Given the current makeup of the Supreme Court, the content of Justice Samuel Alito’s leaked draft opinion is hardly a surprise. However, the intricacies of this draft betray a much more dire reality waiting for us if it is published by the court. The effect of overturning Roe stretches far beyond abortion access and calls into question the entirety of our progress in securing true religious freedom and equal protection for all.
Alito’s draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization asserts that the decision would narrowly apply to the issue of abortion, but this assertion is naive at best. We have seen the Religious Right take advantage of every opportunity to advance its agenda in courts and legislatures across the country.
These advocates are already indicating that they see this draft opinion as a sign that their efforts are paying off and that they are on the right track. Alito may think he’s appeasing civil rights advocates by including this disclaimer, but in reality, there’s nothing stopping justices, judges and lawyers down the line from applying this logic to further endanger our freedoms.
Even before the leak, Republicans showed a renewed interest in attacking these core civil rights issues. During Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearings, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, veered from any line of questioning relevant to Jackson’s experience and seemed to assert that ruling in favor of marriage equality was a mistake by the court that must be rectified. Cornyn’s logic is that marriage equality is not mentioned in the Constitution. Alito applies this same logic in his draft opinion.
Despite the leaked document being an unpublished draft, the Religious Right is already claiming victory. It has long used religion to justify denying patients abortion care, and now it has been given the opportunity to advance that agenda.
If Roe is overturned, the Supreme Court will impose the views of a few on the lives of everyone, making this fundamentally an issue of religious freedom. When zealously guarded, religious freedom and the right to privacy work in tandem to ensure that all Americans may make deeply personal decisions based on our own beliefs and values. As members of the interfaith community, our commitment to this basic right demands that we speak out against threats to freedom of belief, no matter the circumstance.
This is not an attempt to inject further fear and uncertainty into this tumultuous time: it is a warning that we need to look beyond our feelings of fear and anger. Access to contraception, same-sex marriage and interracial marriage could just be a start. These freedoms all stem from the same principle that our right to privacy affords us certain protections. If one right is under attack, all rights are under attack. Accepting Alito’s “assurance” that this is not the intention of the proposed ruling does little to protect our fundamental rights now and in the future.
Overturning Roe would endanger lives and livelihoods. This radical, egregious decision to ignore a 50-year precedent will undoubtedly have a catastrophic effect on jurisprudence. To put it simply, people will be scared, and people will get hurt. Regardless of the effect outside influence might have, we must continue to urge the court not to put lives and rights at risk. This is dangerous territory that would erode trust in the most secretive branch of our federal government and set us in the wrong direction on the path to realizing true freedom for all Americans.
It is difficult to influence the Supreme Court from the outside, but legislators should view this as an opportunity to codify the rights that are threatened by this potential ruling. Members of Congress should throw support behind legislation like the Women’s Health Protection Act and the Equality Act to write these essential freedoms into law and to ensure a conservative court cannot single-handedly decide to rescind Americans’ autonomy over their bodies and lives.
We cannot afford to go backward, and we have the tools to continue this fight. Our legislators cannot sit idly by as a conservative campaign unravels decades of progress. It’s impossible to overstate the urgency with which Congress must step up to meet this moment.