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Kamala Harris warns overturning Roe could lead to ‘challenges’ to same-sex marriage and birth control

Legal scholars and civil rights groups have warned that data privacy protections, marriage equality and LGBT+ rights could be at risk with Supreme Court decision

Alex Woodward
New York
Tuesday 14 June 2022 22:40 BST
Kamala Harris warns 'a lot at stake' if Supreme Court overturns Roe v Wade
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Vice President Kamala Harris has warned that the US Supreme Court’s likely decision to overturn landmark abortion care protections could lead to “challenges” to other “fundamental” constitutional rights affirmed by the court, including marriage equality and access to birth control.

Before a White House meeting with advocates on the future ofRoe v Wade on 14 June, the vice president said the US should “prepare for the right to privacy to be attacked” if the Supreme Court’s imminent decision in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization will reject Roe precedent.

The Roe decision relied on protections in the 14th Amendment, which prohibits states from “[depriving] any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law” – granting so-called “unenumerated” rights such as the right to privacy and freedom from government intervention in profoundly intimate medical decisions that are not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution.

A leaked draft opinion authored by Justice Samuel Alito states that abortion rights are not “rooted in the nation’s history and tradition” and not “mentioned” in the Constitution, therefore illegitimate, though that list, which even he acknowledges, is extensive – including the right to obtain contraception or marry a person of another race or sex.

Scholars have warned that a ruling to undermine Roe could compel right-wing legal efforts to strike down LGBT+ rights, marriage equality and marital benefits, the rights to public education, and attempts to revisit critical civil rights decisions that relied on 14th Amendment protections.

“If Roe is overturned, I believe that states will then have the power to interfere in personal decisions,” Ms Harris said.

She expressed concern that states that will criminalise abortion care and threaten abortion providers with prison time and hefty fines could subpoena abortion patients’ personal data, including menstrual-tracking apps and search engine results for abortion clinics.

The vice president also suggested that states with abortion bans could potentially restrict in vitro fertilisation if state statutes’ “definition of life begins at the point of fertilisation.”

Similar state laws also “could potentially restrict specific types of contraception – in particular, [intrauterine devices] and the so-called morning-after pill,” Ms Harris said.

“I’d like to talk with these experts about their thoughts, in terms of the legal theories that would be at play if that were to take place,” she said. “I do believe that overturning Roe could clear the way for challenges to other fundamental rights, including the right to use contraception ... and same-sex marriage.”

The vice president stressed that many of the states that have passed so-called “trigger” ban laws to take effect once Roe is overturned “are also the states that are passing laws to restrict trans rights, gay rights, and the freedom to vote,” she said.

“Our nation was founded on certain principles that we hold dear: principles of freedom, liberty and self-determination,” she said to begin her remarks. “From these principles, most notably, come the constitutional right to privacy – the right of an individual to make decisions about their life, about their family, about their body without government interference, and so there’s a lot at stake in the outcome of this decision.”

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