engaged in a historically dangerous political maneuver intended to intimidate Lady Justice and the constitution that guides our republic.”
Dr. Cindy Banyai, a Democrat who ran against Donalds for Congress in 2020 and who has announced she will run again this November, attacked the draft decision. “Conservative activist justices inappropriately appointed to the Supreme Court are about to send the United States back 50 years. The overturning of the right to medical privacy and abortion care should alarm all Americans,” Banyai said in a prepared statement.
Banyai called the draft decision an aberration of our country’s democratic principles.
“I stand firmly in opposition to overturning the super precedent of Roe v. Wade. I believe people have the right to choose when and where to start a family. I believe people have a right to medical privacy and decisions about medical care should be made by a person and their medical practitioner, not pre-emptively made by the government.” Banyai said.
State Sen. Ray Rodrigues (R-District 27), who represents most of Lee County, said the Florida law limiting abortion to within 15 weeks of pregnancy, was modeled after the Missisippi law. If the Missisippi law is upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, he believes the only challenge would be on the state’s constitutional grounds protecting a right to privacy. The Florida law does not make an exception for cases of rape or incest.
“It’s a draft (decision) so we don’t know if it’s going to be a final opinion,” Rodrigues said. He called the leak of the document “outrageous” and “another attempt to destabilize the court.”
Rodrigues said it is too soon to tell if the draft decision could impact any other Florida laws.
State House Rep. Adam Botana (R-District 76), whose district encompasses Fort Myers Beach, Bonita Springs and Sanibel, voted in favor of the Florida law limiting abortion to within 15 weeks of pregnancy. “The majority of my constituents are in favor of the 15-week ban,” he said.
“It was a big decision and it was not taken lightly,” Botana said. “Roe v. Wade was hotly debated before I was born.” Botana said he was “disappointed” the decision was leaked out. “I know people are getting concerned and nervous.”
Congressman Greg Steube (R-District 17), whose district encompasses a portion of Lee County, including part of Lehigh Acres and North Fort Myers, hailed the draft decision and decried the leak.
“It is unfortunate that the news of the greatest victory for the pro-life movement comes on the heels of one of the most profound breaches of trust the Court has ever seen,” Steube said in a prepared statement issued by his office. “If the report is true, I am grateful that all of God’s children will now have a voice, and I am committed to ensuring that the leaker and their complicit partners in the media will be held accountable for their actions to the fullest extent.”
Stephanie Fraim, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, which has an office in Fort Myers, called the decision “a stunning breach of trust by the Supreme Court. Taking away the freedom from people to make their own important health care decisions is devastating.
“This leaked memo has already inspired other extremists to call for Florida to ban all abortions. We are devastated, we are furious, and we will fight back.”
U.S. Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), in a statement on Twitter, said “The Supreme Court’s confidential deliberation process is sacred and protects it from political interference. This breach shows that radical Democrats are working even harder to intimidate & undermine the Court. It was always their plan. The justices cannot be swayed by this attack.”
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), in an appearance on Fox, stated that he believed the leak was done “primarily to try to intimidate justices. That is what you are seeing right now, efforts to intimidate them.”
Rubio said “the only time that Democrats want to defend institutions or consider a Supreme Court ruling as the law of the land is when they agree with it or it furthers their political aims. Any other time, they feel free to not just criticize the Court, but attack the justices by name and attack them personally.”