Pelosi, Schumer: Supreme Court poised to inflict greatest rights restriction in last 50 years

“If the report is accurate, the Supreme Court is poised to inflict the greatest restriction of rights in the past 50 years – not just on women but on all Americans," said Schumer and Pelosi.

 US Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) joins demonstrators during a protest outside the US Supreme Court, after the leak of a draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito preparing for a majority of the court to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion rights decision later in 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/EVELYN HOCKSTEIN)
US Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) joins demonstrators during a protest outside the US Supreme Court, after the leak of a draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito preparing for a majority of the court to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion rights decision later in 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/EVELYN HOCKSTEIN)

WASHINGTON – The leaked bombshell US Supreme Court draft decision suggesting the court might overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion sent Democrats scrambling on Tuesday, with lawmakers and activists looking for some way to head off the sweeping social change.

“If the report is accurate, the Supreme Court is poised to inflict the greatest restriction of rights in the past 50 years – not just on women but on all Americans,” Congress’s top two Democrats, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, said in a joint statement. “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.”

Chief Justice John Roberts said the Supreme Court would investigate the leak of the draft, which indicated that a majority of the nine justices are set to overturn the constitutional right to abortion – a breach of the court’s trust that he called a “betrayal.”

In a news release, the court confirmed that the document dated from February was authentic, but cautioned that the draft opinion which would overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide does not represent the “final position of any member on the issues in the case.”

The news broke a little more than six months before midterm elections that will determine if Democrats hold their razor-thin majorities in the US Congress for the next two years of President Joe Biden’s term.

 A demonstrator holds a sign during a protest outside the US Supreme Court, after the leak of a draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito preparing for a majority of the court to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion rights decision later this year, in Washington, US, May 3, 20 (credit: REUTERS/EVELYN HOCKSTEIN) A demonstrator holds a sign during a protest outside the US Supreme Court, after the leak of a draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito preparing for a majority of the court to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion rights decision later this year, in Washington, US, May 3, 20 (credit: REUTERS/EVELYN HOCKSTEIN)

Until Politico’s reporting on Monday night, it seemed likely that inflation and the economy would be the most important issues on voters’ minds this upcoming November.

According to a CNN poll in January, 35% of the voters said they would be “angry” if the Roe decision is overturned, and Democrats are now likely to try and mobilize voters and reshape the midterms narrative around abortion rights.

Aside from 435 races for the House of Representatives and 35 Senate races, there are also 36 gubernatorial races, including Ohio, Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan and Texas, which could ban abortion if the decision is overturned, making it a major issue in those states.

Jewish Democratic Council of America CEO Halie Soifer signaled that abortion rights would be a top campaign issue for Democrats in November.

“This critically important decision will likely fall to voters in November, and JDCA will do all we can to defeat anti-abortion Republicans and elect more pro-choice Democrats to Congress,” she said in a statement. “In the meantime, we will be mobilizing voters and amplifying our voices, including during JDCA’s second annual Week of Action on May 11 and 12, when we will take to the Hill to demand action that nullifies this unconscionable – and not yet final – SCOTUS decision.”

Several Jewish organizations issued statements following the news.

While the draft opinion that Politico shared was not official, “the language is upsetting, shocking, and outrageous,” National Council of Jewish Women CEO Sheila Katz tweeted on Monday night. “In a matter of weeks, tens of millions of Americans could lose access to abortion care, forcing them to be pregnant and increasing the risk of life-threatening medical emergencies. And let’s be clear: The Justices won’t stop at abortion access. Contraception, the right to marry whom we love, and other rights we have long relied on will be next.”

NCJW said several Jewish organizations, including CCAR, Na’amat USA, the Union for Reform Judaism and T’ruah, would hold a “Jewish Rally for Abortion Justice” on May 17 in Washington.

“Abortion access is a Jewish value, plain and simple,” the event’s website said. “For too long, the American narrative about religion and abortion has ignored Jewish voices – and it’s past time for that to end.”

Rabbi Jonah Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and senior vice president of the Union for Reform Judaism, tweeted: “As Reform Jews, we know that every person has the right to make decisions about their body and reproductive health. We vehemently condemn SCOTUS’s willingness to overturn Roe and allow that right to be curtailed.”

The draft majority Supreme Court opinion disclosed yesterday “is an attack on women’s autonomy, freedom and health,” Hadassah President Rhoda Smolow and CEO Naomi Adler said in a statement. “When a woman’s right to choose is limited, we also limit her right to safe, informed medical decisions and procedures. If enacted, this decision will have a disproportionate impact on the empowerment, economic equity and security of women in underserved communities.

“Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, reaffirms its unwavering support for full and complete access to reproductive health services and a woman’s right to make health decisions according to her own religious, moral and ethical values.”

Rabbi Abba Cohen, vice president for government affairs at Agudath Israel of America, said his organization had no comment or advocacy plan in response to the leaked decision in Dobbs v. Jackson, which is the current legal challenge to Roe v. Wade. “It is merely a draft, and may not at all represent the court’s final ruling or its language,” he said. “As the Jewish perspective on abortion is nuanced, we would have to review the precise nuances of the final decision itself – how, for example, it treats abortion rights when the ‘mother’s life or health is endangered,’ or when the ‘mother’s sincerely held religious beliefs allow or require’ her to seek an abortion. We would also have to carefully examine state statutes and prospective legislation on these matters. Only then can we determine the true impact of the Dobbs decision and future steps we might deem necessary.”

Reuters contributed to this report.