San Diego Democrats reacted with fury Monday and urged Congress to act in the wake of bombshell reporting that the U.S. Supreme Court is ending the national right to abortion.
San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, Board of Supervisors Chairman Nathan Fletcher, Supervisor Nora Vargas and county Democratic Party chairman Will Rodriguez-Kennedy expressed dismay over Politico’s “scoop of the century” that Roe vs. Wade would be overturned.
Four members of the county congressional delegation — Democratic Reps. Mike Levin, Sara Jacobs, Scott Peters and Juan Vargas — denounced the decision.
And a joint statement from Senate leader Toni Atkins of San Diego, Gov. Gavin Newsom and Assembly leader Anthony Rendon vowed: “We know we can’t trust the Supreme Court to protect reproductive rights, so California will build a firewall around this right in our state Constitution. Women will remain protected here.”
Republican Rep. Darrell Issa posted his first reaction Tuesday morning, quoting President Ronald Reagan as saying: “We have the duty to protect the life of an unborn child.”
Later, Issa’s office released a 173-word statement that condemned the court leak as shaking “a sacred trust”
“Today marks the most significant threat to the Court since Marbury vs Madison,” Issa said. “And it is essential that the Court repair both its image and standing in the eyes of the nation. Chief Justice Roberts has taken a solid first step in announcing a comprehensive investigation.
“The truth is, obstructing a judicial proceeding is a crime, as is the willful intimidation of the Justices. If that is the objective of this leak, it must not succeed. That’s why a full internal review by the Court is absolutely necessary.
“I will always stand for life and defend the unborn. But no matter one’s personal views on this issue, we are all Americans and we all share an equal stake in the integrity of the Supreme Court.”
No local Republican Party official commented Monday night. (The latest county GOP posting on Facebook, Monday night, was about an upcoming trip to the Nixon Presidential Library in north Orange County.)
Local Democratic Party leader Rodriguez-Kennedy tweeted that the court “launched a devastating assault on the rights of half the American population. Overturning Roe v. Wade demonstrates that no one’s rights are safe in the eyes of the extreme religious conservative majority of #SCOTUS.”
Both Sides Rally at Supreme Court
Anti-abortion activists and pro-abortion rights supporters took to the streets of Washington after a leaked initial draft majority opinion suggested the court voted to overturn Roe.
Within hours of the news, anti-abortion activists chanting “hey, hey, ho, ho, Roe v. Wade has got to go” and abortion rights supporters shouting “abortion is healthcare” were facing off outside the court.
San Diego’s Fletcher said in a statement: “This draft opinion is wrongheaded, regressive and creates an uneven landscape for the reproductive rights of women across our Country. We need Congress to act and pass the Women’s Health Protection Act and I vow to continue to fight for a woman’s right to choose what they do with their body.”
The expected ruling is no surprise to San Diego evangelicals and other conservatives.
At the 10th annual March for Life in mid-January, local Catholic Bishop Robert McElroy told a jubilant crowd that it would be hard to ban abortion in California, “but at the same time for our country this is a really wonderful moment.”
He noted: “Many states will see tremendous progress legislatively rather soon,” with state “trigger laws” ready to outlaw abortion if the 1973 Roe decision were overturned.
On Twitter, Mayor Gloria said it “appears our worst fears about this #SCOTUS may come true, and women will be robbed of the Constitutional right to exercise control over their bodies. If #RoeVWade is overturned, we must do all we can to secure reproductive rights.”
Rep. Levin said reversing Roe would be devastating for women everywhere.
“The radical majority would be throwing away decades of precedent and jeopardizing the health and lives of women,” he tweeted. “It’s beyond shameful. Remember this November.”
And Rep. Vargas said the ruling would be a disgrace for millions of Americans.
“A woman’s right to make her own health care decisions shouldn’t be stripped away,” he tweeted. “We must protect reproductive rights. The Senate must pass the Women’s Health Protection Act. We can’t give up.”
Unrelated Supervisor Nora Vargas tweeted: “As a longtime reproductive healthcare and justice champion and staunch advocate for the right to safe and legal abortion, I’ll continue to fight for that fundamental right. As the 1st County in the nation declared a champion for reproductive freedom, we stand in solidarity.”
On Facebook, 33-year-old Rep. Jacobs said: “As one of the very few women of reproductive age in Congress, I know what a gut punch this decision would be to our freedom to control our own bodies. This is what it looks like when our institutions protect archaic rules above everything else.”
And Rep. Peters tweeted: “For years, we’ve feared that the decision to overturn Roe v Wade could become a reality. We can’t take our freedoms — including those involving our health — for granted. It’s time to codify the right to choose into law once and for all.”
