The very simple reason Republicans are railing against leaks instead of celebrating the seeming demise of Roe
It's not because they're so passionate about norms.
I had something else written and ready to go for today’s newsletter, but I’m changing plans because I feel obligated to address the momentous news of a draft Supreme Court majority decision indicating the court has already voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, and hence end the federal right to an abortion.
The draft decision, authored by Justice Samuel Alito, was leaked by someone close to the court and obtained by Politico, which describes it as “a full-throated, unflinching repudiation of the 1973 decision which guaranteed federal constitutional protections of abortion rights and a subsequent 1992 decision – Planned Parenthood v. Casey – that largely maintained the right.” While SCOTUS’s vote and the corresponding majority opinion could change between now and when the final decision is publicly announced, it certainly appears the court is poised to upend 50 years of precedent with a move that will effectively immediately ban abortion in nearly half the states.
You’d think Republicans would be taking a big victory lap, considering ending abortion rights is something most of them have campaigned on since the Nixon administration. Instead, however, they’re focusing on railing against whoever leaked the decision, and bemoaning the death of norms.
“To violate an understanding that has held for the entire modern history of the Court — seeking to place outside political pressure on the Court and justices themselves — is dangerous, despicable, and damaging,” lamented Sen. Mike Lee in a statement.
“This is a blatant attempt to intimidate the Court through public pressure rather than reasoned argument,” tweeted Sen. Ted Cruz. “I hope my fellow former clerks and the entire legal community will join me in denouncing this egregious breach of trust.”
“The Court should not abide this coordinated assault by the left,” added Sen. Josh Hawley in a tweet of his own. “Issue the decision now.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell went as far as to suggest the leaker should be charged with a crime, even though legal experts say leaking a SCOTUS draft decision is not unlawful.
In fact, if you watched Fox News on Tuesday morning, you might’ve come away with the impression the leak was a bigger deal that the draft decision itself.
First of all, it’s far from clear the leak came from someone opposed to the decision. But secondly, there’s a very simple reason Republicans are focusing on portraying the court’s conservative majority — all but one of whom were appointed by presidents who lost the popular vote — as victims. And the reason is that overturning the federal right to an abortion is a political loser for conservatives.
Overturning Roe is very unpopular all across the country
Polls consistently show overturning Roe is opposed by a majority of between 58 and 70 percent of Americans.
And ending federal abortion rights isn’t just unpopular in blue states. According to Data for Progress, there isn’t a single state in the union where support for a federal ban on abortion — something antiabortion activists and Republicans are already talking about — has more than 30 percent support.
In short, while railing against abortion rights is a good way to rile up the Republican base, it doesn’t resonate with the general public. And that’s why Democrats are already expressing hope the SCOTUS draft decision could help them in the upcoming midterm elections.
“If the Court does overturn Roe, it will fall on our nation’s elected officials at all levels of government to protect a women’s right to choose,” President Biden said in a statement released Tuesday morning. “And it will fall on voters to elect pro-choice officials this November. At the federal level, we will need more pro-choice Senators and a pro-choice majority in the House to adopt legislation that codifies Roe, which I will work to pass and sign into law.”
This is bigger than politics, however
Politics aside, news that SCOTUS is poised to end federal abortion rights is terrible for women, especially those living in red states. Vice President Kamala Harris said in a recent interview that “women will die” if the court overturns Roe, and she isn’t wrong. The rates at which people obtain abortion procedures are more or less constant. Bans only make those procedures more likely to kill them.
“In particular, women who don't have economic resources and can't then travel to places or somehow have access to safe reproductive health care, including abortion,” added Harris. “And it is not an extreme statement, it is a fact."
I’m already thinking about ways to lift up the voices of reproductive rights advocates in future editions of this newsletter. But for today, I at least wanted to unpack why Republicans (most of them men) are twisting SCOTUS moving to make women second-class citizens into a story about liberal leakers trying to undermine the court. They know they’re out of step with the majority of Americans, and so they’re retreating to safer territory — whining about their perceived victimhood.