Roe draft opinion is troubling

But abortion is protected in PA

This week, a draft opinion from the Supreme Court of the United States was leaked in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson. This draft would overturn the Roe v. Wade decision and, in the process, send a message to more than half of all Americans that they cannot control their own bodies; that they are second class citizens, without access to safe, legal abortion. This decision is troubling, and the way it came to light is also troubling. 

I believe that anyone who can become pregnant deserves access to care – including a safe abortion – as part of their fundamental human rights. I have always supported the right to choose, and I will continue to do so in the Pennsylvania legislature. I often say, that as a representative, it is my role to hear my constituents and amplify their voices, especially on issues where I may be the only person in power listening to them. In a male-dominated legislature, it is my obligation to listen to anyone who may become pregnant; respect what they say about their own health, bodies, and the choices they have to make in all aspects of health care; and give voice to their experiences and needs. On this issue, I stand with all people who assert the need for equal access to the full range of health care, including safe, legal abortion. 

The leak of this draft decision presents a second threat beyond the very real danger of cutting off health care access and control over a person’s own body. That threat is to the legitimacy of the Supreme Court itself and the strength of our systems of law and justice. The Court says it is upholding a concept of “ordered liberty.” However, the draft decision is heavy on recognition of a particular “order” and not on individual liberty. It uses a historical analysis of abortion law that references, and gives deciding weight to, centuries in which women were seen as vessels and not decision makers. This type of thinking is backward and does not recognize that ALL people deserve to be able to control their own bodies and that the state does not have an interest more important than self-determination.

The final troubling aspect is that this decision was leaked before it was formally issued. This means that the Supreme Court, normally a body that strives to remain free from political pressure and persuasion is now squarely in the middle of a political battle of its own making. The drafting process should be a time to let the nine Justices deliberate over not just the final result, but the words used to justify it. Supreme Court opinions are normally drafted to reflect a consideration of all sides of a debate with input and dissenting voices being heard, even within the final majority decision. With the leak of this draft, the Court will be under pressure not to abandon any of its premature reasoning, and may issue a decision without considering whether different words or reasons might help to clarify or strengthen the “ordered liberty” it is trying to uphold. 

We the People deserve to have institutions that have earned our confidence. I am concerned about both the way this opinion came to light, and the wording of a newly asserted “state interest in fetal life” that can be interpreted to force a person to give birth no matter the circumstances. The Court is not giving the people what they deserve: well-reasoned statements to support a rule of law that upholds a balance of liberty interests. Instead, we have gotten a half-baked draft filled with archaic references to a time when women were barely considered human, let alone full-fledged citizens and human beings. That draft adopts one position, protection of what Mississippi calls an “unborn human being” – without consideration of a position that a majority of the country supports, all people deserve access to health care, including safe, legal abortion. 

Whatever the Supreme Court decides in Dobbs v. Jackson, that will be the Law of the Land. Currently, the law in Pennsylvania is that abortion remains legal, and I will do all I can to keep it that way. I fear that the Court has done us all a disservice both in the decision and the way it was made public. I will move forward, respecting the rule of law; but I will always insist on a better way of engaging in the very difficult social and political debates that government and the Courts have to decide for the people. That way remains listening to the people I represent and doing what I can to make sure that their voices are heard by other people in power.