EDITOR’S NOTE: This article includes reporting from Baptist Press contributing writer Tom Strode and Pathway associate editor Benjamin Hawkins.
JEFFERSON CITY – If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision within the next two months, the practice of abortion will be illegal within the state of Missouri, except in the case of medical emergencies.
Many pro-life advocates in Missouri expressed renewed hope for this outcome after hearing news of a leaked draft opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that Roe v. Wade be overturned.
On May 2, Politico published a copy of a draft of an opinion by Associate Justice Samuel Alito that would strike down the Roe ruling if it becomes final. A source familiar with the court’s work said four other associate justices – Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett – sided with Alito in a conference vote after oral arguments in December, Politico reported in an article that includes a link to the draft. They remain united on the opinion as of its report, Politico said.
The opinion leaked apparently from within a court that is highly secretive about its proceedings regarding a Mississippi ban on abortion after 15 weeks’ gestation. The state had urged the high court not only to uphold its 15-week prohibition contested in the case – Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization – but to overturn Roe and the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey opinion that affirmed that decision.
Roe was an “abuse of judicial authority,” Alito wrote in the leaked draft, which included a note that it was circulated Feb. 10 to the other justices. “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences.”
In a news release, May 3, the Supreme Court confirmed the draft opinion is “authentic,” but “it does not represent a decision by the Court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case.”
In the release, Chief Justice John Roberts described the leak as a “serious and egregious breach” of the trust of the high court. He has ordered the marshal of the Supreme Court to begin an investigation into the source of the leak, Roberts said.
Justices may change their votes before a final opinion is published.
Such a reversal reportedly occurred after an initial draft reversing Roe was circulated among the justices in the Planned Parenthood v. Casey case in 1992. At that time, five justices voted in conference after oral arguments to strike down Roe, and Chief Justice William Rehnquist sent the court’s members a draft opinion in late May 1992 that would have done so. Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy reversed course, however, and joined in a late June 1992 ruling that upheld Roe while permitting some state restrictions.
If the high court overturns Roe and Casey in its final opinion, the ruling would return abortion policy to the states.
Missouri Right to Life Executive Director Susan Klein told The Pathway that, if this happens, abortion will become illegal in Missouri because of a “trigger law” included in the 2019 “Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act” (House Bill 126). The trigger law reads, in part, “Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, no abortion shall be performed or induced upon a woman except in cases of medical emergency.”
Klein said, “Attorney General Eric Schmitt has said that when SCOTUS issues an opinion that overturns or reverses Roe, then he will immediately declare our Trigger Law in effect in Missouri.”
“While abortion will become illegal in Missouri except in the case of a medical emergency,” she added, “there are many dangers to women and unborn babies that the abortion industry and pro-abortion legislators will put into action. Some of these are dangers now.”
For example, Planned Parenthood is currently endorsing “self-managed care” (that is, “abortion at home,” Klein explained), and “mail order abortion-inducing drugs are being shipped into Missouri now.” Additionally, Klein said, women are being referred to abortion facilities outside of Missouri – a trend that will increase if abortion is made illegal in the state.
“The Biden administration announced that, if Roe is overturned, they are looking for ways to pay for women to travel to states that will be abortion sanctuaries,” Klein said.
“This just skims the surface of what will be ongoing issues with the abortion providers,” she said. “So when Roe is overturned and abortion comes back to the states, our pro-life work must be strong and ongoing. Passing pro-life laws will still be important. If we become complacent, we will lose what we gain.”
Klein urged Missouri Baptists to prioritize the sanctity of life in upcoming elections, staying informed about each candidate’s stance on abortion. “The abortion industry and their supporters will be sending money into Missouri to try to get pro-abortion candidates elected. We must be prepared to counter them by putting out the truth about where all candidates stand on life.”
Klein added, “Christians must remain vigilant and stay involved in education about how precious life is and that an unborn child is a gift from God and must be protected. We are their voice, and we must continue our stand for these innocent babies. We have placed in the state budget funding for several programs to help women with their needs while pregnant … There is also help through MO HealthNet and funding for care up to 12 months after birth. Missouri cares about women and unborn babies, and Missourians are willing to pay for alternatives to abortion.”