North Carolina Democrats held a press conference Wednesday, May 4 to decry a draft opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court that would move the authority to set abortion policy to individual states. Despite the public platform, they remained silent on the secretive leak of the draft to the media.
The draft — authored by Justice Samuel Alito and dated from February — is not the final ruling, which is expecting sometime this spring or early summer. But if the draft ends up being the final ruling, it would overturn the high court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that mandated abortion for all 50 states.
“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” Alito wrote in the draft. “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”
In a bombshell development, news of the leak dropped late Monday night. While N.C. Democrats continue to remain silent on the question of the way the draft was leaked and its implications for the integrity of the nation’s highest court, they were quick to turn it into an election issue for the fall midterms.
“This past year we celebrated what will probably be the final anniversary of Roe v. Wade,” said Sen. Natalie Murdock, D-Durham. “To be clear, if we do not elect pro-choice Democrats in November, North Carolina will become the next Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, Kentucky.”
“In the [N.C.] Senate, Democrats are 22 strong,” said Sen. Wiley Nickel, D-Wake, who is also running in the Democratic primary in the 13th Congressional District. “As long as we stand 22 strong, we can withstand vetoes by Gov. Cooper and we will continue to do that for the rest of the year.”
“The founders of our country charged us with creating a more perfect union because they knew from the start the Constitution was flawed,” said Gerald Givens, president of the Apex-Raleigh NAACP. “Let us all be vigilant, get out there and vote, and not just vote like your rights depend on it, but get out there and vote like your lives depend on it.”
Republicans are countering that Democrats are hypocritical on the abortion issue given their policy prescriptions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Democrats are struggling with their talking points on [Roe v. Wade],” tweeted Sen. Joyce Krawiec, R-Forsyth. “’My body my choice’ after mask mandates and attempts at vaccine mandates. ‘It’s a women’s issue’ is tough since Democrats do not have a definition of woman.”
Other observers have been more willing to comment on the historic nature of the leak. Duke University law and political science professor Neil Siegal called the leak “extraordinary and egregious” and said that “no one should be eager to add our nation’s highest court to the list of dysfunctional government institutions.”
Siegal added that if the leaked opinion does become the majority ruling in the case, “then the outcome is not terribly surprising — it is, after all, what the 2016 election was about, whether people realized it at the time or not.”
“The unprecedented leak from our nation’s highest court is an atrocity,” said Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson in a statement. “The draft that was leaked was not a final decision by the court, and it appears that it was released by a radical leftist to influence the final decision of the court. This person must be found and prosecuted.”
In his statement, Robinson added, “If this draft is truly reflective of the court, then this is indeed a major victory for the pro-life movement. This opinion says that it would give control over abortion back to the states — where it rightfully belongs. However, here in North Carolina it would be cause for work, not celebration. Currently in North Carolina abortion is legal for any reason up to 20 weeks of pregnancy. This is unacceptable. That is why I am calling on the General Assembly to act. If the Supreme Court hands the power back to the states, it will be our duty to protect the life of the unborn.”
Robinson also referenced his own personal experience with abortion. “I have experienced the pain of abortion in my own life and know the pain it can cause families. That is a huge reason why I fight so hard for the life of the unborn.”