Professor Fears Other Rollbacks
Longtime local political observer Carl Luna of San Diego Mesa College feared other actions by the 6-3 conservative court, citing rollbacks on voting rights.
“After that? How about gutting #CivilRightsAct, #BrownVBoard and even 1974 Equal Credit Opportunity Act. … so women no longer can open their own bank accounts without a male cosigner? Think I’m exaggerating? You just watch,” said the political scientist.
Former U.S. Attorney Harry Litman of La Jolla, the cable-news pundit and Los Angeles Times columnist, predicted “thunderous political repercussions” in state legislatures “and of course the lives of millions of women. In that sense, likely most impactful decision since Dred Scott.”
Wendy Wheatcroft, a former San Diego City Council candidate and gun-control advocate, simply said: “I’m just a mom of 2 girls sitting in my car and crying into my burrito. #Roe #AbortionIsEssential”
Abortion is one of the most divisive issues in U.S. politics and has been for nearly a half century. A 2021 poll by the Pew Research Center found that 59% of U.S. adults believed it should be legal in all or most cases, while 39% thought it should be illegal in most or all cases.
“Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” conservative Justice Alito wrote in the draft opinion which is dated Feb. 10, according to Politico, which posted a copy online.
Based on Alito’s opinion, the court would find that the Roe decision that allowed abortions performed before a fetus would be viable outside the womb – between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy – was wrongly decided because the U.S. Constitution makes no specific mention of abortion rights.
“Abortion presents a profound moral question. The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each state from regulating or prohibiting abortion,” Alito said, according to the leaked document.
The rare leak sent shock waves through the United States, not least because the court prides itself on keeping its internal deliberations secret and leaks are extremely uncommon.
The news stunned abortion providers.
On Monday night, Andrea Gallegos, executive administrator at Tulsa Women’s Clinic in Oklahoma, had just finished calling some 25 patients scheduled for abortions on Tuesday to tell them that their appointments would need to be canceled because of a soon-to-be-enacted Oklahoma law modeled on a highly restrictive Texas abortion ban.
“I can’t say that I’m surprised,” she said.
“Now all these other conservative states like Oklahoma are passing the exact same legislation that Texas did, I have to say I became less optimistic and way more scared for what the future of Roe looks like.”
Sweeping move by conservative majority
The ruling would be the court’s most sweeping since former President Trump succeeded in naming three justices to the court, cementing a 6-3 conservative majority.
“The Republican-appointed Justices’ reported votes to overturn Roe v. Wade would go down as an abomination, one of the worst and most damaging decisions in modern history,” said U.S. House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, both Democrats.
The news broke a little more than six months before the midterm elections that will determine if Democrats hold their razor-thin majorities in the U.S. Congress for the next two years of President Joe Biden’s term in office.
The decision appeared based on an oral argument in December on Mississippi’s bid to revive its ban on abortion starting at 15 weeks of pregnancy, a law blocked by lower courts.
The report said a court majority was inclined to uphold Mississippi’s abortion ban and that there could be five votes to overturn Roe. An official ruling is expected sometime before the end of June.
Four of the other Republican-appointed justices – Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett – voted with Alito in the conference held among the justices, the report added.
After an initial vote among the justices following an oral argument, one is assigned the majority opinion and writes a draft. It is then circulated among the justices.
At times, in between the initial vote and the ruling being released, the vote alignment can change. A ruling is only final when it is published by the court.
The Roe decision recognized that the right to personal privacy under the U.S. Constitution protects a woman’s ability to terminate her pregnancy.
Christian conservatives and many Republican officeholders have long sought to overturn it.
If Roe is overturned, abortion is likely to remain legal in liberal states, including California. More than a dozen states currently have laws protecting abortion rights. Numerous Republican-led states have passed various abortion restrictions in defiance of the Roe precedent in recent years.
Republicans could try to enact a nationwide abortion ban, while Democrats could also seek to protect abortion rights at the national level.
Democrats said the draft opinion underscores the importance of this year’s elections, in which they are seeking to maintain control of the House and Senate. Republican lawmakers criticized the leak, suggesting it was an attempt to inappropriately pressure the court into changing course.
The anti-abortion group the Susan B. Anthony List welcomed the news.
“If Roe is indeed overturned, our job will be to build consensus for the strongest protections possible for unborn children and women in every legislature,” said its president, Marjorie Dannenfelser, in a statement.
Reuters contributed to this report.
Updated at 2:30 p.m. May 3, 2022