Courts

Texas Republicans Celebrate Supreme Court Abortion Draft as Rights Groups Gear Up

Abortion-rights protesters at the U.S. Supreme Court ahead of SCOTUS' ruling on Texas' last major abortion law.
Abortion-rights protesters at the U.S. Supreme Court ahead of SCOTUS' ruling on Texas' last major abortion law. Shutterstock
Late on Monday, Politico revealed that the U.S. Supreme Court had voted to overturn Roe v. Wade ˆ the 1973 decision that ensures the right to an abortion — in a draft decision written by Justice Samuel Alito in February.

The court's decision will not be official until it is published, Politico explained, and votes could change before that.

“The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion,” the draft says.

Referring to the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision, a ruling that upheld the 1973 decision, the draft concludes: “Roe and Casey arrogated that authority. We now overrule those decisions and return that authority to the people and their elected representatives.”

In Texas, Republican lawmakers and officials celebrated the news (while some denounced the unknown person who leaked the draft), and rights groups geared up for the latest challenge to reproductive rights in a state where they are more embattled by the day.

Last year, Texas legislators passed a "trigger law," which would automatically ban abortion in the state starting 30 days after Roe v. Wade is overturned. (In such case, performing an abortion in Texas would be considered a felony.)

But in five Texas counties, district attorneys have vowed that they wouldn’t pursue criminal charges related to abortion if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, according to a joint statement earlier this month. Among those who signed the statement was Dallas County DA John Creuzot.

“Women will be afraid to seek medical treatment even if they are dying,” the statement said. “We cannot condone such cruelty or this distorted use of our criminal legal system. And we promise to continue fighting for the rights of women in this state and elsewhere and using our discretion as prosecutors to avoid these tragic results.”

Still, many Texas conservatives are applauding the draft decision.

In a statement, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said: "If the leaked draft is indeed accurate, it is a great day for innocent babies in the womb. They will finally be safe in Texas and other Republican states. Prayerfully, in time, all states will protect them.

"They will finally be safe in Texas and other Republican states," the statement continued. "Prayerfully, in time, all states will protect them."

"Abortion's been legal for 50 years, so this is about losing 50 years of rights." - Rosann Mariappuram, Jane's Due Process

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Jeff Leach, a Republican state lawmaker from Plano, also took to Twitter Monday night to urge Christians to “rise to the moment."

“Standing for innocent life,” he wrote. “Loving on people. Being the hands & feet of Christ. Offering hope, healing & grace. This is our moment. May God be glorified in everything we do, think & say.”

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, however, lashed out at Democrats, blaming them for the document being leaked. “I’ve got to say, Democrats have a lot to answer for … the destruction that this wreaks in the court because it will carry on potentially forever," he said on Fox News.

Cruz claimed the document was leaked by a "leftwing law clerk," adding that he hoped that individual "is prosecuted and serves real jail time for violating the confidences of the Supreme Court." (Who leaked the document is not known.)

Last year, the Texas Legislature passed a slate of especially harsh new abortion laws, among them one that effectively outlawed abortion at six weeks.

Rosann Mariappuram, the executive director of the Austin-based reproductive rights advocacy group Jane’s Due Process, explained that “abortion is still legal, including in Texas.”

"Because it was a leaked draft of an opinion, people think the court ruled. The court has not overturned Roe v. Wade," she said by phone.

"It's a horrible opinion because it's the worst case of what we were anticipating," Mariappuram added, explaining that the nature of the opinion could enable attacks on other rights, including, for instance, same sex marriage.

She said, "Abortion's been legal for 50 years, so this is about losing 50 years of rights."

On Twitter, the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas said everyone "deserves to make reproductive decisions for themselves and their families."

"Roe is still the law of the land," the ACLU of Texas also tweeted. "The leaked draft opinion doesn’t change that. … But Texas abortion advocates knew this could happen and we have been preparing for it."

Meanwhile, reproductive rights protests are scheduled to take place at federal courthouses around the country, including in Dallas, over the next several days. 
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Patrick Strickland is the news editor at the Dallas Observer. He's a former senior reporter at Al Jazeera English and has reported for the New York Review of Books, The Guardian, Politico EU and The New Republic, among others.