North Jersey Democrats vowed to fight for a woman’s right to choose if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns abortion rights in a case where a decision is expected this Spring.
The issue moved to the front of the political world after an initial draft majority opinion written by New Jersey native Justice Samuel Alito was first published by Politico May 2 that would strike down what was considered settled law and return the issue back to the states to decide.
Gov. Phil Murphy reminded New Jerseyans that the Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act that he signed earlier this year in Teaneck codified a woman’s right to choose into state law. The law ensures women the right to access contraception, the right to terminate a pregnancy and the right to carry a pregnancy to term in New Jersey.
Right to Choose Unchanged in New Jersey
“This decision will have no impact on New Jersey state law or the full right to reproductive freedom under our state law. This remains fully intact, because here in New Jersey, instead of hoping for the best, we prepared ourselves for the worst.,” Murphy said at a press briefing May 3.
Murphy urged federal action by Washington lawmakers to counteract the actions of a Supreme Court “stacked with Trump appointees that could not be trusted to protect women’s reproductive rights,” including reform of the filibuster in the U.S. Senate if needed to assure a vote is held.
Congressional Action Needed
“Our elected officials in Washington must take matters into their own hands,” said the governor. “Congress must immediately pass federal legislation protecting the reproductive rights of all Americans, everywhere across this nation. If that means reforming the filibuster, then we need to reform the filibuster. And if this Congress won’t protect reproductive freedom, America needs to elect a Congress in November that will.”
Rep. Tom Malinowski advised that if Republicans retake Congress, New Jersey’s law could be at risk.
“I want to issue a warning that our law in not necessarily safe…as the same people who have been pressing the Supreme Court to do this are also at the same time pushing are trying to elect a majority in the United State Congress to enact a nationwide abortion ban,” said Malinowski. “If we allow them to do that, our law becomes mute.”
Biden Promises Fight
President Joe Biden said his administration will be ready to fight the court’s ruling if it overturns the access to abortions anywhere in the U.S.
“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,” Biden said in a written statement. “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.”
On the federal level, Rep. Donald Payne Jr. warned that women across the country are in jeopardy of falling backwards to a dark past when access to a safe abortion procedure was difficult or impossible.
“This absolute travesty is the direct result of the continued radicalism of the Republican Party and its turn to the far right,” said Payne in a press statement. “I know that we must trust women to make their own healthcare decisions rather than dictating to them.”
Rep. Mikie Sherrill offered that while the founders were worried about the tyranny of the majority, the United States currently “faces a tyranny of the minority: the extreme right has attacked our voting rights, women’s rights, and continues work to undermine our system of democratic elections. The forthcoming partisan opinion—which includes the votes of three Trump appointed justices—carries out a decades-long attack on this constitutional right and a rollback of law that has been settled for half a century.”
Picking up on that thread, Sen. Cory Booker stated the overturning of Roe v. Wade is part of a campaign by Republican officeholders that has accelerated “their longstanding effort to control, criminalize, and dehumanize people’s most personal reproductive health decisions. Already, 13 states have laws on the books that would automatically ban abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned. And it’s clear that Republicans in Congress are preparing to outlaw and criminalize all abortions nationwide.”
Payne urged the U.S. Senate to the Women’s Health Protection Act, legislation that would guarantee the legal right to an abortion nationwide.
“The U.S. Senate must act now to pass this bill, and if necessary Senate leaders must abolish the filibuster to allow an up or down vote to be held,” he said. “There is no other action that would rise to the urgency of this moment than doing whatever it takes to pass this bill. The American people are watching, and they are counting on us to act. We must not let them down.”
Mississippi Case in Question
The written draft revolves around Mississippi’s attempt to ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Alito’s draft ruling would overturn a decision by the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit Court of Appeals that found the Mississippi law ran afoul of Supreme Court precedent by seeking to effectively ban abortions before viability.
The opinion is considered a complete reversal of the 1973 Roe v Wade Supreme Court 7-2 decision that found the Constitution protects a pregnant woman’s liberty to choose to have an abortion without excessive government restriction as well as the subsequent 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision that largely maintained the right.
“Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” Alito writes. “We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled. It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”
Thomas, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, Coney Barrett
Later, the decision adds “The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion. Roe and Casey arrogated that authority. We now overrule those decisions and return that authority to the people and their elected representatives.”
Siding with Altio are four Republican-appointed justices—Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett—who voted with Alito in the conference held among the justices after hearing oral arguments in December 2021.
The three Democratic-appointed justices—Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan—are reportedly working on one or more dissents. Unknown is the vote of Chief Justice John Roberts, with speculation surrounding whether he will join an already written opinion, draft his own or attempt to persuade one of the conservative justices to side with him, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan to uphold what was considered law.
Disregarding 50 Years of Precedent
The Supreme Court released a statement on May 3 that the draft was authentic but not final and Roberts directed the Marshal of the Court to launch an investigation into the source of the leak.
But Garden State lawmakers said the issues was not the leak but of a “radical Supreme Court ripping to shreds 50 years of settled law in this country that the overwhelming majority of American support,” said Malinowski.
Booker noted “this opinion would strip people of the constitutional right to make their own medical decisions with their doctor, even in the most extreme and unthinkable circumstances, such as in the case of rape, incest, or if someone’s life is endangered by continuing a pregnancy. Abortion is health care, and it’s the federal government’s mandate to protect people’s most fundamental rights.”