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Ohio groups react to Supreme Court leak on Roe vs. Wade ruling

A crowd of people gather outside the Supreme Court, early Tuesday, May 3, 2022 in Washington.
Alex Brandon
A crowd of people gather outside the Supreme Court, early Tuesday, May 3, 2022 in Washington. A draft opinion circulated among Supreme Court justices suggests that earlier this year a majority of them had thrown support behind overturning the 1973 case Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion nationwide, according to a report published Monday night in Politico.

Updated, May 3, 2022, 3:53 PM ET

Anti-abortion groups and reproductive rights activists in Ohio were quick to react to Monday evening’s news that the U.S. Supreme Court appears to be on the cusp of overturning its landmark Roe vs. Wade decisionlegalizing abortion nationwide.

Ohio Right to Life president Mike Gonidakis said he's "cautiously optimistic" that the high court will overturn Roe, adding that it's a historic day for our nation.

"What the court is going to do is saying we are no longer going to play doctor as lawyers as the court. We think that this decision should be decided by every state and every citizen," Gonidakis said.

Republicans currently hold supermajorities in both the Ohio House and Senate, where there are pending so-called "trigger" bills that would ban abortions in the event that Roe is overturned.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has already signed a number of bills into law placing restrictions on abortion, most notably the ban on abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which usually happens about six weeks into pregnancy.

The Ohio Department of Health said there were 20,605 abortions reported in 2020, up about 3% from the year prior. The number rose despite the closure of many abortion clinics across the state in recent years. Only nine abortion clinics remain in the state.

Kellie Copeland, executive director of Pro-Choice Ohio, said the leak of the draft decision is "heartbreaking" to see which way the Supreme Court seems to be heading on this issue.

"That is going to be a very difficult position to be in to be forced to continue pregnancies against their will, or to somehow try to travel to other states to get basic health care, which is what abortion is, it's basic health care, that should be available without stigma or shame in your local community," Copeland said.

Marc Spindelman, a law professor at Ohio State’s Moritz College of Law, said he called the draft opinion a "remarkably unprecedented" look at the inner workings of the Supreme Court.

"It's extraordinarily unusual, to the point of raising deep concerns for many people," Spindelman said.

Chief Justice John Roberts has confirmed the authenticity of the draft opinion published by Politico, though he notes it doesn’t represent the court’s final position. As written, the ruling would overturn Roe v. Wade and upend the country's abortion laws.

Spindleman was very careful to underline that we simply won't know what the court's final ruling will be until the court hands it down.

"It will be a new and different day for reproductive rights, and the constitutionality of regulation of reproductive including abortion rights, it will be a new day, for both rights and regulation of rights," he said.

Advocates on either side of the abortion issue now must wait until the court makes an official ruling next month before the end of the current term.

Until them, advocates are preparing for the next steps.

Gonidakis said the work of anti-abortion advocates won't be finished until they achieve full prohibition of abortion in Ohio.

"Now look, we have over 150 pregnancy centers, three to 400 federally qualified community health centers, local departments of health, and so many social services Medicaid expansion that can help women whether they are low income, middle income or high income women who find themselves in unintended pregnancies, we're there to help them. And we have a safety net now in Ohio to do just that," he said.

Copeland with Pro-Choice Ohio said that argument is a "crock."

"This state doesn't even have a minimum, mandatory parental leave policy. There is no job guarantee for a person who is pregnant, there is no guarantee that a person who is pregnant can even get light duty or other accommodations on the job. There is no quality, affordable childcare mandate in the state. For someone to say that is offensive and a lie on its face," she said.

Original Story

The anti-abortion group Ohio Right to Life released a statement, that said they are “cautiously optimistic that the Supreme Court will rule correctly and overturn the most reckless decision in our Nation's history.”

The statement said the group continues working on what they call the Human Life Protection Act, which would criminalize abortion without exemptions for rape or incest. It would allow abortions when a pregnancy threatens the life of the mother. The law contains a clause saying it would immediately outlaw abortion if the court overturns Roe vs. Wade.

Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, which works to ensure abortion rights, tweeted Monday evening that they were organizing a rally dubbed “Securing Our Future: Access on the Line.”

The group also emphasized that the draft ruling, which was obtained by Politico but not immediately verified by NPR, is only a draft and that abortion is still legal.

“This is the moment to come together and stand up for abortion access. Because guess what? We’re not backing down,” actor and Ohio native Kathryn Hahn said in a video tweeted out by Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio.

Last week, an Ohio House committee held the first hearing on a bill that would outlaw abortion in Ohio if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. Medical personnel would face prison time and fines under the bill which contains exceptions for a woman’s life or health.

Matthew Rand is the Morning Edition host for 89.7 NPR News. Rand served as an interim producer during the pandemic for WOSU’s All Sides daily talk show.