The threat to US abortion rights and why this is an LGBTQ+ issue

Demonstrators outside the Supreme Court early on Tuesday (3 May) © Bloomberg

*note: updates on this story are happening hourly and details are accurate at the time of writing*

A leaked document suggesting millions in the US could lose the legal right to an abortion is genuine, the Supreme Court’s chief justice has confirmed. Meanwhile President Joe Biden warns that overturning abortion rights will call other freedoms into question. 


Reproductive rights are LGBTQ+ rights, and they must be protected.

The right to have an abortion through the first trimester of pregnancy was protected nationally in 1973 following the supreme court’s landmark ruling, known as ‘Roe v. Wade’.


A bombshell revelation shows the US Supreme Court is poised to repeal landmark decisions establishing the right to an abortion by overturning a nearly 50-year precedent set in 1973 in Roe v. Wade.

If finalized, without federal protections in place, it would enable individual states to pass legislation banning abortion completely.


On Monday (2 May), POLITICO published a Supreme Court draft opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, detailing a vote to strike down the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, which was circulated inside the court on February 10 before being obtained by POLITICO.

The leaked document – labelled as ‘1st Draft’ – appears to reflect the majority opinion of the court and calls the Roe v Wade (Roe) ruling “egregiously wrong from the start”.


The document did not indicate which other justices joined in the opinion, however Politico noted that a person familiar with the court’s deliberations said four other conservative justices, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, voted in agreeance with Alito to strike down Roe during closed-door discussions after oral arguments and have not changed their positions.


The document also referenced the 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v Casey, which solidified Roe and banned imposing “undue burden” on a person’s right to abortion.

Source: politico

The unprecedented Supreme Court leak marks the first time that an opinion on a pending case has been made public in modern history.

Supreme Court chief justice John Roberts Jr. has confirmed the authenticity of the leak, calling it “a singular and egregious betrayal of trust” that would be fully investigated. He noted that, although the leak is genuine, it does not yet represent the court’s final decision.


In response to the news, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer accused the conservative justices of having “lied to the U.S. Senate” and “ripped up the U.S. Constitution.”

In a joint statement, before the leak was confirmed to be accurate, they said, “If the report is accurate, the Supreme Court is poised to inflict the greatest restriction of rights in the past fifty years — not just on women but on all Americans,”

“The Republican-appointed justices’ reported votes to overturn Roe v. Wade would go down as an abomination, one of the worst and most damaging decisions in modern history.”


President Joe Biden warned the decision – if it goes ahead – would ‘call other freedoms into question’.


‘Call other freedoms into question’ – what does that mean?


The key to this and its broader impact is understanding that soon millions of American people could have a fundamental right, which many have known all of their lives, taken away from them.


Abortion rights are a foundational human rights issue and therefore already an LGBTQ+ issue – queer people need access to abortions the same way straight people do.


In addition, though, it’s important to recognize that the simultaneous attacks on abortion and LGBTQ+ rights we have witnessed, both recently and throughout history, are not coincidental.


The fundamentalist Christian view that life begins at conception goes hand in hand with fundamentalist Christian views on homosexuality or LGBTQ+ identities, and the people with those beliefs are shaping the law of the land.

The same far-right fighting to limit or ban access to abortion care are the same people who are also working to deny LGBTQ+ people of their rights and freedoms.


Political experts have warned that the reverse of Roe, and denying the essential humanity of allowing people autonomy over their own body, may also give way to other rights being called into question = from access to contraception, voting rights, gay rights, marriage equality for same-sex couples and so on.

In Roe, the Supreme Court decided that under the Fourteenth Amendment right to privacy, abortion rights were protected by the constitution.

“This right of privacy…is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.”


Roe has historically been labelled as a “super-precedent”, meaning it was supposed to be beyond reconsideration by the courts, but should that change then a lot could change along with it. Should the law be overturned, it could then impact other rights that fall under the Fourteenth Amendment.


Given the Republican position on LGBTQ+ rights, it virtually guarantees that those freedoms will be next in the firing line of the religious-right agenda.


LGBTQ+ Americans have already seen this in action from Republicans in positions of power this year, such as the highly-publicized ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law in Florida and similar legislation passing in other States.

Back in March it was revealed that the annual number of anti-LGBTQ bills to have been filed in the US catapulted from 41 throughout the whole of 2018 to 238 in less than three months of 2022.


Why is Roe suddenly up for legal discussion again?

The ruling is in the court’s sights because of a case, known as Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, involving a Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks.

Mississippi is asking for Roe v Wade to be overturned, declaring that the 1973 ruling had “imposed” a “highly restrictive regime on the entire nation”.

A final decision on the case is expected in late June or early July.


What might happen?

Should Roe v Wade be overturned, individual US states would be empowered to set their own laws around reproductive rights. It is expected that around half of US states would ban abortions.


Analysis by the Guttmacher Institute indicated that, should Roe be overturned or fundamentally weakened, 26 states are either certain or likely to ban abortion.


Of those, 22 states have laws or constitutional amendments already in place that would make them certain to attempt to ban abortion as quickly as possible.


These states are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.


An additional four states have been classed as being likely to ban abortion as soon as possible without federal protections in place, due to their “political composition, history and other indicators – such as recent actions to limit access to abortion”.


These states are: Florida, Indiana, Montana and Nebraska.


Research from Planned Parenthood – the largest provider of of reproductive health services in the US – indicated that 36 million people could lose abortion access should Roe be struck down.

Planned Parenthood subsequently tweeted, “Let’s be clear: This is a draft opinion. It’s outrageous, it’s unprecedented, but it is not final. Abortion is your right — and it is STILL LEGAL.”


Dr Alvaro Bermejo, director-general of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, said in a statement that “the highest court in the land has reached its lowest point.”

Adding, “If they continue down the road of overturning Roe v Wade, they will rob millions of people of their liberty, bodily autonomy, and their freedom – the very values the United States prides itself on.

“This decision will also embolden other Conservative extremist movements around the world, looking to deny women their reproductive freedom. Make no mistake, this ruling will cost millions of lives for years to come.”


Human Rights Campaign tweeted: “The most important thing to know right now is that access to abortion and other reproductive services is still in place. This is a draft opinion and has no binding impacts on states right now. “

Then adding, “Reproductive rights are LGBTQ+ rights, and they must be protected.”