AUSTIN — A draft U.S. Supreme Court decision on access to abortion was leaked Monday evening, sending shockwaves throughout the country.
In Texas, pro-life and pro-choice advocates were quick to either condemn or hail the High Court’s draft decision that strikes down Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that made abortion legal throughout the United States.
“Every woman deserves the freedom to make their own decisions about their body, health care and future,” Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke said in a Tweet. “It’s never been more urgent to elect a governor who will always protect a woman’s right to abortion.”
He added that if elected governor in November, he will ensure that all women have the ability to make their own health care decisions “each and every time.”
Meanwhile, the author of the anti-abortion Texas Heartbeat Law, state Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Tyler), said in a prepared statement: " If the leaked opinion from last night is ultimately adopted, the Supreme Court will finally correct its horrible mistake from 1973.”
Hughes added: “With that ruling, the Supreme Court took this decision away from the American people. It is long past time to return this decision to the people.
“Once Roe is finally overruled, the people of each state will decide what the law on abortion should be.
The draft opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, calls Roe “exceptionally weak” adding that “there was no support in American law for a constitutional right to obtain an abortion.” While only a draft, it does signal the likely end to Roe as five of the six Republican appointed justices voted to overturn the long-standing precedent.
“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” Alito writes. “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”
The draft is a response to Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, a Mississippi abortion case that went before the court in December.
Should it come to fruition, the Supreme Court decision would be particularly impactful in Texas, which passed a trigger law — under House Bill 1280 — last summer. The law would go into affect 30 days after the Supreme Court’s final ruling against Roe and would make performing an abortion a felony with a life in prison sentence and fines up to $100,000. The law makes an exception only when performing an abortion saves the life of the mother or if they risk “substantial impairment of major bodily function.”
State Rep. Erin Zwiener, D-Driftwood, said that politicians should “leave all pregnancy-related care to patients and their doctors.”
“All Texans deserve the freedom to make their own health care decision,” she said.
Other state Democratic leaders urged Texans to take their anger to the polls.
Celia Israel, former Democratic state representative and an Austin mayoral candidate, said women and allies “must vote like hell this fall.”
The Democratic Party of Texas and Democratic parties in other states said they are "heartbroken, but not surprised."
"Abortion bans are not favored by a majority of Americans, and they never will be," they said in a statement. "It is important now, more than ever, that we protect and exercise those right that remain in state — our First Amendment rights to associate and to vote representatives into office who will stand firm and protect their constituents from the threats and whims of conservatives."
Texas abortion advocates used the opportunity to remind residents that the document is a draft, and while disheartening, does not yet eliminate the right to an abortion. They added that abortions are still legal and in Texas, in accordance with Senate Bill 8, can still occur until a fetal heartbeat is detected, around six weeks of pregnancy.
“The SCOTUS opinion is a leaked draft and not official,” La Frontera Fund, an abortion fund based in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, said in a statement. “Abortion funds are still helping people access abortions.”
AVOW, a Texas-based nonprofit advocating for abortion rights, said it will continue to fight to win back abortion rights at the state level.
AVOW Executive Director Aimee Arrambide highlighted the impact such a decision will have on marginalized communities.
“We want to remind people that abortion is still legal in most of the country, but tonight’s leaked opinion proves what abortion advocates in red states already knew: the state of abortion access is about to get worse before it gets better,” Arrambide said. Arrambide also warned on what this decision could mean for other established precedents.
"Most importantly, we need solidarity from other movements – if past decisions have shown us anything it is that the issue of abortion is a testing ground for the kind of rogue and cruel legislation they intend to pass on other issues. If 50 years of precedent means nothing for abortion rights, it also means they’re coming for voting, racial, housing, and environmental rights to name a few," Arrambide said.
President Joe Biden said in a statement Tuesday that Americans must remember that the draft is not an official decision. He added that should the draft opinion be solidified, he will work to codify pro-choice legislatively.
“If the court does overturn Roe, it will fall on our nation's elected officials at all levels of government to protect a woman’s right to choose. And it will fall on voters to elect pro-choice officials this November,” he said.
In Washington, D.C, Democrats for Life Executive Director Kristen Day also urged people to await the official decision.
The organization believes that all life should be protected and favors ending abortion access. However, they also believe it is the role of the government to help support all families by providing social safeguards.
Day told CNHI News that the biggest issues she sees in the anti-abortion movement is the lack of support for moms, leading them to choose abortion because they do not see another option. Instead there needs to be a greater emphasis on removing health care and support barriers that help women reach full term pregnancies.
“The time to overturn Roe is long past due, but we should not be celebrating just yet,” Day said in a statement. “We have an incredible amount of work ahead to ensure that we protect women and children in a post-Roe world.”
While pro-choice advocates expressed anger and frustration, pro-life advocates cheered. “I think the right outcome is to overturn Roe versus Wade. Roe vs. Wade was wrong the day it was decided. It was seven unelected lawyers who declared to the American people that the voters no longer have the right to make decision about abortions,” Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the news is a “very good sign.”
Paxton’s office also went before the U.S. Supreme Court on its own abortion case in November. That case, Whole Women's Health v. Jackson, was ruled in favor in Texas, allowing its law – Senate Bill 8 – to remain in place. The law bans abortions after cardiac activity is detected, usually around six weeks of pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant. It also enables private people to sue anyone who performs an abortion or helps anyone receive one.
Oklahoma passed a similar law last week.
“I hope that SCOTUS returns the question of abortion where it belongs: the States,” Paxton said following the news.