The List: Things that should follow the ‘Roe v. Wade’ news (but probably won’t)

A leaked draft of a majority opinion authored by Justice Samuel Alito suggests the constitutional protection of abortion rights will soon end

Andy Downing
Columbus Alive
May 3, 2022: Protesters in Washington demonstrate after a draft Supreme Court opinion published by Politico on Monday suggested the court is considering a decision that would overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established a constitutional right to abortion. USA TODAY could not independently verify the leaked draft.

Politico dropped a bombshell on Monday, publishing what it says is the initial draft majority opinion authored by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito that would strike down the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, which guaranteed federal constitutional protection of abortion rights in 1973. 

“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” Alito writes in the document, which also repudiates Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a 1992 decision that largely upheld Roe. “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”

Here in Ohio, the issue could be compounded by House Bill 598, introduced by Republican Rep. Jean Schmidt, which would be triggered by the reversal of Roe v. Wade and would ban doctors from performing surgical or medicated abortions, creating a fourth-degree felony for violators. The bill does not include exemptions for rape or incest, and Schmidt recently came under fire for comments in which she described pregnancy from rape as “an opportunity.”

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In presenting the draft majority opinion, Politico noted that the court’s holding will not be final until it's published, writing, “Justices can and sometimes do change their votes as draft opinions circulate and major decisions can be subject to multiple drafts and vote-trading, sometimes until just days before a decision is unveiled.”

Until a decision is issued, however, abortion remains legal in Ohio and elsewhere, as a number of reproductive justice organizations and abortion funds have continued to point out, including Women Have Options.

All of that said, Roe being overturned currently remains the likeliest outcome, with Politico reporting that four of the other Republican-appointed justices — Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — voted with Alito, giving the conservative justices, at minimum, a 5-4 edge.

Assuming this does happen, here are other actions that should follow from politicians (but probably won’t).

Bring back the Child Tax Credit

Few efforts have been as wildly successful in reducing child poverty, as evidenced by the 41 percent spike in child poverty that immediately followed the December expiration of this popular program. Regardless, Republicans (and a handful of Democrats) have so far prevented the credit from being extended, citing its cost. It’s almost as if some believe that life begins at conception and stops mattering at birth.

Invest heavily in reducing the maternal and infant mortality rates, particularly within the Black and Latino communities

The U.S. is the only industrialized nation in the world where the maternal mortality rate is rising. In 2018, there were 17 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births — a rate more than double most high-income countries. In comparison, countries such as the Netherlands and New Zealand registered three or fewer maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. In terms of infant mortality, the U.S. ranks 33 out of 36 Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) nations, with 5.9 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. (In France, the number is 3.8 deaths per 1,000 live births.)

Furthermore, infant and maternal mortality rates in the U.S. are nearly double within the Black and Latino communities, the numbers driven largely by excess mortality among individuals of lower socioeconomic status — the same populace most likely to be unequally impacted by a rollback of Roe.

Establish Medicare for All or introduce a public option

With maternal and infant mortality so closely linked to socioeconomic status, legislators should be doing everything in their power to both lower costs and expand access to health care — goals that could be accomplished by taking either of these steps.

Additionally, the cost of delivering a child in the U.S. can be financially backbreaking. Under the current system, the average delivery now costs more than $4,500 — even with insurance and assuming no complications — and medical debt remains the leading cause of bankruptcy in the U.S. “I sometimes see patients struggling to afford their health care and sometimes choosing not to obtain health care because they can’t afford it,” Michelle Moniz, an obstetrician-gynecologist at the University of Michigan’s Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital, told The Atlantic in 2020

Codify Roe v. Wade as law

This is a step Democrats could take now, seeing that the party currently controls the presidency, House and Senate (albeit by the slimmest of margins in the case of the Senate). Odds are it won’t, though, and for reasons that likely extend beyond familiar names such as Sinema and Manchin. Indeed, rather than offering action steps, a statement released by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer pinned the blame for Roe’s impending reversal on Republicans. "Every Republican Senator who supported Senator McConnell and voted for Trump Justices pretending that this day would never come will now have to explain themselves to the American people,” the pair wrote, which is certainly the type of bold leadership Democratic voters hope to see on display when facing the potential erosion of long-established constitutional rights.