While some Utah political leaders support what appears to be a U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, they also expressed dismay over the draft opinion being leaked.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said if the draft reflects the final outcome, he supports returning abortion law to the people and their elected representatives.
“The breach of the court’s deliberative process, however, is an appalling affront to a critical institution and should be fully investigated and those responsible should be punished,” he said in a statement.
Politico first reported Monday that the Supreme Court has voted to strike down the landmark Roe v. Wade decision guaranteeing the right to an abortion, according to an initial draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito circulated inside the court.
The draft was written in February, according to Politico, which obtained a copy of the document, and is not final until it is published. Leaking a draft opinion is unprecedented in the court’s modern history.
SCOTUSblog, which provides independent news and analysis on the Supreme Court, tweeted, “It’s impossible to overstate the earthquake this will cause inside the Court, in terms of the destruction of trust among the Justices and staff. This leak is the gravest, most unforgivable sin.”
On Tuesday, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed the draft is authentic and that he has ordered an investigation into the leak.
“To the extent this betrayal of the confidences of the court was intended to undermine the integrity of our operations, it will not succeed. The work of the court will not be affected in any way,” he said in a statement.
It’s impossible to overstate the earthquake this will cause inside the Court, in terms of the destruction of trust among the Justices and staff. This leak is the gravest, most unforgivable sin.— SCOTUSblog (@SCOTUSblog) May 3, 2022
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, questioned the motives for leaking the draft opinion.
“To violate an understanding that has held for the entire modern history of the court — seeking to place outside pressure on the court and the justices themselves — is dangerous, despicable and damaging,” he said in a statement.
Deliberation and confidentiality are vital to the free operation of justices and the judicial system, said Lee, who clerked for Alito.
Lee, who has strongly advocated for undoing Roe v. Wade, went on to say, “I hope and pray that what appears to be Justice Alito’s well-written and well-reasoned draft in fact reflects the majority view of the court.”
“It must be immediately investigated, and the leaker should be prosecuted,” he tweeted Tuesday.
Stewart also said the draft opinion would not outlaw abortion.
“It would rightfully return power to you, the American people. You should debate the abortion laws in this country, and your state should make its own decision. It should not be left to unelected officials in a far-distant capital,” he tweeted.
Noting Utah joined the Mississippi case as an amicus, Utah Solicitor General Melissa Holyoak said the state will let the Supreme Court make its final decision based on the merits of the briefs and oral arguments.
“We await that decision with interest,” she said.
“The Republicans have been fighting for decades to impose their unpopular, extremist views on this issue upon Americans, while Democrats have stood firm in the belief that reproductive freedom is fundamental and must be protected,” Utah Democratic Party Chairwoman Diane Lewis said in a statement. “That has not changed, and we will continue fighting for the rights affirmed by Roe v. Wade nearly 50 years ago.”
The GOP will more than likely capitalize on this leaked ruling to scare people and continue to push their radical agenda, Lewis said, noting abortion is still legal.
Utah’s law, SB174 prohibits abortions in most cases, but allows exceptions if the mother’s life is at risk, if the pregnancy was a result of rape or incest, or if two physicians who practice “maternal fetal medicine” both determine that the fetus “has a defect that is uniformly diagnosable and uniformly lethal or ... has a severe brain abnormality that is uniformly diagnosable.”
“I believe that until the Supreme Court and our own federal court have addressed all the factual and legal issues in our case, a legal and ethical imperative exists for medical professionals to provide pregnancy-related healthcare, including pre-viability abortions for those who seek them,” he said in a statement.
Like others, Gill condemned the leaking of the document and called it a threat to constitutional democracy. The judicial branch must be allowed to debate and interpret the Constitution and laws free from political pressure and untoward outside influences, he said. Everyone who wants to protect the separation of powers and checks and balances should support Roberts launching an investigation into the source of the leak, Gill said.
Noting Utah’s trigger law passed in 2020, GOP Gov. Spencer Cox said the state anxiously awaits the court’s actual ruling the case, which involves a Mississippi law banning most abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy.
“While we are encouraged and optimistic at the possibility that abortion law will be left to the duly elected representatives of the states, draft rulings are not actual rulings and leaked drafts are a dangerous violation of court protocol and deliberations,” he said in a statement.
“Clearly, the court has been robbed to follow a proven process as it refines its decisions,” he said in a statement.
At the same time, Curtis said he found reason for celebration. “I would welcome a ruling overturning Roe v. Wade and trust lawmakers at every level of government to pass legislation that aligns with their values, which in my view should include the preservation of life,” he said.
President Joe Biden released a statement on the reported Supreme Court decision saying it’s not known if the draft is genuine or if it reflects the court’s final decision. He also noted that his administration strongly defended the current law.
If Roe v. Wade is overturned, it will fall on elected officials to protect a woman’s right to choose and voters to elect abortion-rights candidates in November.
“At the federal level, we will need more pro-choice and a pro-choice majority in the House to adopt legislation that codifies Roe, which I will work to pass and sign into law,” he said.
Owens also said the “egregious” leak of the high court’s internal deliberations should be investigated immediately.
“If a variation of this draft opinion ends up becoming SCOTUS’s final ruling, as I pray it does, it’ll be a major step forward in restoring the authority of the people’s representatives to regulate abortion,” he said.