Mass. politicians pledge to protect abortion rights after Supreme Court draft opinion is leaked

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Top elected officials in Massachusetts pledged renewed efforts to protect national abortion rights, after a draft Supreme Court opinion was leaked Monday night suggesting the court's conservative majority is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed the document, which was published Monday night by Politico, is a draft of the court's opinion in a case challenging Mississippi's ban on abortion after 15 weeks. In it, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that "Roe was egregiously wrong from the start." Roberts cautioned the draft was not final, and promised an investigation into the leak.

The Supreme Court has not issued any official ruling in the case known as Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. In addition to changes to the scope and wording of the court's opinion, justices' votes have also been known to change in the drafting process. The court is expected to rule on the case before its term ends in late June or early July.

As the news of the leaked draft spread, many prominent New England politicians issued statements expressing outrage.

"If true, this is a disgrace," Massachusetts U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern tweeted late Monday. His remarks capture much of the sentiment from the state's all-Democratic congressional delegation.

McGovern stressed that until an official ruling is released, abortion remains a right in all 50 states.

Massachusetts is among the many blue states that have codified strong abortion rights laws, so the ruling wouldn't impact access locally. However, there are many Republican-led states with so-called trigger laws to ban abortion if the Roe decision is overturned — and other red states are seen as likely to follow suit.

Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey reiterated his call to abolish the Senate filibuster in order to pass a federal bill to prevent states from restricting abortion.

Massachusetts U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley echoed that call as well. Neither proposal has been able to get 50 votes in the Senate.

Markey also called for expanding the Supreme Court, saying, "There is no other recourse."

Meanwhile, Markey's Senate colleague, Elizabeth Warren, suggested recourse could come at the ballot box. She called on "the millions" who support abortion rights to "stand up and make their voices heard."

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker also tweeted his opposition to the Supreme Court's draft opinion, and said he is proud that Massachusetts "has and will always protect every woman's right to choose what is best for them."

Local advocates, elected officials react

In Boston, Mayor Michelle Wu held a press conference Tuesday morning with state legislators and local advocates, describing the justices that ruled in favor of the draft decision as "a fringe minority determined to drag us back into the dangers of decades past."

She and others at the event vowed that Boston would continue to be a leader in the fight for abortion and women's reproductive health care rights.

Mayor Michelle Wu speaks at a press conference on the steps of the Massachusetts State House about abortion protections in the U.S. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Mayor Michelle Wu speaks at a press conference on the steps of the Massachusetts State House about abortion protections in the U.S. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

“Abortion care is health care," Wu said. "Reproductive justice is gender justice, is queer justice, is justice. It has been a fight to get here, and it will take a fight to keep going."

State Senate President Karen Spilka and House Speaker Ron Mariano reminded citizens that Massachusetts has already passed legislation to protect and uphold abortion rights in the state.

But, Spilka added, for supporters of abortion rights, access across the nation matters deeply.

“In America, we all have a voice," she sad. "We will not be silent. We will not go quietly. We will not go into a devastating future that seeks to treat us as second-class citizens.”

Senate President Karen Spilka talks to the press on the State House steps. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Senate President Karen Spilka talks to the press on the State House steps. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

At the same event, Massachusetts Congresswoman Katherine Clark called on voters who support abortion rights to galvanize support ahead of the November midterms.

"Our democracy is on the line," she said. "And if you don't feel affected by this draft opinion, you will soon."

Carol Rose, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, warned that advocates for abortion rights should prepare for other battles, too.

“They’re gonna be coming for contraception rights next, and they’re gonna be coming for LGBTQ and equal marriage, and then they’re gonna be coming for all of us now. We cannot rest on our laurels," she said. "We have to go on the offense.”

Some local opponents of abortion also issued statements Tuesday, with some striking a cautiously optimistic tone.

The group Massachusetts Citizens for Life said that while the court's draft opinion would likely change, the case could represent a potentially "historic win" in the legal fight to end abortion.

"Though this ruling would overturn Roe, it would not outlaw abortion," the group said in a statement. "... Unfortunately, abortions will continue to be available across the country in many places, including here in Massachusetts. There will be much work left to do to protect our most vulnerable citizens and support women and men faced with unplanned pregnancies."

Reaction from New England Senators, Governors

Maine Sen. Susan Collins said in a statement that if true, the decision "would be completely inconsistent with what Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh said in their hearings and in our meetings in my office."

Collins, a Republican who has identified as a supporter of abortion rights, faced pressure during the confirmation hearing for Brett Kavanaugh's appointment to the high court. She ultimately voted to confirm him.

In a statement Tuesday, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu said, "As a pro-choice governor, I am committed to upholding Roe v. Wade, which is why I am proud of the bipartisan bill headed to my desk this year that expands access. So long as I am governor, these health care services for women will remain safe and legal.”

The audio attached to this post is a Morning Edition debrief with WBUR's Steve Brown.

This article was originally published on May 03, 2022.

This segment aired on May 4, 2022.


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Nik DeCosta-Klipa Newsletter Editor
Nik DeCosta-Klipa is the newsletter editor for WBUR.


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Laney Ruckstuhl Field Producer
Laney Ruckstuhl is the field producer for Morning Edition. She was formerly a digital producer.



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