Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Abortion-rights advocates and opponents react to possibility of abortion restrictions


We now know that a leaked draft of a Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade is authentic. Chief Justice Roberts confirmed that today after Politico published the document. He noted that it's not a final opinion, but if it holds, it would allow states to prohibit abortion. NPR correspondent Sarah McCammon covers reproductive rights and joins us again. Hi, Sarah.


SHAPIRO: As we said, this opinion is a draft, but it does give us a window into what the justices are thinking. Tell us about what you've learned so far.

MCCAMMON: Right. I mean, it appears to confirm months of predictions from legal experts and others really across the political spectrum that the court was poised to seriously roll back abortion rights, if not overturn Roe v. Wade altogether. Just by agreeing to take this case, the justices appeared to signal that. It is a challenge to a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks, so before viability. Chief Justice John Roberts is thought to favor a more incremental approach to change. He asked some questions last fall during the oral arguments that suggested he might have been looking for a way to uphold the Mississippi law without entirely overturning Roe. But Michele Bratcher Goodwin, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, says the draft opinion would overturn Roe in one fell swoop.

MICHELE BRATCHER GOODWIN: It is an opinion that dismantles Roe full-scale, not the dismantling by a thousand strikes. It is a very strong punch to the gut of that opinion.

MCCAMMON: And as a result, according to some estimates, about half of states may be poised to ban abortion under such a decision.

SHAPIRO: And so as the news sinks in today, what are advocates on both sides telling you?

MCCAMMON: Well, abortion-rights opponents are pleased, as you might expect, and hoping that this sticks. This is what they've been working toward at every level of government for decades. Steve Aden with Americans United for Life says his group is asking states to actually come back and call special sessions to pass legislation banning abortion in response to this decision.

STEVE ADEN: If this opinion holds, it means that the question of abortion has been returned to where it belongs, to the states and the people, and that will result in a vigorous political debate in a place where it belongs - in the state houses.

MCCAMMON: Now, abortion-rights advocates say this will be disastrous for low-income people, people of color and others who are disproportionately affected by abortion restrictions. And they're warning that overturning long-standing precedent could have ramifications for other rights that are protected under Supreme Court decisions such as a right to contraception, same-sex marriage. And that's a worry that we heard President Biden raise today.

SHAPIRO: So what is the next move for abortion-rights advocates?

MCCAMMON: Well, polls suggest that a majority of Americans want Roe to remain in effect and support abortion rights in most cases. So advocates are hoping this will galvanize voters to turn out for the midterm elections. Fatima Goss Graves is with National Women's Law Center.

FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: We have been warning for decades about what is happening in this country in terms of abortion access and the attack on Roe. I think this draft opinion leaked last night is making it real for people.

MCCAMMON: Naral Pro-Choice America and other groups, Ari, are investing $150 million on the midterms, focusing on battleground states. And even as many states have rushed to pass restrictions on abortion, what we're also seeing some taking steps to expand abortion access. But increasingly, the way the country seems to be going is toward a very patchwork set of abortion policies.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Sarah McCammon, thank you very much.

MCCAMMON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sarah McCammon
Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.