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Protesters — and some supporters — of draft opinion gather outside the Supreme Court


It's been more than 50 years since the Supreme Court established that there was a constitutional right to abortion in the case of Roe v. Wade. Now, the court appears to be on the precipice of overturning that landmark ruling. A draft opinion that would strike down Roe was leaked to Politico last night.


It was written by Justice Samuel Alito, and the authenticity was confirmed today by Chief Justice John Roberts. He called the leak a betrayal and ordered an investigation. While the opinion isn't final, the potential decision is already having far-reaching implications, many of which we're discussing today on the program. At the Supreme Court, different groups of people spent the day both protesting and cheering the likelihood of Roe being struck down.

I spoke with NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben from in front of the court earlier this evening. And Danielle, after being there all day, tell us about what you've heard and seen.

DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, BYLINE: I've heard and seen a lot of very upset abortion rights advocates as well as opponents here celebrating. You can hear a lot of those protesters probably right now. Both sides have been very vocal.

Now, on the advocate side for abortion rights, the mood is not surprise. They saw this coming - a lot of people did - but they're still very sad and scared. One person is Robin Galbraith from Maryland. She has two adult children. Here's what she said.

ROBIN GALBRAITH: I would definitely have had an abortion when I was 40 if I got pregnant because it is a tremendous responsibility raising children, and, you know, I want to do it right. And I'm not going to bring children into the world that I wouldn't be able to care for properly.

KURTZLEBEN: And really, the broad feeling among the abortion rights advocates is that they've been talking about this possibility since Trump was elected; they've been warning the country, and someone should've done something.

SHAPIRO: Now, this is only a draft opinion, but are the people you're speaking to today treating the ruling as though it's final?

KURTZLEBEN: No, and that goes especially for people opposed to abortion rights who told me about their concerns that conservative justices might still get cold feet. One is Jocabed Torres. She came from California. She says she's happy, but she's cautious given that this information was leaked.

JOCABED TORRES: We also want to celebrate, but we want the justices to stay firm on their decision 'cause we know that the reason the documents were leaked was to try to pressure them to change their decision.

KURTZLEBEN: Now, again, we don't know who leaked the decision or why, but this is one strand of the speculation about that.

SHAPIRO: Now, lawmakers who support abortion rights and President Biden have spoken today about plans to maintain and expand reproductive rights through legislation. Are the advocates there who you're talking to who support abortion rights hopeful that that will actually happen?

KURTZLEBEN: Sort of is the short answer. I mean, we've had lawmakers show up today - Democratic senators, including Klobuchar, Blumenthal, Markey - saying that they want to codify Roe v. Wade and eliminate the filibuster to do so.

But advocates are skeptical given that they just haven't seen action on this so far. One is Renee Bracey Sherman. She's the founder of abortion rights group We Testify.

RENEE BRACEY SHERMAN: We need to see all of the leadership of every pro-choice politician out there talking about what they are going to do because this is a crisis. This has been a national emergency. No, not in the United States, and if they consider themselves pro-choice leaders, they need to act like it.

KURTZLEBEN: And look, the reality is Democrats don't have the votes in the Senate to do that. So unless they could blow up the filibuster or expand their majority this fall - both of which don't seem terribly likely - it's hard to see how this would happen.

SHAPIRO: But we've also heard a lot of talk from Democrats that maybe this could be a wake-up call ahead of the November midterms.

KURTZLEBEN: Sure. But of course, if and when Roe is overturned, 13 states have trigger laws set to go into effect that would restrict abortion. So for Americans seeking abortions until then, November would be too late. Here's Robin Galbraith again saying that she is angry and that that is driving her ahead of November, though.

GALBRAITH: I usually wake up at, like, 10 in the morning. I woke up at 5 to get ready and get over here. And I am dedicated to getting out the vote until November. I mean, this - it has woken a volcano in me. I mean, I'm just livid.

KURTZLEBEN: So it will energize some people, sure.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben at the Supreme Court. Thank you.

KURTZLEBEN: Yes, thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Danielle Kurtzleben is a political correspondent assigned to NPR's Washington Desk. She appears on NPR shows, writes for the web, and is a regular on The NPR Politics Podcast. She is covering the 2020 presidential election, with particular focuses on on economic policy and gender politics.