Barack and Michelle Obama say abortion rights must not be left to ‘the whims of politicians and ideologues’

The ruling ‘would be a blow not just to women, but to all of us who believe that in a free society, there are limits to how much the government can encroach on our personal lives,’ says the former first couple

Nathan Place
New York
Wednesday 04 May 2022 17:41
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What the US Supreme Court leak means for Roe v Wade and abortion rights in America

After evidence emerged that the Supreme Court may be about to overturn Roe v Wade, Barack and Michelle Obama spoke out forcefully against such a decision.

“Today, millions of Americans woke up fearing that their essential freedoms under the Constitution were at risk,” the former president and first lady wrote in a joint statement on Tuesday. “If the Supreme Court ultimately decides to overturn the landmark case of Roe v. Wade, then it will not only reverse nearly 50 years of precedent – it will relegate the most intensely personal decision someone can make to the whims of politicians and ideologues.”

On Monday night, a draft opinion by the court’s conservative majority was leaked to Politico, indicating that it planned to strike down two historic rulings – Roe v Wade and Casey v Planned Parenthood – that currently protect access to abortion.

Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the opinion, which is reportedly supported by four other Republican-appointed justices (Chief Justice John Roberts’ opinion is unknown). “Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences. And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division.”

On Tuesday, the Obamas called this a dangerous mistake, threatening the rights of all Americans.

“The consequences of this decision would be a blow not just to women, but to all of us who believe that in a free society, there are limits to how much the government can encroach on our personal lives,” they wrote.

The former first couple also said the decision – if it does become final – would probably fail to reduce abortions anyway, since women “with means” would likely travel to states where the procedure is still legal and safe. Illegal and unsafe abortions, meanwhile, would proliferate, threatening some women’s lives.

“That’s a result none of us should want,” the Obamas wrote.

Meanwhile, they argued, a ruling against Roe would violate all US citizens’ constitutional rights.

“Few, if any, women make the decision to terminate a pregnancy casually – and people of goodwill, across the political spectrum, can hold different views on the subject,” the Obamas wrote. “But what Roe recognized is that the freedom enshrined in the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution requires all of us to enjoy a sphere of our lives that isn’t subject to meddling from the state – a sphere that includes personal decisions involving who we sleep with, who we marry, whether or not to use contraception, and whether or not to bear children.”

The statement concluded with a call to action.

“We’re asking you to join with the activists who’ve been sounding the alarm on this issue for years – and act,” the former president and first lady wrote. “Stand with them at a local protest. Volunteer with them on a campaign. Join with them in urging Congress to codify Roe into law. And vote alongside them on or before November 8 and in every other election.”

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