‘Fight like hell’: How Philly and Pa. officials are reacting to the Supreme Court abortion leak

From the governor to the mayor to representatives at all levels, elected Democrats are sounding an alarm.

Marchers walk from the art museum to Philadelphia City Hall as part of an abortion rights rally held on Oct. 2, 2021

Marchers walk from the art museum to Philadelphia City Hall as part of an abortion rights rally held on Oct. 2, 2021

MIGUEL MARTINEZ / For WHYY
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Politico on Monday night leaked a draft of a United States Supreme Court opinion that indicates the nation’s highest court has voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that has guaranteed the right to an abortion in the U.S. for nearly five decades.

The court’s ruling, if it matches the leaked draft opinion, would immediately “end a half-century guarantee of federal constitutional protection of abortion rights and allow each state to decide whether to restrict or ban abortion,” according to Politico. Chief Justice John Roberts on Tuesday confirmed the authenticity of the draft, according to NPR, but reiterated that it’s not final.

As of right now, abortion is still legal in Pennsylvania and elsewhere in the nation, since the court hasn’t officially released an opinion. And unlike more than a dozen other U.S. states, Pennsylvania does not currently have a “trigger” law on the books that would instantly restrict abortion once federal protections are removed.

In the leaked document, Justice Samuel Alito calls the reasoning in Roe “exceptionally weak” and says the 1973 opinion has had “damaging consequences.” The draft opinion would also strike down Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a 1992 decision — based on a case that originated in Pennsylvania — that largely reaffirmed Roe but created further standards for determining when abortions can be limited.

Pennsylvania’s and Philadelphia’s elected officials are weighing in on the possible decision, with Democratic leaders noting the importance of fighting at all levels of government and using a variety of strategies to counter anti-abortion efforts.

Governor Tom Wolf

Wolf tweeted an affirmation that abortion is still legal in Pa, and repeated his long-held stance: he will veto any anti-abortion legislation that makes it through the state legislature.

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman

Fetterman, who’s running for U.S. Senate, said the right to an abortion is “sacred” and called for the elimination of the filibuster so the Senate can pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would federally preserve access to abortion services and has already passed in the House of Representatives.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro

Shapiro highlighted the “high stakes” of the issue. On his campaign Twitter, Shapiro — the presumed Democratic nominee for governor — said he would “fight like hell” if elected and, like Wolf, veto any anti-abortion bills passed by the state legislature.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey

Casey, who has described himself as a pro-life Democrat, said he has “serious concerns about what overturning almost 50 years of legal precedent will mean for women in states passing near or total bans on abortion,” and that Congress should do more to support women and families and reduce the number of abortions.

 

U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans

Evans underscored the “urgency” of abolishing the filibuster to codify abortion rights federally through the Women’s Health Protection Act.

U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle

In a pair of characteristically blunt tweets, Boyle painted the Supreme Court as “just another political branch” and noted in another that the decision would be a “recipe for disaster.”

U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon

Scanlon noted that women had been called “hysterical” for “sounding the alarm about abortion rights,” but said the draft opinion shows they have the “right to be terrified.” She called for passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act.

Mayor Jim Kenney

Kenney called the decision “attack on women’s fundamental rights” and said the city would work to protect the right to choose.

Councilmember Helen Gym

Gym said she’d be in DC to join the rallies in front of SCOTUS and urged Philadelphians to join her in protesting or to go to the federal courthouse at 5 p.m.

Councilmember Katherine Gilmore Richardson

Gilmore Richardson wrote on Twitter that “Women’s Rights are Human Rights,” highlighted the upcoming election, and plugged Shapiro’s gubernatorial campaign.

Councilmember Jamie Gauthier

Gauthier shared the Politico story on her Facebook account, calling it “horrifying.”

Councilmember Cindy Bass

Bass put out a statement calling the direction signaled by the draft opinion “dangerous” and “hypocritical.” “Help me understand how not caring about human beings who are already on this earth translates to pro-life,” Bass wrote.

Councilmember Derek Green

Green noted that a majority of Americans support access to legal and safe abortion and said that Republicans “will have to answer” for their opposition to reproductive rights.

Councilmember Kendra Brooks

Brooks — who noted that she herself has had an abortion and knows “countless” other people who have had one too — said that her “heart has been on fire” since reading the draft opinion. She highlighted how eliminating safe abortions could impact marginalized communities in particular.

State Sen. Vincent Hughes

Hughes retweeted a flurry of tweets about the leaked decision and said himself: “#Fightback! You are not alone!”

State Sen. Nikil Saval

Saval tweeted that “abortion is a fundamental right” and that he’d be at the protest at the federal courthouse on Tuesday evening.

State Sen. Christine Tartaglione

Tartaglione wrote that access to abortion shouldn’t be dependent upon where someone lives, and that every American should have the right to access a safe one.

State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta

Kenyatta, also a candidate for U.S. Senate, advocated for ending the “Jim Crow filibuster,” passing the Women’s Health Protection Act, and expanding the size of the Supreme Court.

State Rep. Rick Krajewski

Krajewski highlighted both the need for Congress to codify abortion rights and the need to “prepare for the state-level ground game” to ensure continued access to abortion.

State Rep. Amen Brown

Brown called the ruling “beyond saddening” and said he’d always “do his part” in protecting reproductive rights.

State Rep. Joanna McClinton

McClinton tweeted that it’s “just the beginning of scaling back ALL OF OUR RIGHTS!!!!”

State Rep. Chris Rabb

Rabb tweeted, “#Abortion is healthcare.”

State Rep. Jared Solomon

Solomon wrote that attacking “autonomy of women” is an “assault against us all,” and that the government shouldn’t interfere with women’s healthcare.

State Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler

Fiedler wrote that women should be able to make their own decisions about their bodies and that she’d continue to vote against abortion restrictions.

State Rep. Brian Sims

Sims called the draft opinion “outrageous and flagrantly anti democratic,” and he wrote that he will do everything he can with his Democratic colleagues to uphold a woman’s right to choose in Pennsylvania.

State Rep. Izzy Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald noted that some states have already started rolling back abortion access and that the draft opinion “moves us back decades in terms of personal freedoms.”

State Rep. Stephen Kinsey

Kinsey wrote that, “as the father of daughters,” he doesn’t want to see government interfere with what they or any other women can do with their bodies.

State Rep. Mary Isaacson

Isaacson wrote on Twitter that House Democrats will “continue to work to ensure women’s rights are secure in PA.”

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