LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A draft opinion suggests the U.S. Supreme Court could be poised to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide, and Kentucky legislators are preparing for the next step.
A decision to overrule Roe would lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states and could have huge ramifications for this year's elections. Chief Justice John Roberts on Tuesday confirmed the authenticity of a leaked draft opinion but said it "does not represent a decision by the Court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case.”
University of Louisville Political Science professor Jamie Abrams said because the opinion is a draft, nothing has changed yet.
"Tomorrow, today, and yesterday the law of Kentuckians in terms of access to abortion remains as it was," Abrams said. However, because the 96-page draft was so concise, Abrams said she believes Roe v. Wade will be struck down, leaving the final say up to each state based on its Bill of Rights.
"This is not kicking around an idea to try it on for size," she said. "This is a draft of an opinion, (which) will be finessed and tweaked, but the fundamental outcome I think it unlikely."
In a news conference Tuesday morning in Lexington, Kentucky Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said he expected this result.
"I think if you follow SCOTUS on a regular basis, you could read the tea leaves," Thayer said. "And if you read Justice Alito’s potential opinion — that was, again, leaked in an unprecedented manner — I think you can see this coming. I think we’re all just hopeful and ... ready to get to work in January if we need to take further steps."
Sen. Donald Douglass, R-Nicholasville, reiterated that point, ensuring Senate Republicans will be ready in Frankfort.
"I think we have to be very, very careful how we approach this and what we say about this," Douglass said Tuesday. "But if this truly is true, I want you to know Kentucky General Assembly is ready. We’re ready to meet and we’re ready to create some of the toughest laws that there are."
Kentucky Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Louisville, tweeted on Tuesday that banning abortion "means women will die."
"It’s official; the United States is under minority rule, and that minority doesn’t include women," he wrote. "Forced birth is un-American. Banning abortion means women will die. It’s that devastatingly simple."
It’s official; the United States is under minority rule, and that minority doesn’t include women.Forced birth is un-American. Banning abortion means women will die. It’s that devastatingly simple.— Rep. John Yarmuth (@RepJohnYarmuth) May 3, 2022
Sen. Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, called a potential ban a "sickening setback for women in Kentucky."
"The Kentucky General Assembly has acted in such a way that all abortion access will be cut off — including just this year — voting 30-8 to make sure that there are no exemptions for a woman or child who's a victim of rape or incest," he said.
Twenty-six states are certain or likely to ban abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned, according to the pro-abortion rights think tank the Guttmacher Institute. Of those, 22 states already have total or near-total bans on the books that are currently blocked by Roe. Four more states are considered likely to quickly pass bans, if Roe is overturned.
If the issue of abortion rights does eventually fall on each state, Kentucky has a trigger law in place, one of 13 in the country.
"If Roe v. Wade is overturned, the law passed in Kentucky back in 2019 would automatically take effect and would ban access to abortion in Kentucky," Abrams said.
That could force women seeking an abortion to go to other states for the procedure.
"I actually think that the eyes of the country are going to turn to Kentucky quicker than we might expect," Abrams said. "Kentucky is actually, I think will be the first state to actually push the question of abortion access to the people as compared to the state legislature."
Indiana doesn't have a trigger law. Political experts in the Hoosier state also think it would have its own say, no longer under under a federal umbrella. It's likely abortion laws would become more strict in the state.
"It would give the state a lot of liberty to decide how we want to address this policy," said Dr. Laura Wilson, a Political Science professor at the University of Indianapolis. "It's quite possible that we would follow precedents that we've seen in Texas and Mississippi, but the state itself is not a monolith and it is hoped you would see a diversity of opinions and hopefully some thoughtful leadership in crafting this legislation."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, decried the leaked document, saying the U.S. Supreme Court should be "completely free to do their jobs." Blaming the leak on the "radical left," McConnell said the justices should have the full support without an "inappropriate pressure campaign."
"I want all nine Justices to know there are still principled Senators who have their backs no matter what," he said. "There are still some people in this Capitol — and a majority in the Senate — whose support for the rule of law is not conditional."
Monday night's leak jumpstarted the intense political reverberations that the high court’s ultimate decision was expected to have in the midterm election year. Already, politicians on both sides of the aisle were seizing on the report to fundraise and energize their supporters on either side of the hot-button issue.
A decision is expected sometime this summer.
- McConnell calls Supreme Court abortion ruling leak 'inappropriate pressure campaign'
- Roberts orders probe into ‘egregious’ leak of abortion draft
- Federal judge extends ban on new Kentucky abortion law
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